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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: They’re spending … deal with it

Brief and to the Point …

>> My Monday column calls for the Steelers to show Hines Ward the respect he’s due.

I hereby predict this one will be unpopular, though I can’t be sure.

>> If the Pirates complete the trade for A.J. Burnett – still feel it’s going to get done but could take more haggling — they’ll push payroll above the $50 million mark, and there still probably will be some flexibility for midsummer moves if needed.

That’s not Milwaukee or Cincinnati, but it’s not bad given the Pirates’ development stage.

I’d rather see the bigger money spent once the arms arrive from the minors. And I’d rather see some of that bigger money go toward keeping the center fielder.

>> If you’re judging Burnett by his 5.26 or 5.15 ERAs the past two seasons in New York, then you …

A. Overvalue ERA.

B. Undervalue strikeouts, of which he had 173 that would have led the Pirates’ staff.

C. Undervalue innings, of which he had 190 that would have led the Pirates’ staff.

D. Have never seen a ball carry at the new Yankee Stadium, more of a bandbox than Cincinnati or Philadelphia.

E. Have no concept of the difference between facing hitters in the AL East and hitters in the NL Central, especially now that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are gone. Even the lesser teams in the AL East have better-than-NL lineups.

Here is Burnett’s official page.

>> Odd man out of the rotation if Burnett is acquired almost always will be an injured guy. That’s just how it goes, though it doesn’t make for nearly as interesting a debate.

If everyone’s healthy, my prediction is Kevin Correia.

>> If Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz keep playing this way, the other team’s parents are going to complain.

And no, that line absolutely should not be broken up when Sidney Crosby returns. Crosby can play with Pascal Dupuis and … um, Rick Nash.

>> Don’t underestimate the broader impact of Jordan Staal’s return in the Penguins erupting for a dozen goals this weekend. He gives the Penguins two viable lines, and the Steve Sullivan-Cal O’Reilly-Dustin Jeffrey line has been as good as any. Everyone gets lifted up a notch.

>> Jamie Dixon’s 11 losses, the 11th coming yesterday at Seton Hall, represent his most in nine years at Pitt’s helm. They also represent, realistically, the end of the Panthers’ wildest dream for an NCAA at-large bid. Five Big East games remain, so the best possible conference record is 9-9. That’s not going to cut it.

It’s tournament win, or bust. And this Pitt team doesn’t have that look, especially without any semblance of an inside game. Took Nasir Robinson most of the game to get his first bucket. There’s still little from Dante Taylor. And Lamar Patterson, while promising, isn’t going to compensate for that.

>> This was my appearance on KDKA-TV’s Showdown last night. For those who already asked, the reason the Penguins weren’t discussed is that they were playing while we taped.

>> Weekly appearance on our online-only TribLIVE Radio is at 11:30 a.m.

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