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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: The end of the cheapskates


Brief and to the Point …

>> Can we once and for all drop the tired, rarely accurate accusation that the Pirates are cheap?

Under this management team, they have been cheap on occasion. I’ve called them on it, as longtime readers can attest. I didn’t like their approach to free agency, where their mostly meaningless “internal values” kept having them miss on players they really wanted by a really small amount of money. It was a lousy stance, one that made little sense. And it never will look more costly than the loss of Miguel Sano. No need to go over that a millionth time, but suffice it to say that a simple fear of bargaining against themselves kept them from signing a superb prospect they desperately wanted at a still-great price.

But forget that, for now, and look at the Andrew McCutchen extension. That’s $51.5 million in real cash. You can by cynical and say it’s backloaded for the purpose of trading him. But the commitment is no less real. Put it this way: If McCutchen were to have some major injury that sapped him of one or more tools, it’s the Pirates on the hook.

It’s their risk, and that applies right now.

Then look at $50 million on the draft over four years. Anyone dismissing that total “the price of business” has no idea how Major League Baseball’s draft worked in those four years. It wasn’t just the first-rounders. It’s the long, long list of higher-end players taken in later rounds and lured away from college. The Pirates infuriated their peers with this practice to the dramatic extent that their actions were the primary target for change in the recent labor agreement.

That’s not routine business. That’s fighting the system.

I’ve been writing for a long time that I wanted to see the Pirates reach the point where they had players like this worth keeping. I was big-time critical when they pulled the chute on Nate McLouth primarily because the front office acted completely counter to something it had just stated, which was that McLouth, Paul Maholm and Ryan Doumit were to be the “core” of the team.

This situation isn’t comparable, so I’m only revisiting to point out that this was the time to sign a player to a very long-term contract, maybe the first time under this management. And they did.

Let’s turn the page already.

>> Deep appreciation for the heavy, thoughtful feedback regarding the Steelers-Ravens bounty column yesterday. There is no greater myth in sports than the one that paints all football fans as some sort of meatheads or whatever. Terrific stuff here, on Twitter and mostly by email.

>> Am I the only one who watched Marc-Andre Fleury shine brightest in that 36-save victory last night over the Coyotes and wondered if/when he’s ever going to get a break?

Over the next five days are games against the Leafs, Panthers and Bruins. The Leafs are nothing special, but they can score. I’d sit Fleury against the Panthers, and I don’t care who has to fill in, Brad Thiessen or a returning Brent Johnson. This team is in playoff position, and it needs to look at this last month at least partly in preparation for that.

A fresh No. 1 goaltender is a big part of that.

>> Two names you don’t hear much anymore: Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.

That’s a good thing.

>> Pitt is tipping off in the Big East this afternoon. Who’s even noticing? Anyone?

Maybe that will work to the Panthers’ advantage. It’s not like there are any expectations, and it’s not like they haven’t already beaten at least some of the better teams in the tournament. Might actually be fun.

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