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Wakeup Call: Speaking for 66

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My Friday column involves an oddity to describe an oddity: That’s me penning an email in Mario Lemieux’s name and addressed to Jaromir Jagr.

This whole situation has gotten a little weird, and increasingly harder to read. But, if you ask me, it still comes down to these two players.

>> The chief oddity here is Petr Svoboda, who somehow seems to think it’s OK to say something completely different to every media outlet he talks to. And the many of you who are following Jagr Watch closely will know what I mean. Every five minutes, it’s another Svoboda quote to another outlet that offers a completely different timeline or point of view.

Honestly, I wonder if the guy really has much at all to do with this. Seriously. I’ve seen situations like this before, and what often is learned after the fact is that the agent was trying to save face while the athlete was calling all the shots.

>> I don’t want to sound dour or negative. That’s just not me. But I’m sorry, I can’t watch a game like the Pirates’ 6-2 victory in Toronto and think to myself, yeah, this team is on the rise.

Yes, the pitching has been very good, again with Jeff Karstens last night. But Brandon Wood hitting a two-run bomb as DH, Matt Diaz with a couple hits as a zero-homer cleanup guy, all those goofy bounces … all this just feels way too fluky to me. Not sustainable.

>> Did I really hear and read correctly last night that people wanted Chris Resop to retaliate for Yunel Escobar’s swipe at Diaz’s ribs last night?

Are you kidding me?

It was the eighth inning, there was one out, and the Pirates were up, 6-2. That might seem like a decent time for a retaliatory plunk. But it’s not. Escobar is the leadoff batter in a lineup that hits all kinds of home runs, and this is a hitter’s park. If the Pirates put on Escobar — which Resop did anyway with a walk — the Blue Jays have their 2-3-4 coming up next, and the No. 3 in that equation is Jose Bautista.

No way I’m putting a guy aboard in that situation.

Besides, the way I saw it, Diaz got in two shots to Escobar’s one, if you count his raised cleat Wednesday night and another elevated leg Thursday.

>> Never mind that. The Pirates are two games over .500, finished interleague play with a winning record and, in maybe the coolest subnote, went 6-3 against the mighty AL East.

Who cares how they’re doing it, right?

Comments

  1. DavedigsDKsBlog says:

    We’ve all had to make difficult decisions and often it’s not clear cut which option or direction is the best.

    That said, it certainly seems like Pittsburgh offers something extra special for Jagr compared to the other places. If he can’t see that and appreciate it, I question whether he would be a good fit.

    In the context of him being older and wiser and changed from his younger days, I think this decision will be very revealing.

  2. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    @Dave: Coolest thing about posting this thing when I do is knowing you’ll almost always jump in first.

  3. pipecock says:

    All season long I’ve heard the “but can they sustain it” argument about the Bucs. In response, they have done nothing but sustaining it! They are certainly not a superpower, no one pitcher is capable of tossing a CG 2-3 hitter on a regular basis, no single batter is capable of striking fear into the hearts of the opposition. But better than every other night, they figure out a way to win a ballgame. If anything, the fact that someone else steps it up when they need to should be an encouraging sign! And that really goes for every type of player from the FA veterans to the rookies to the “core” to the “dumpster dives” and so on. Truly impressive team efforts night in and night out is what this team is all about. Winning even when you’re not having your best night? That’s a good thing!!!! Even if you want to call some of the plays “lucky”, isn’t it about time the Bucs got some bounces? Even the holy Steelers have needed plenty of lucky bounces to win games, many of them quite famous at this point. Good teams put themselves in position to take advantage of “lucky” plays, and this team has done that. So many times in past years the Pirates have shot themselves in the foot when the opposition has tried to give games away. This year, we punish them for their mistakes. What a refreshing difference that is! I can’t sit here and say they will finish better than .500, since I can’t see the future there is no way to know. But just going by the character of this squad, I believe it is more than just a possibility. I can’t imagine how pumped these guys will get if they can rattle off a few more wins in a row and get serious in the division race. Quite clearly the fear of .500 is not an issue any more!

