Dejan Kovacevic's Pirates chat transcript: 6.15.2010
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Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings again from chat central. Away we go ...
Zachary Weiss: Do you expect Alvarez to be called in time for the Indians series?
Dejan Kovacevic: Our Colin Dunlap, reporting from Scranton yesterday and today, gets the sense the promotion is far more likely to happen for the weekend than the current series. He has a file up on Plus about it.
don from clarion (dsctlc): DK, With the impending (we hope) promotion of Pedro, does it seem that Andy is pressing a bit? I know he said he looks forward to Pedro joining the big club, but i just wonder if he is either trying to hard to impress the FO and/or other teams.
Dejan Kovacevic: I've never known LaRoche to give uneven efforts, but sure, he could be pressing. I happen to think it's much more related to the lower back. Even if he's fine now -- and he insists he is -- he was swinging really well before that second bout that shut him down. Timing is precious for a hitter, and it's clear LaRoche has lost that swing.
BenderHeel: DK: Best guess at corresponding move when Pedro is promoted? Will Aki be designated for assignment? Seems like the writing is on the wall for that move with Walker and now Andy in line for 2B.
Dejan Kovacevic: One of the sub-.200 veterans is obviously most likely, and Iwamura and Ryan Church both have struggled hugely this season. Alvarez is an infielder, and so is Steve Pearce, who should return soon, as well, so I have a hard time imagining an infielder not going.
rwshelton: DK, is it me or is it incredibly illogical to not hype the day that Pedro is coming to get a boost in ticket sales? I have a Pirates source telling me he is coming for the Indians series but that series will already sell out,. I don't get it.
Dejan Kovacevic: The Cleveland series is not sold out. And there has been no determination, as of an hour ago, when Alvarez is coming. ... Is it logical not to announce his arrival in advance? You don't know that they won't do exactly that.
John: Dejan, why hasn't there been more outrage over John Russell with all the poor fundamentals, his complacenecy for losing, and the Doumit at 1B fiasco? The last thing we need is for our "future" to get the message that losing is OK.
Dejan Kovacevic: I hear from plenty of readers who are dismayed with the fundamentals and with Russell, so I'm not sure where you're detecting a lack of outrage. If anything, I hear more about Russell even regarding matters where Russell has very little say.
Chris: How much is John Russell actually managing this team? It appears that some of these odd decisions (e.g. Doumit at 1st & Garret Jones at DH) are orders from Huntington. Why is Russell even there?
Dejan Kovacevic: The decision to run Charlie Morton to the mound for nine losses, the decision to bat a .160-hitting Iwamura at leadoff, the infield and oufield defensive shifts and the decision to play Doumit at first base all were made at the management level, as I've written previously. It is common for a GM to be involved in longer-term planning, and Morton fits under that umbrella, not the rest. Russell is wholly responsible for overseeing instruction and managing the games, and he does have input in the above.
Tim: Pearce is out of options, right?
Dejan Kovacevic: No. He was optioned out of spring training, and an option lasts all year. Either way, he performed well enough that I'd expect him back in Pittsburgh when healthy.
Andrew Bird: Is Andy athletic enough to play shortstop? Seems like that is the one place where he can be an upgrade offensively.
Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates are going to give him a chance to try some shortstop, though with almost no history there, that's going to be a very tough one for LaRoche to handle beyond the spot-start level. And never mind the back issues. LaRoche started taking grounders on his own at second late in BP the last couple days in Washington, then started taking them in a more regimented setting in Detroit.
don from clarion (dsctlc): DK, Watching the games, I get the sense that we are sorely lacking in fundamentals ... is the coaching staff picking up on this and are they working to correct it? Without being in on meetings/practices, it is hard for me to tell.
Dejan Kovacevic: This team has more meetings than a government agency. They meet morning, noon and night, and they do drills to address nearly everything. (Except pitchers being slow to the plate with runners on, I've noticed.) It might just be that the players making these mistakes are responsible for these mistakes.
John: It certainly doesn't help Russell that he is so stoic in this town, would you agree that its time for more of a drill sergeant type?
Dejan Kovacevic: You could put George Washington in charge of a team that ranks second-to-last in batting, second-to-last in pitching, with a marked downgrade in defense, and all the motivation in the world is not going to coax much more out of it. This roster's issues are not motivation or meetings. It's the talent level. The Pirates have made numerous trades over the past 2 1/2 years, and one of them has brought a significant return, that being the Xavier Nady trade that looks even better with the arrival of Jose Tabata. It's not reasonable to expect that so much subtraction could have been made up by an level of instruction.
That said, you're absolutely correct that Russell has failed to connect with the city because of his public demeanor, and that there are times when his being more visibly passionate would have benefited the team. Los Angeles sticks out in my mind, still.
joeyd: Have not heard anything from Frank Coonelly in a while. You have reported how he lives and dies with the teams success. Has the losing streak put him into hiding? He's got to be miffed right now.
Dejan Kovacevic: Breaking my heart, Joey. I've quoted him twice at length in the past nine days alone. Coonelly does not hide. He's very visible, very accessible. And yes, though I haven't talked to him since last week, I'm guessing he's very miffed at the team's results on the road trip.
Brian: Did you attend the Arts Festival?
Dejan Kovacevic: I did, on Sunday. Too many people, too many exhibits crammed into small spaces, not enough stuff to do for kids. But what's that have to do with baseball?
Kyle: At some point the team has to raise ticket prices. Do you think that will happen this offseason?
