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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Crosby flying, having fun

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> I spent a good chunk of my Monday with the Penguins, and I can tell you unequivocally that Sidney Crosby wasn’t just skating out there. He was skating.

I mean flying. I mean leaning forward after the drills and sucking wind. He first went really hard on Sunday, and he at least matched that yesterday. Stops, turns, all-out sprints, shooting and passing, you name it.

He didn’t speak with reporters afterward, but it was pretty clear he wasn’t exactly troubled by any of it. He hung around on the ice after practice, playfully tapping pucks in the air and trying length-of-the-rink shots.

Doesn’t mean he’s in the clear. But it can’t be bad, right?

>> Mike Tomlin will take to the podium for his weekly televised news conference, and you won’t be able to count to five before he starts glowing about the Colts. By the time he’s done, if you never looked at the standings, you’ll believe that the Steelers’ opponent this Sunday will face not only Peyton Manning but also Johnny Unitas as backup.

That’s the right thing for the coach to do.

But don’t believe it.

I could point out that they had to drag Kerry Collins out of retirement, or that they rank 27th in passing yards, 22nd in rushing yards, and a really grizzly 29th in opponents’ rushing yards. But I’ll just leave it at this: Two days ago, they lost at home to Cleveland.

>> Tomlin actually has several meetings with the media during the course of the week, and they’re not really all that different in questioning or content than the one that gets televised. It’s a little odd that the Tuesday one has become this big production.

>> Good for Jeff Karstens for finishing his season as he did late last night.

This guy told the Pirates’ management in spring training that he deserved to be a starter, and he asked to be given a chance at some point. He got one in April when his friend Ross Ohlendorf went down, and he grabbed it and never looked back.

It’s not always about the stuff.

>> If you’re one of those people pulling for the Rays to pass the Red Sox for a playoff spot, just remember: This is a labor agreement year. Teams like Tampa Bay routinely get cited as an example that Major League Baseball’s absurdly imbalanced economic system somehow is irrelevant.


  1. JUCOFan says:

    Is Karstens available to pinch hit for the remainder of the year?

  2. dcpinpgh says:

    I hate to say this,but the Pirates will never win. It’s not for the reasons most people think. They don’t train/coach their pitchers to pitch. I mean if the Pirates were going to the playoffs, what pitcher would have the “gas” in the tank to pitch. Jamison Taillon won’t be ready to pitch game 7 of world series until he signs his free agnet deal with the Yankees.

  3. pghboyinca says:

    Good for Sid, if he doesn’t make a full recovery the sport of hockey loses big time. Tomlins praising of the opponent is hilarious, give him credit for being consistent with every oppomnent no matter how rank they are.

    The Pirates? Where do you begin? I say while we are at it extend the whole organization to lifetime contracts. If the garbage that spews out of that cesspool of a franchise earns anyone a year extension let alone 3 years with an option just stop pretending. Replace the P on the cap with an extended middle finger and just stop pretending. Drop payroll to 15 million and roll in some real bands like the Stones and Springstien and have fireworks every night. Just make PNC a concert venue that has a little baseball as an appetizer. Focus on who is in town like Pujols or Ryan Howard and become the Washingotn Generals. I mean seriously it is already the case so why deny it? All you fornt office junkies and suck ups deserve every bit of what is happening, you neable the absolute bullshit that this franchise represents.

  4. Officer Mancuso says:

    If I’m neabling, I’m not aware of it.

  5. Dave G in Mason, OH says:

    I’ve read that Kennedy pitched well last night for the D’Backs.

    But how can you truly gauge how well he pitched when it was against the lowly Pirates?

    In 51 (one third) of their games this season the Bucs have 10 or more offensive strikeouts.

    So… 51 pitchers were ‘on their games’ those nights?

    Too much credit is given to opposing pitchers when the reason is offensive ineptitude.

    My perception is that 13 Pirates struck out against Kennedy, not that Kennedy struck out 13 Pirates…

  6. Dave G in Mason, OH says:

    Not saying that Kennedy didn’t actually pitch well. Just saying the Bucs are so bad offensively that they make all opposing pitchers look better than they are.

  7. Dave G in Mason, OH says:

    And yes, it’s time for a different hitting coach. There has been zero improvement this season.