  4. DavedigsDKsBlog says:

    I look forward to usually being the first one!

    Actually I posted my comment before reading the column/letter from Lemieux. Great stuff. Absolutely agree.

  5. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    @Piper: You’re right. Their resiliency has been their most consistent, dominant factor.

  6. DavedigsDKsBlog says:

    …I’ve been one of the leaders in complaining about the Pirates offense.

    But I do like what Presley and d’Arnaud have brought in their brief time. Harrison, too. Diaz is picking it up some, particularly against left handers.

    It will be interesting to see what happens in July.

    They’re not going to go crazy and rock the foundation for the future, but I also think Hurdle is too competitive and he’ll push for NH to give them a boost.

    …The Toronto series was just awkward. Strange elements for the Pirates on the turf and against an AL opponent.

    Even though it wasn’t the best baseball, it’s encouraging that the Pirates were able to find a way to get two of three.

    July 1st and they’re two games back.

    Not sure how to feel it’s been so long since we’ve had a half season like this.

  7. JAL says:

    A few morning links

    USA Today

    Band of believers: Young Bucs look to end losing streak

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/pirates/2011-06-28-pirates-clint-hurdle-winning_n.htm

  8. JAL says:

    This Is Getting Old

    Pirates vs. Nationals (Series Twenty Eight)

    http://thisisgettingold.net/2011/07/01/pirates-vs-nationals-series-twenty-eight/

  9. JAL says:

    The Hammer Speaks

    Chicken Wire, Duct Tape & Spit: Assessing The Pirates

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2011/6/30/2252209/chicken-wire-duct-tape-spit-assessing-the-pirates

  10. JAL says:

    Pirates Prospects

    The Pirates Don’t Need a Perfect Storm

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/06/the-pirates-dont-need-a-perfect-storm.html

  11. Curt says:

    I think the Pirates need one more bat, most likely at first. I do wonder how things will shake out when Alvarez and Doumit are back in the lineup and healthy. Who loses out? Who heads back to AAA? And count me in as one wanting Presley to stick around!

  12. Curt says:

    Dejan,
    Great e-mail/story about Jagr. I completely agree that he needs to do the right thing and make a decision for Mario. I often wonder why athletes like an area/team they have played for many years and then decide to take the extra money and move on. Is extra thousands or an extra million really matter to these guys when they already are set for life? You would have to think being happy and content where you are needs to be a part of the deciding factor, right?

  13. SterlingCooperDraperPrice says:

    I still don’t get why people are hoping Alvarez will come back and contribute. He should have been a demotion candidate before his injury.

    If he’s the bat that some fans are waiting for, then they might be sorely mistaken. I’m of the opinion that they need to get a 1B or a true RF, that way Jones could move to first permanently.

    Right now there are only a limited amount of sellers, the Cubs, the Padres, the Astros, etc. From those teams it seems the players available would be Fukudome, Pence, Bourne and Ludwick. From those guys Fukudome is too financially expensive, Pence would seem to cost too much from the farm, Bourne doesn’t add the pop they need, but Ludwick might be a good fit.

    The Buccos need some more teams to fall out of contention, while making sure they don’t become a team that tumbles.

  14. SterlingCooperDraperPrice says:

    @DK

    Thanks for the welcome in the previous blog entry, so glad you’re on a FREE outlet!

  15. Arriba Wilver says:

    You sound a little schizo on the Pirates right now. “This doesn’t look sustainable,” “you’re right, they are resilient.” Maybe the Jagr situation has infected your thinking. :-)

    There were a lot of keystone cop plays last night, but they were pretty equally distributed between the 2 teams.

    “Raised cleat” seems a little harsh, since it could imply it was pointed in Escobar’s direction. It wasn’t.

    Personally, I think the improved road record and the improved interleague record are huge.

  16. Karen22 says:

    Dejan (er…Mario)—

    Love your “letter.” At first I was intrigued about the second coming of Jagr. Now—not so much. Unless he and Mario have had an understanding through all of this silliness, I’m not liking the circus. I’ll like it even less if this really is a game and the Pens are being played. NOT cool. And I’d move that 11:59 deadline up a couple hours, too.

