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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Not everything is connected

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> If a shark attacks someone off the coast of Florida, then another attacks someone else off the coast of North Carolina, our nightly news invariably carries reports of “an increase in shark attacks.” As if sharks just figured out, after a million years or so, that they enjoy meaty flesh.

Not everything is connected, but we as a society have a tendency to see everything as some sort of trend.

In my Wednesday column, I essentially make the same case regarding the deaths of the three NHL enforcers this summer. It makes for all kinds of interesting analysis, much of it valid, but the amount of evidence supporting an actual link of the incidents is microscopic.

Thanks to the Penguins’ Steve Sullivan and Ray Shero for their remarkable candor, in particular to Sullivan who very easily could have elected not to discuss a topic as difficult as the very recent death of a friend.

>> I’ve defended Pedro Alvarez from day one, during the draft-signing fiasco, during his time in the minors, during the largely unfounded accusations that he was way out of shape … but I wrote in a column last week that I’d revisit that if he blew off the Pirates’ request that he play winter ball.

Well, Alvarez did exactly that yesterday.

It’s inexcusable under this specific set of circumstances. Alvarez is batting .189, he’s struck out once every three times up, and he missed nearly two months to a thigh injury that would very much fall into the preventable category.

Let the Pirates defend him now.

>> One highlight I culled from Mike Tomlin’s news conference was that Marcus Gilbert and Ramon Foster graded out well on the Steelers’ line. That tells me that the coaches, who dissect the film frame by frame, apparently thought a lot more of the offensive line play than the naked eye showed.

Yeah, it could be better at the goal line, but this is good enough under the circumstance. Especially where Gilbert is concerned. He literally has to have Ben Roethlisberger’s back.

>> Even a diehard Pitt fan has to feel at least a little sorry for West Virginia now, don’t they?

By all accounts, the Mountaineers are being shunned by the ACC and SEC, and the geography only gets more challenging from there. The obvious problem with West Virginia is that they don’t offer a big media market to a conference, no matter how popular the school’s athletics are within their own state. Pittsburgh is the biggest nearby city, and even Pitt has a hard time competing with our professional teams here.


  1. JAL says:

    JAL’s Arizona Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

  2. JAL says:

    6 The Green Weenie


    7 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates Get Homers From Pedro Alvarez, Derrek Lee In Win

    Pirates Acquire Eliecer Cardenas In Matt Diaz Trade, Get Something For Nothing

    8 Rumbunter

    Where Do the Pittsburgh Pirates Broadcasters Rank in Major League Baseball?

  3. JAL says:



    9 Tribune-Review

    Catcher Snyder hopes to stick with Pirates

    Pirates hold off Diamondbacks’ rally for win

    10 Arizona Republic

    Diamondbacks inch closer to NL West title despite loss

  4. JAL says:

    11 Conway Daily Sun

    Locke chosen for cover of Conway town report

    12 Toronto Sun

    Jays’ Bautista regains patience

    13 Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

    It’s just another case of a bad apple

  5. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    -Behind the Steel Curtain

    Where Are They Now? Tracking the Steelers’ Draft Picks in the Mike Tomlin Era (Part 1, 2007)

    Steelers Week 2 Game Ball Goes To….

    -Steeler Depot

    Week 2 Offensive Line Breakdown

    -Steelers Gab

    Pittsburgh at Indianapolis NFL Capsule Week 3

  6. TJA says:

    Well said, DK, on the Pedro deal. It’s a job…a business. It goes back to the old saying, ” if my boss asked me to do (fill in the blank) and I did this at my job….” The players in professional sports have a very “high profile” job…they get paid millions and with the way SO many people are losing their jobs and the economy struggling, this really makes one ill. The Pirates need to give Pedro an earful.

  7. Sarcastic Sword says:

    Shame on Pedro

  8. SeanE says:

    DK-on the Alvarz front. While I understand your point, there is something to be said for getting away from the game for a little while. Pedro had a terrible year by all accounts. Sometimes a step back is necessary. Neal certainly did not call Pedro out for this decision and said it was a “collective” decison. Hard to say that Pedro blew off the team under these circumstances. Neal easily could have said that the orgaization was “disappointed in Pedro’s decision” but they did not. Doesn’t sound to me like anyone was blown off.

    With regard to WVU I think another issue that hurts them is their academics. While I don’t know that this impacts the decision by the SEC, it would certainly have an effect on the ACC or Big 10. The initial statement by the ACC in welcoming Pitt and Syracuse prominently mentioned the outstanding academic status of both schools. Don’t think that can be said of WVU.