  8. JAL says:

    JAL’s Desert Pete Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

  9. JAL says:


    3—Pirates Prospects

    Game 154 Recap: Bucs Shutout on Two Hits

    Exploring the Arsenal: Previewing the Diamondbacks’ Probable Starting Pitchers’-probable-starting-pitcher.html

    4 McEffect

    Two Hits

    The Arizona Diamondbacks Model

    5 Raise the Jolly Roger


    6 The Green Weenie

    Karstens Effort Wasted, Bucs Fall 1-0

    7 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates Two-Hit In Loss To Diamondbacks

    Bradenton Marauders 2011 Season Review, Part II: Pitchers

    8 Rumbunter

    Pirates Fall 1-0. We Have No Idea How to Explain This Clint Hurdle Picture

  10. JAL says:

    6 The Green Weenie

    Karstens Effort Wasted, Bucs Fall 1-0

    7 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates Two-Hit In Loss To Diamondbacks

    Bradenton Marauders 2011 Season Review, Part II: Pitchers

    8 Rumbunter

    Pirates Fall 1-0. We Have No Idea How to Explain This Clint Hurdle Picture

  11. JAL says:


    10 Arizona Republic

    Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ian Kennedy gets 20th win in victory over Pittsburgh Pirates

    Dodgers get offensive in 15-1 rout of Pirates

    11 Washington Examiner

    Crime History: Pittsburgh cocaine trial embarrasses baseball

  12. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    -Behind the Steel Curtain

    Mike Wallace’s 53-Yard Snag Against Seahawks Should (but won’t) be Contender for 2011 Catch of the Year

    BTSC Steelers Six Pack: Seahawks Redux Edition

    -Steeler Depot

    Breaking Down Redmond’s 20 Yard TD Run

    -Steelers Gab

    Roethlisberger’s Health Tied To the Issues On the O-Line

  13. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    Pitt Blather

    Expansiopocolypse: Finding the Villains

    Cardiac Hill

    College Football Expansion: In The “Who Didn’t See This Coming” Category, Big East & Big 12 To Merge?

  14. JAL says:

    WVU Blogs

    Gold and Blue Blog

    Pitt and ‘Cuse get ACC, West Virginia gets Primetime‘cuse-get-acc-west-virginia-gets-primetime/

    WV Illustrated

    Big East Coaches Mostly Quiet Regarding Realignment



    Black & Gold Game II

  15. MrB says:

    Tampa is going to be cited regardless of their finish this season. Just goes to show what can happen with a quality front office that both evaluates and spends smart. The Pirates once had such a benefit about 40 years ago.

    Rooting against a great baseball story such as this years Rays team due to MLBs economic system is the absurdity.

    Go Rays!

  16. Jandy says:

    pghboyinca ~ I feel your pain! But slow down, man, we’re havin’ a tough time following you. After the “fluke” surge….the return to “normal” was heartbreaking.

  17. Jandy says:

    I haven’t been out to the practices, but everything is pointing to Sid looking and feeling great. This is very encouraging. Let’s hope he gets cleared for full contact soon so he can get back on the ice and kick some butt!

  18. Bizrow says:

    This ending to the baseball season has, IMHO, taken quite a bit, if not all of the luster from the earlier part of the season.

    It sure was fun, but its sure is painful seeing this club throw in the towel once again.

    4 more years, sigh ;-(

  19. Fat Jimmy says:

    I’ll be interested in reading your Pirates wrap-up column, Dejan (I assume you’ll do one). Like a lot of people, I’ve been ignoring them for most of the past month and I just spent 10 minutes looking at their statistics hard. There really isn’t much to get excited about… outside of Jeff Karstens, I suppose.

    McDonald and Morton had respectable seasons, I guess. But Morton’s K/BB numbers aren’t going to get it done, and neither will McDonald’s HR numbers. Hanrahan was largely great, but a closer isn’t exactly a priority for a team trying to break .500. Presley showed a little, but the Pirates 19-year history is littered with “speedy” OF-types with limited pedigrees who look great for 1/2 season.

    I’d label McCutchen and Walker’s seasons as disappointments. Doumit hit, but his injury bug is going to keep him from getting picked up, I’m afraid.

    Wow. For all of the good will midseason (that led to the eventually disasterous extension of Neal Huntington), there isn’t much to grow on this season.

    DK: I do have a closing column planned.

  20. Milo Hamilton says:

    I’m still rooting for the Rays to catch the choking Red Sox. The “winner” of the AL wild card will have no effect on the CBA negotiations. Even if the Rays don’t finish the job, they will still have posted their 4th straight winning season, including twice winning the toughest division in baseball & a pennant.

    The fact remains that well run low revenue teams can be competitive. Even with the hated Yankees & Red Sox. I emphasize the well run part.