  17. AJS says:

    For everyone complaining about last nights line-up, with Walker turning out to have a bad back and Paul also struggling with a mild injury, who would you have put in the line up last night? Harrison and d’Arnaud both had to play. The only argument I can see here is that Legend should have replaced either Diaz or Wood. Diaz has had a hot bat agaisnt lefties and Jones is abysmal against those same lefties. I honestly think Hurdle fielded the only line-up he possibly could considering the injuries.

    Now, my question is this…the Bucs were expected to call up Lincoln for a spot start Sunday, hence the roster shuffle that started with Harrison going down. Is d’Arnaud now the odd man out with Presley and Harrison both staying? And when Lincoln is done with his spot start who comes up? Can’t be Ciriaco or d.’Arnaud as 10 days won’t have passed. Could get interesting this weekend.

  18. naje says:

    @AJS– A relief pitcher will be sent down when Lincoln is recalled… or Harrison.

    @DK — can we get some video of that most dubious walk, please? And what, no love for the call on Wood’s dinger?

  19. buckeyehba says:

    What is really huge is (I don’t know the exact stat), they are close to 20 games ahead of last year in the win column and they keep hitting milestones along the way. I agree with Dejan though. Sustainability without some change is an issue. This does not have to be external though. More out of Jones or Overbay in power department. Alvarez comes back and plays closer to late last year. I think Walker is tired and maybe will rev back up after the All Star break. Finally, bringing in a big bat is no assurance either. I read an article last night (can’t remember where) that talked about all the big time hitters that are flops this year. There is one last opportunity for Pierce. If I was he, I would get my butt back herre before it passes him by.

  20. buckeyehba says:

    I agree with the comment on Wood’s homer. It was a very solid hit, and not the first. As I recall he is equal to Alvarez in stats while playing fewer games…..

  21. SeanE says:

    DK. I agree the hitting is likely not sustainable as currently structured. I think we have seen enough of the pitching however to believe that it is sustainable. So it is time for management to step up and get a bat. The consistent theme out of this front office has been that they will have the financial ability to add a player (or two?) when the on field performance warrants a move. Well, the team is 2 games out on July 1. I think they have held up their end of the bargain.

    Management has also said that when the attendance picks up this will allow an even larger financial commitment to the team. Well last time I looked the team was setting attendance records for 3 game series. They are well ahead of last years pace in attendance and there is little reason to believe those numbers won’t grow as we are in the prime attendance months with school now out.

    Simply put it is time to put up or shut up. Yes this team is contending a little earlier than management (or anyone else for that matter) would have expected…but they are contending nonetheless. Not making a move to help this teams offense would be worse than the unloading of all the veterans (Bay, Nady, Sanchez etc.) when the FO took over. It would send the message that they are not serious about trying to win in Pittsburgh. That would be a more devastating blow than any trade. I would send the message to the Pirates fanbase, all of baseball and, most importantly the current team members, that the Pirates are not serious about winning. Nothing could be more devestating for a franchise attempting to reestablish its reputation after 18 years of losing.

    Bob, Frank and Neal. Time to step up to the plate.

  22. naje says:

    All right… seems like sustainability will be the new buzz-phrase for the non-believers (;-) and that’s ok and quite understandable.

    But know this: for 18 seasons the sustainability of fluky, ridiculous, one-of-a-kind weird plays went against the PBC far more than we’d ever like to see. A little good karma is coming back and now we want to talk about sustainability.

    Ok…I understand it, but not going to be critical of it.

    @SEAN E: put up or shut up for what? Throwing money to appease those who think this isn’t sustainable? The PBC have used 42 players this season. Yes, 42. And their record stands at 41-39. They’ve used 7 catchers, 5 3B, 6 RF and at least 10 relievers. Pickings are slim when you’re that banged up… and generally, you’ll have no leverage in trade situations when other teams know you’re that badly damaged.