  9. TJA says:

    Sean – Good point on the Pedro deal to step back (that can occur with any of us), but I still think he owes this (the extra practice…training) to his employer and to the fans that pay money to see him and the Pirates over the course of a season.

  10. JAL says:

    WVU told WV Illustrated


    UPDATE: A WVU official told WVi the report about West Virginia University being rejected by the SEC and ACC is an “outright lie.”

    Another source claims the SEC decision was based solely on market size.

    Doubt we will know the real story until the dust settles, maybe not even then.

  11. bdubb says:

    I just read in another publication in this city that says Pedro will not start out in Winter Ball and the decision was pretty much come to by the Pirates and Alvarez and they said they wanted to have him clear his head.

    I feel bad for WVU. If the Big East stays with the Big 12 remnants it will be pretty bad. You can have an East and West conf but no real games to look foward too on the football schedule. Basketball wouldn’t be too bad. But I would guess in the end UConn, Rutgers and Missou all get offers somewhere else and then the new Big East would be just horrible.

    So my question is when it comes to big time college athletics it doesn’t seem academics are all that important when you get down to it. So why would these presidents put on the front saying your school must fit in academically with ours? Are there some kind of rewards/grants for the best conference academically? Is it the admission standards for athletes that would be an issue?

  12. SeanE says:

    TJA-couldn’t agree more. One of the points that was raised by Neal was that the time off would allow Pedro to concentrate on his conditioning. If Pedro does not play winter ball but comes into camp in phenominal shape I think this entire thing will end up being a non issue.

  13. SeanE says:

    bdubb-No doubt that money is the major driving force in these matters. Academics do play a part however. For example, if the ACC wanted the Pittsburgh market it could have gone after Pitt or WVU. Based purely on athletics and fan base WVU was arguably the better choice. I can’t help but think academics played a role in the final decision.

  14. chuck snow says:

    All fine and good if you want to get your head clear, however in my eyes the pressure is just going to increase next year. Why not play some winter ball and work on your game away from the glare? .189 batting average doesn’t equal a long career.

  15. Officer Mancuso says:

    “If Pedro does not play winter ball but comes into camp in phenominal shape I think this entire thing will end up being a non issue.”

    If pigs start sprouting wings there’ll be lots more air traffic controller jobs.

  16. SeanE says:

    Holy C*%p! What was that thing that just flew past my window! :-)

  17. Milo Hamilton says:


    I am a die hard Pitt fan. I do not feel the least bit sorry for West Virginia. I won’t feel sorry for them until they stop beating Pitt with players that nobody else wants.

  18. jeffsbar says:


    “If Pedro does not play winter ball but comes into camp in phenominal shape I think this entire thing will end up being a non issue.”

    I disagree. To me, it makes no difference what kind of shape he shows up in (obviously we would prefer he’s in excellent shape). What really matters is whether or not he can hit the ball and not strike out 1 in every three at bats. Playing Winter ball could help his development way more than anything else. He wouldn’t be under the same pressure he is in Pittsburgh so you would think he would be able to relax and enjoy the game a bit more.

  19. SeanE says:

    @Jeffsbar-certainly a very valid point. I don’t know that there is a right or wrong answer to this question. I got the sense from reading the article on this issue (from another publication) that there is the possibility for a bit of both. Pedro was born in the DR so he has the option of joining that team at some later point in the season. Perhaps some early time off away from the game with a winter ball stint later on.

  20. Arriba Wilver says:

    I have to agree that the way the Pedro winter ball thing played out, it doesn’t sound like “Blow off” is an accurate description of what happened. Neal reportedly said a couple days ago that he was distinguishing this from past situations where they were ticked off when players didn’t go, and that they would respect Pedro’s decision as to what he felt was best for him. It seems like they did have a dialogue. Of course, Neal could have been laying the groundwork to take the pressure off Pedro (since it’s something they can’t force in any event) or he could have been under pressure to back off on the heavy handedness about decisions that they can’t contractually require. But those scenarios seem unlikely. But at the same time, I can certainly respect DK’s decision to not back off of his earlier commitment to revisit his defense if Pedro didn’t go.

  21. jeffsbar says:

    I just think he can prove that he’s committed to becoming a better player by agreeing to play winter ball. By not doing it I think it says to his organization, teammates and fans that he doesn’t really care that he had a terrible season and he’s not going to go the extra mile to make himself a better player. To be clear, I’m not saying he doesn’t care, but that is the impression he’s giving.