Dejan Kovacevic: Coonelly has said the prices can't stay the same forever, but until the major-league team is something other than a 95-plus loss mess one of these years, the timing never seems right. Doesn't look like this year is much different, though maybe having the kids in the fold will brighten the outlooks of some fans.
matt: Is Zach Duke gone this season if an offer comes along
Dejan Kovacevic: I wrote back in April, when Duke started out well, that he was the one conspicuously left out of the long-term deals. He has one year of arbitration after this, then free agency, so this deadline probably would be the one where he would get the best return, assuming the Pirates' level of talent evaluation in making trades is better than with most of the precedent trades.
lenny: WHo do you feel will be the next round of call ups after pedro? and who will be moving up to AAA?
Dejan Kovacevic: Check the blog, Lenny. Did a whole Q&A entry on this last week.
Sam: DK - do you think it might help if fans start bringing vuvuzelas to the games at PNC Park?
Dejan Kovacevic: The home team scores roughly the same amount as Ivory Coast and Portugal did this morning, so no, something different probably is in order.
Andrew Bird: Does Danny Moskos have a reasonable shot at a September call-up?
Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, I would imagine he does, Andrew. He's one of the players mentioned in that blog answer. Not avoiding the Q, obviously, but there are a lot of readers who already saw my answer on the topic. Hope you understand. It's still there.
Andrew Bird: One trade that seems to be a wash (negatively for both teams) is the Wilson/Snell trade. Seattle can't be too thrilled with their results.
Dejan Kovacevic: That's fine, Andrew, but the Pirates' intention in making that trade and many others was to get a real return. They adamantly insisted it was not about dumping salary, and it surely could not have been to watch Wilson get hurt and Snell crumble. It was to get players who could help them.
I say the same thing regarding trades where the former player has gone on to do well elsewhere. It's about the return. All teams should know what they're giving up. The real skill in making trades is the choice in what's being brought in.
In other words, it's not that Jose Bautista goes off and hits 18 home runs somewhere else. It's that a third-string, since-released catcher came in his place.
BenderHeel: DK: Who in their right mind would want Zach Duke? You'd have a better feel for whether the Pirates could get any decent return, but I just don't see it. I guess any return is better than just letting him walk, but a middling AA reliever ain't gonna make a lick of difference to this franchise.
Dejan Kovacevic: I am guessing that there would be exactly 29 teams interested in Duke, especially given the dearth of starting pitching in the industry.
MarkO: Do you think that Neal Huntington is worried about his job, and is this affecting personnel moves?
Dejan Kovacevic: Only Huntington can answer that. I would think anyone in the final year of a contract, with a 23-40 team on the field, would be worried. Same goes for everyone involved, actually.
Huntington's drafts and the development system he has overseen -- without taking credit from Greg Smith and Kyle Stark on those fronts -- have been good. The Latin American system has gotten better, too. But the return on these trades, at the risk of getting repetitive, has been negligible, and that is the dominant thing that is being seen at the major-league level.
Stephan: I think that Seattle trade is still leaning our way in terms of who got the best return. A starting shortstop, clement, and three minor league arms, one who has been on fire recently and a second who is as promising if not more.
Dejan Kovacevic: Again, though, Stephan, it's not about keeping score. That's for people in the media and for fans to do, grading the trades and so forth. But it doesn't do the Pirates any good if Wilson gets hurt or Bautista succeeds or Bay turns into an elite talent or whatever. The impact on the Pirates when those guys leave is exactly zero. (Unless they play well against the Pirates, but you get the point.)
What counts for the Pirates is the return. Yes, the quality of the player going out affects the return. And no, the Pirates did not send away the '27 Yankees, as Huntington once put it. But they traded a lot of experienced major-league players that, at the time of those trades, very clearly had value within the industry.
The return, I say again, has been negligible.
Neil: "Pirates' intention in making that trade and many others was to get a real return.".
Dejan Kovacevic: Is that a Q?
Neil: I dont know about all that. Salary was an issue for sure
Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, there's the rest of your Q. Yes, salary had to have been an issue. But again, you can dig up the files from my Bay stories leading up to and immediately after that trade, and you will see reams of quotes insisting it was a "baseball trade." Remember, Bay wasn't due for free agency that year, but the next.
Couple more today ...
Joe: DK: Do you honestly think managers like Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox (et. al.) would ever allow a GM to tell them who to play, where to play them, etc.? Doesn't that say something about Russell? I view him as nothing more than a yes-man and I think the players see the same thing.
Dejan Kovacevic: No, I cannot imagine those two or Jim Leyland or several others going along with that. But would you put Russell in a category with those gentlemen in terms of achievements or job security?
FatAl: Also remember tht F.O. just got lucky with Walker ... they tried everything they could think of to not promote him ... pearce , more or less the same ...
Dejan Kovacevic: Remember, though, that it was Huntington and Stark who worked with Walker -- at Walker's request -- this past offseason to learn multiple positions so that Alvarez wouldn't block him at third base at the top level. A ton of time and energy was invested in Walker in Indianapolis to make sure that happened. That's not the actions of a management team interested in burying a guy.
Did the management fail to see that Walker could be an everyday second baseman right up until he began to display it at the major-league level?
That's a different story, and Walker, to be fair, still has much to prove. But this idea that the Pirates disliked Walker, Pearce and other Littlefield guys doesn't match the reality of the extra work done to get them to the majors. Bear in mind, both these players were terribly impatient at the plate, and this year has seen a sudden improvement in that regard. The players deserve the credit, but so do the instructors.
Going Downtown for a coffee, then to the park. Thanks to all.
First Published June 15, 2010 2:16 pm