    They’ll do something… or not. The keys to this team are pitching, defense and a manager who is leading these young players into uncharted territory. It’s great to see them succeed. Not sure the GM can do much right now except wait… as in, wait for the price to trade gets reasonable (after July 20th, I suspect); wait for a couple of bats to get healthy and back to the lineup (about or around that same July 20th date); wait for that tough stretch of games between July 18-31… (and August 8-28).

  23. JMB says:

    DK –

    You dour sourpuss! :-/

    All kidding aside, I dont care if the Pirates are winning with smoke, mirrors, voodoo, or Nutting satanic worship. Winning is all that matters. Having meaningful baseball in July: Priceless!

    I don’t want to completely mortgage the future for just this one season, but there are moves to be made.

    Low level prospect and the salary is all I would offer for Beltran & Pena for two months rental.

    Higher level prospects and salary for Ethier or Kemp for 14 months. The problem is, we dont have any high level trade-able prospects!

    Sanchez = worthless on the trade market. The flood of trade worthy prospects just isnt there, and four years into the rebuild that is extremely frustrating.

    Would Marte, Tabata, and SP TBD get Kemp (preferably for that haul) or Ethier? Would it be worth it for 1.2 seasons rental?

  24. Bizrow says:

    WE always, or me anyways was that the proof of the pudding was wins and losses. Hidden vigorish/karma/whatever I’ll take it.

    THat being said, I don’t think the FO/GM knows what the heck to do right now.

  25. Arriba Wilver says:

    I don’t buy the argument that the team is “contending’ earlier than management could have expected. Depends on your point of reference. If the point of reference is last year’s 105 loss team, sure. But if your point of reference is late 2007 when these guys were hired, and based on the comments by them since, it should not be a “surprise.”

  26. naje says:

    Biz–
    What evidence do you have for not knowing what to do? Just because we don’t know, doesn’t mean they don’t.

    They knew what to do when Ohllie went down…when Alvarez went down… when Doumit and Pearce and Snyder and Tabata went down. It’s a different year, a different era and you can’t underestimate the influence Hurdle has had, not only on the players, but on Huntington as well.

  27. JMB says:

    I looked up Ethier and Kemp and see they only have contracts through this season, but, according to Buster Olney (I think), they are arb eligible for 2012, so I believe the team that trades for them would be able to keep them through 2012 via arb.

  28. DannyMoe says:

    The fact that so much of this seems unsustainable (to my chagrin) makes the idea of a big trade even more inappropriate.

  29. Drew71 says:

    Dejan – Petr Svoboda’s email reply just flew in, marked urgent…

    Dejan , ty hloupá srbské . Kam odcházíš ? Řeknu každá mediální výstupu totéž . Jaromír je v letadle – chození po Staten Island Motel 6 – pozoroval tenis – zakořenění do Pittsburghu – zakořenění pro Detroitu – mytí vlasů . To nebylo tak těžké , i pro novinář , byl to ?

  30. Drew71 says:

    Let’s see what the monitors do with THAT.

  31. AJS says:

    @Naje

    OK, so you send down a relief pitcher. Do you then plug Lincoln into the Pen for 10 days until you can call the other guy back and have lincoln miss a couple of valuable starts or do you send him back down and dip even further into Indy’s relief well? Wood and Wason are already here, who else do you want to take from them?

    I think they send d’Arnaud down. I am just not sure who gets the call back on Monday.

  32. Naje says:

    @AJS- Lincoln, if he’s only getting this one start, can go right back down to Indy after the game and they can recall another reliever. Or they’ll send down Harrison because he doesn’t have the glove or the range that d’Arnaud has (even though d’Arnaud’s had some hiccups in the field, Harrison has precious limited range at 2B and even less at 3B).

  33. Drew71 says:

    Is PBC’s run sustainable? I dunno for sure but i think in the SHORT term the answer to that links to the answer to THIS question…

    Is the pitching real?

    Hitting can’t be worse, can it? So what happens with Doumit and Pedro come back. Is Presley real? Will these guys improve it? Or are they more of the same?

    But that said, I keep coming back to, is the pitching real?

    LONG term…yes, this seems to be a better platform than the 1997 very fun, very cool but unfortunately very misleading mirage.