  21. Eric Bowser says:

    * Mike Tomlin speaks but I hear nothing come out of his mouth. For a guy who has been in the NFL for just a few years as a head coach, he sure gives the appearance of a difficult person to deal with for the media. Of course, to be fair to Coach Tomlin, most coaches hate this part of the job. Heck, I remember dealing with a high school football coach giving me the business verbally because the newspaper I was covering the game for was critical of his program. So, we’re standing in the rain and he’s pointing to the scoreboard, his team won by 2 points or something and the paid staffers had predicted like a 20-30 point blowout loss for his school.

    *Crosby skating hard without having any complications is a positive trend but I’m still extremely hesitant about the long-term viability of him in the NHL until he’s getting hit and hit hard. The longevity doubts come from the terrible leadership within the NHL and NHLPA to ban any hits to the head, including fighting. I’ve followed this sport for 24 years and the Canadian tough guy sentiment will never go away until someone in leadership makes decisions for the good of the NHL and NHLPA, not Canada.

    * Jeff Karstens had a good season and I’m saying it now, I have serious doubts about the Pirates offering him arbitration since he’ll no doubt argue, successfully might I add, that he’s a starting pitcher and should be compensated justly. The Pirates thought it was rough losing their case to Ross Ohlendorf, this case will be expensive. I don’t expect him back.

    * MLB collective bargaining, I can’t wait for it to hit into high gear. During the NHL lockout, I learned a ton about the NHL CBA and got the opportunity to discuss some things with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and others. Of course, Mr. Daly is quite possibly the most fan friendly and fan accessible league executive in all the four sports. I can’t say the same for MLB.

  22. aglebagel says:

    Haha, I’ve been rooting for big-market teams for years, for that very reason, Dejan!

  23. Eric Bowser says:

    aglebagel – The problem with rooting for or against anyone in MLB is the easy target created by the Pirates to show example of why revenue-sharing won’t mean anything if the team’s own revenues are too low and ownership has a history of not putting the full share into the major league payroll.

    The owners can’t even agree to worthwhile revenue-sharing, there’s no chance they will ever agree to how those funds should be distributed (i.e. major league payroll) and then you’ve got MLBPA on strong footing to vote against any form of a salary cap.

  24. Milo Hamilton says:

    I think the point is being missed when it comes to MLB & its CBA. As long as teams can continue to lose in the standings yet still turn profits, nothing is going to change. I doubt seriously that the Pirates are “fighting hard behind the scenes” to change the system. The current model works just fine for them.

  25. Eric Bowser says:

    @Milo – that’s been my opinion for years and believe it is etched in stone with Frank Coonelly in Pittsburgh. Kevin McClatchy would make comments to Pittsburgh media about MLB changing their system and then he would go to those owner meetings and not stand up to anyone. Bob Nutting is a businessman, something McClatchy is not. The Pirates are going to stick to this system and why wouldn’t they, 2012 is looking like a major financial boon, upwards of $20 million in profits based on a $35-40 million payroll, when they could afford $55-60 million.

  26. Milo Hamilton says:


    Have you noticed how nobody has bothered to dispute your financial projections for next years Buccos ? Crickets ?


    Thanks for the report on Crosby, DK. After all the uncertainty and relative quiet about Sidney this summer, it’s great to hear how he’s getting back into the fold with the Pens. Even if he’s not cleared for contact yet, his presence and even partial participation in training camp is important not only for him but surely for the team.

    One question I have: Are the Pens allowing Crosby to participate in intra-squad scrimmages and contact drills with clear instruction to everyone that Sid is not to be touched or is he kept completely off the ice during those sessions?

    DK: No. Scrimmages = contact.

  28. @suckmeter says:

    Another reason why the Pirates second half has sucked:

    Number of pitchers at the All Star break with 10 wins = 1

    At the time it looked highly likely that they would finish with at least 4 starters, maybe 5, with 10 wins.

    Number of pitchers with 10 wins today = 1.

  29. Eric Bowser says:

    @Milo – of course. Who can argue against my position after I posted those salaries the other day? And that included re-signing Derrek Lee, which I find extremely doubtful as Lee probably will be able to find another team willing give him a shot to play 1B.

    Yet, no one in the media is talking about this. I don’t expect Dejan to be the only one in this town capable of looking at the numbers and question where the payroll will be in 2012 with a ticket increase.

    That $20 million number is bad timing with CBA talks looming.

  30. Steelfan says:

    Just saw this tweet from Brett McMurphy.

    Brett McMurphy

    Multiple Big East sources said they have been told by WVU officials that WVU rejected by ACC & SEC.

  31. Eric Bowser says:

    I feel bad for WVU but their academic reputation is what it is because of their own doing. Let’s not forget the controversy with folks getting MBA’s because of money and connections. Or burning couches as if they are town traditions.

    The problem for WVU is the size of their market… well, they aren’t really a market.