  22. SeanE says:

    Arriba-No doubt about it. DK has every right to that opinion and it is certainly valid. Besides, DK has more inside knowledge about what people in the organization are thinking than any of us lunatics. I was just pointing out that the characterization of a “blow off” may not have been accurate.

    Jeff-My boss has repeatedly told me that in life “perception is reality”. No doubt many (including DK i would think) will view things exactly that way.

  23. Vinqtin says:

    What if Pedro goes to Winter Ball and hits.189? Then what? A rough year just gets rougher. The more I think about it, the more I think this is a good thing. Even if he goes and does well, so what? It’s all about hitting about major league pitching. We all know he can hit at the lower levels. The talent appears to be there but he’s not mentally ready. Some time off might have as good a chance of fixing his problem as beating up on some prospect pitchers.

  24. jeffsbar says:


    “What if Pedro goes to Winter Ball and hits.189? Then what?”

    At least it would show he’s willing to put forth an effort to better himself.

  25. Milo Hamilton says:

    I don’t know what to think about this Alvarez thing. Logic says you should do what the organization wants. Logic also says that what this organization wants may not be the right thing.

    Maybe he just needs to get away, clear his head, & let his father in law try to figure him out.

  26. SeanE says:

    “Logic also says that what this organization wants may not be the right thing.”

    That may be the best point I have heard all morning. :-)

  27. DaveIn84 says:

    -His father in law isn’t paying him
    -He could have avoided all of the crap we’re laying on him by just going and playing winter ball. Two months of working on his problems and then he’d have a couple of months to “clear his head” and work on conditioning.
    -The Pirate front office is just saying they’re ok with it to avoid the appearance of a conflict

  28. 1buccofan says:

    Dejan: For such a short comment I really don’t know where to begin? The Pirate decision to back off on there stance concerning Alvarez and winterball was made by one man and one man only because he actually has played the game,saw the player on the field, in the clubhouse, in his office, and got reports from the minoe league staff that is of course CLINT HURDLE! Which is completely and totally and uneqivically the right choice for not only the organization but the player going forward! He knows where Pedro’s head is as well as anybody. Failure early could have career wide implications. THEY CERTAINLY ARE IN BETTER POSITION TO MAKE THIS CALL THAN ANY SPORTWRITER-BLOGGER! Now to a more pressing matter the failure of the sports media this town to criticize our secondbase man and centerfleilder for their continued failure to drive in runners from 3rd base with less than 2outs. I don’t understand why the media affords them more proctect from criticism than folks in the witness protect program. Only articles I can recall to this effect were written by Bob Smizik. The media’s rush to ANOINT McCutheon THE SECOND COMING OF BARRY LARMAR BOND ABSOLUTELY BAFFLES ME. Particularly when he himself doesn’t know what type of offensive player he wants to to be. But yet we have the media campaign to back the brink’s truck for a guy who without a hot streak will end up 260 or lower BA 23 HRS 90-95 rbi’s good major league player not a great one.

    DK: Regarding Alvarez, I agree that the team is in a better position to know what’s best than any sports writer. That’s why I wholly support the Pirates pushing Alvarez to go.

    As for McCutchen, I have no idea what your problem with him is. He’s having a lousy September, just .182 so far, but he’s also been the Pirates’ best overall player. And your RISP point just doesn’t hold up. He’s batting .291 with runners in scoring position, which is 30 points better than his regular average, and he leads the team in RBIs. The third-base-no-outs thing happens so rarely that it’s barely worth analyzing.

    You need another vendetta, man. McCutchen is the least of the Pirates’ problems.

    Oh, and his name is spelled McCUTCHEN. There’s no extra O in there.

  29. David Albert says:

    Better get real good-real fast, Fat Ass. Or so I’m guessing lots of people at General Robinson are thinking but not saying.

  30. TS says:

    Steve Stone ahead of Bob Walk? No friggin’ way. Not to mention Bob should be way up there in the ratings. I consider him in the top 3 of MLB color commentators. Steve Blass is another story. Ugh.

  31. Good points, 84Dave!

    Where’s the line-ups??

  32. JAL says:

    Presley 7 Ciriaco 6 McCutchen 8 Lee 3 Walker 4 Ludwick 9 Wood 5 Pagnozzi 2 Ohlendorf 1

    Bloomquist 6 Hill 4 Upton 9 Montero 2 Young 8 Overbay 3 Roberts 5 Parra 7 Miley 1

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