  34. SterlingCooperDraperPrice says:

    @Drew71

    Here’s your translation…

    you stupid. Where are you going? I will tell any media output the same thing. Jaromir is on the plane – walking around Staten Iceland and staying at Motel 6 – watching tennis, his heart is in Pittsburgh – rooting for Detroit-washing hair. It wasn’t so difficult, even for a journalist, was it?

  35. Naje says:

    @Drew – How is this a mirage? They’re playing competent, competitive baseball… that’s no mirage. They’re playing that way with 42 players (Lincoln will make it 43) filtering through the team. They’re playing that way with having played 7 catchers, 6 RF and 5 3B.

    Can the pitching hold up? It’s pretty clear that guys need a break… skipping a start will hopefully be a help to Morton… as well as Correia, McDonald and Karstens, as needed.

    A misleading mirage….? Is that really what you want to call this?

    Like this past NFL season and NCAA hoops season, MLB is riddled with mediocrity right now except for a few teams. The PBC are earning some breaks and pitching well… a big key to their success. They know that they have to sustain that to keep pace. It’s July 1st… 31 days from now, we’ll have a really clear picture of the sustainability of this team.

  36. PhillyJake says:

    The good teams find ways to win. Flukes and all.

    – Optimistic Jake (With apologies to LeeFoo)

  37. Drew71 says:

    Naje – You misread my intent, or maybe I wasn’t clear. I called the 1997 Freak Show a mirage, not today’s version. i don’t know if this season is sustainable at this level for the whole season. But i think long term, the current version of PBC is more sustainable than the Freak Show.

    PS – For purposes of definition: Sustainable, to me, does not necessarily mean playoffs, let alone championships. It means consistently competitive and at least in reasonable striking distance of playoffs.

  38. pattonbb says:

    1. I can’t believe there’s ANY way LA deals Eithier or Kemp.
    2. If they do, there’s NO way the Bucco’s get them. Boston and NY are both looking for outfield help, and Cashman and Theo both were quoted as saying their teams would be “very aggressive”.

  39. Curt says:

    @Drew: I agree with you on your sustainable definition. This version is competitive and in striking distance of the playoffs. And I think it could be that way for the next several years.
    I guess the big debate goes as follows:
    Will one bat push them over the top or do we need to be patient and not buy someone while potentially hurting the future?
    This thought crossed my mind though: how much would we get in return for Paul Maholm right now? The pitching market looks far worse than the sticks do.

  40. Drew71 says:

    If Jagr signs with the Pens, I think we’ll look back on this and reflect that he is what he always was, and what many sport stars are…a bit of a prima donna. (A bit??) So then we’ll probably say, this was HIS way of putting the spotlight on him, not bowing to the Wednesday-deadline-or-else, making everything be about him, and trying (TRYING) to look like a hero when he accepts less money to “do the right thing.” With everyone smiling at a press conference. If he signs in Pittsburgh.

    So that’s my take IF Jags signs with Pittsburgh.

    And I feel the same way about Svoboda as what Dejan wrote…”what often is learned after the fact is that the agent was trying to save face while the athlete was calling all the shots.”

  41. pattonbb says:

    DK – Great Friday article. Sure wish someone could read it to Jagr. Probably wouldn’t do any good though. Jagr would first need to care about his relationship with Mario and/or the city of Pittsburgh before he tried to repair it.

    Look, if Jagr signs with the Pens today, all will be forgotten and forgiven. But lets not forget that either Svoboda or Jagr himself took Shero’s offer and tried to make a bidding war erupt between other teams. I guess that’s just “Jagr being Jagr”.

  42. Bizrow says:

    Nage – IMHO this success was totally unexpected and outside of the FO game plan. They did not expect to be in this situation for a couple more years, hence Huntingtons talk last year of taking 7 years to turn a franchise around.

    My two cents, worth, well, 2 cents american

  43. Arriba Wilver says:

    I was a little surprised with the “deadline” Shero gave. It sounded Huntingtonesque. On the other hand, based on Jagr’s actions since, it could also be called prescient.