    A town of 45,000 isn’t really worth money for ESPN, NBC Sports, CBS, Fox, etc.

    Hopefully they’ll get onboard with a Big East and Big 12 merger.

  32. Eric Bowser says:

    By the way, if you haven’t eaten at Burgatory, make a trip. I went there for lunch and must say, yummm!

    The service was excellent, waitress was cute as well, though with your daughter, wife and mother-in-law… that doesn’t give you much room to be flirty. Ordered onion rings and BBQ wings for appetizer, both were hits. My 2-yr old daughter liked the onion rings and the dipping sauce. I followed that up with a Root Beer float, which was meh. Next time, milkshake will be ordered.

    Then we got our main orders of burgers.

    I ordered and happily devoured a bison burger cooked with peppercorn rub served with herb focaccia, garlic mayo, lettuce, tomato and mozzarello. It was a perfect collection of flavors and meat cooked just the way I like it. Fries were tasty.

    I had no interest in their chips, not a fan of sweet potato.

    I will go there again, so that about sums up my delightful Tuesday afternoon.

    …see, we can talk more than just sports here.

  33. BenderHeel says:

    WVU doesn’t really bring a lot to the table for the ACC or SEC. I’d expect them to be in Conference USA or the Big Least.

  34. Arriba Wilver says:

    I hadn’t thought of the MBA scandal as being a part of the reason, Eric. Who knows, but while I suspect the academic issue may have played some part (although how much better is Miami academically?), you hit it on the head with the size of the market Morgantown would add to the market that Pitt and VT already bring. It’s mostly about TV dollars, and other than the Backyard Brawl (which will probably continue anyway), WVU doesn’t add much. Which is part of the justification for Pitt locking up a spot “early.” There are only so many spots if the end game is 4 leagues with 16 teams. (Full disclosure–I went to UVA undergrad, Pitt post-grad and one of my daughters graduated from VT, so this is great, and very unexpected, for me).

  35. Eric Bowser says:

    The best thing out of this is the NC vs PITT trash talking for BenderHeel and I.

  36. Eric Bowser says:

    LOL, Paterno supposedly links PSU for conference free agency. PSU could be unhappy if more eastern teams are not added to Big 10.

    A potential ACC North division would be the dream of Paterno with Pitt, Syracause, BC, VA, VT, MD, PSU, and UConn. Those teams would get 7 divisional games, probably 1-2 ACC South games and then 3-4 non-conference games.

    This stuff is unreal right now.

  37. Arriba Wilver says:

    Eric—a big “wow” on your opinion on Karstens being offered arbitration. I don’t have much faith in the FC led FO, but even I can’t see them non-tendering Karstens. Try to lowball him, sure, but no one in their right mind could try to argue he should be paid as a reliever after 26 starts this year. And especially with his stats. (OK, that “no one in their right mind” has given me some pause). :-)

  38. BenderHeel says:

    @ Eric: That would be a nice set-up with those ACC North teams. I think the “old guard” of ACC basketball schools and fans would be unhappy though with MD and UVA being up with the “Yankees” and not playing each other as often as they used to.

    And I can’t wait for the Heels and Panthers to regularly meet. Although I’m in Philly now, I think I’d be making returns trips whenever my beloved Heels are in the Burgh.

    @Arriba: Miami is a much, much better academic institution than WVU. In the most recent US News rankings, UM was tied for 38th, while WVU was a whopping 164th.

  39. JAL says:

    All I can say is i graduated from WVU, U of Georgia hired me a a professor so I had no trouble going from WVU to the SEC. Also the debate teams I coached beat plenty of ACC teams.

  40. BenderHeel says:

    @JAL: Obviously the institution doesn’t make the man, but I don’t think that you can argue that the academic reputation of WVU is that great. Besides that, they really don’t bring a media market, which is a driver in these considerations.

  41. JAL says:


    WVU’s academic reputation is not that great though they do rank 30th in number of Rhodes Scholars produced. As with many schools, some good programs and some not so good ones.

    The media market is a big negative. Closest big media market is Pittsburgh. If looking for a media market that is not what you want. .

  42. BenderHeel says:

    @ JAL: I agree wholeheartedly. My former unit chief went to a law school that is near-universally derided, and he was one of the smartest guys I ever worked with. Point being, as I said earlier, the institution itself does not make the man. In fact, I’m quite positive that there have been many smarter and better taught WVU graduates than UNC grads like me. Or at least in-state UNC grads. :)

    Plus if the ACC wanted the Pittsburgh market – either for television or recruiting – they get it with Pitt. The SEC likely knows that WVU really wouldn’t deliver in Western PA.

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