  44. SeanE says:

    @Naje-you missed my point….i think. I believe this run by the pitchers is sustainable. Overall, however, I don’t know that they can keep winning without an additional bat or two in the lineup. There are bats out there to be had. It will require the team to take on salary to get them. Easy example is Carlos Pena. He is earning 10 million this year. He is on the block. I suspect he can be had for a “B” level prospect but it would require the Pirates to take on about 5 million or so in additional salary for the rest of the season. This is what I am talking about in terms of put up or shut up. Spend some $ THIS YEAR for a bat and see what happens. The team has earned that chance with its play.

    Let me ask you. Would you give up a Gorky’s Hernandez to get a guy like Pena who can hit 15-20 HR’s in the second half of the season? I would.

  45. SeanE says:

    @Drew. Not sure if this group is better than the group in 97….at least in the pitching department. That group had Leiber, Schmidt and Loiza. All three of these guys were future aces….albeit not with the Pirates. Cordova was also in that group….and at the time was the best of the bunch. Not sure if any of the current staff will measure up to that 97 group.

    As for offense, the 97 group had Jose Guillen, Kevin Young and Joe Randa. All three who went on to become above average major league hitters. Also, Cummings and Nunez were two of the top young prospects in baseball at the time. Freddy Garcia was also very highly rated.

    Actually a lot of similarities between the two clubs. IMO.

  46. AJS says:

    @Naje

    I send down d’Arnaud before Harrison. Yes he has a more limited rang in the field, but d’Arnaud isn’t exactly gold glove caliber in the field either. What Harrison has done at the plate is better than what d/Arnaud has shown. He had a solid hit streak going before he was sent down and after getting another shot last night he got another. This team needs help on offense and Harrison is better at the plate than d’Arnaud.

  47. AJS says:

    @SeanE

    Your comparisons are pretty solid. You could even argue that we have our very own version of Kevin Polkovich playing right now in Chase d’Arnaud. though d’Arnaud is a much more highly rated prospect than Polky. Maybe the catching situation is a better comparison.

    All that said, I think the young talent on this roster has a much brighter future than the youngsters on that team had. Pitchers being the exception.

  48. Drew71 says:

    Dejan – Congratulations on the Wimbledon victory over Tsonga. Never knew you played tennis.

  49. pattonbb says:

    Pens just withdrew offer to Jagr. Good for you Shero!!!

  50. SeanE says:

    Well Jaromir Jagr has once again proven he is a liar and a hypocrite. Pens have withdrawn their offer and it appears (from Shero’s statement) that this WAS all about money after all.

  51. Karen22 says:

    WOW!! Jagr really IS a JERK!! And, YES, good for you, Ray Shero!

  52. SeanE says:

    Now lets get TK signed and move on. I bet Jagr ends up back in Russia.

  53. pattonbb says:

    Jagr proved once again that neither Mario nor the city of Pittsburgh mean anything to him.

  54. Arriba Wilver says:

    Lots of local sportswriters/radio personalities with egg on their face on this one.

  55. Arriba Wilver says:

  56. pattonbb says:

    TK signed

  57. Karen22 says:

    Way to go, Tyler! We want you, too!

  58. JoeBucco says:

    Jagr proved what we all have known for 20 years. Good riddance.

    And I’m not even a Pens fan.

    How ’bout those Jackets?!?!

    Oh, and Let’s Go Bucs!

    2 Games Back. Giddyup.

  59. Scott says:

    Detroit withdraws Jagr offer…

    They are falling fast.

  60. JoeBucco says:

    Bought my plane tickets to San Fran and timed it to take in the three game series against the Giants.

    @DK – are you making the trip for that one? As I recall, you enjoy S.F.

    Maybe we can get together with DARYLE while out there. :)

  61. JoeBucco says:

    Also bought my tickets to the 3 game season finale at Miller Park. Might actually be a big reason to watch those games, figured I’d get the tickets now.

  62. pattonbb says:

    Jagr goes to Filthadelphia. Talk about a match made in heaven. This is perfect.

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