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Monday Wakeup Call: More columns about baseball

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

BRADENTON, Fla. — Morning, lunatics …

>> The Monday column is about baseball. Specifically, it’s about the two players I identify as what I’m calling the swing votes for the 2013 Pirates. You’ll see I didn’t exactly go out on a limb with either choice.

At the same time, I’d welcome hearing your choices in the comments.

Here’s some of my talk yesterday with Pedro Alvarez

>> Actual exchange, just before that, inside clubhouse …

Me: “Hey, Pedro, got a minute?”

Pedro: “No!” (then smiles) “Ah, I’m kidding.”

Neil Walker and Brandon Inge are amused nearby.

Walker: “See, this is what happens when you only come around once in a while because you’re out covering all that hockey.”

Touche, les hommes de baseball.

>> Also, here’s my news notebook for the day, focusing on the more dynamic Jose Tabata.

>> If you missed the first two pieces from down here, the Friday column looked at the seemingly long lost concept of hope in this corner of the sporting world, and the Sunday column asked Clint Hurdle, in a one-on-one interview, if he feels he lost the clubhouse last summer.

>> From reading about and watching highlights of Pitt-Villanova, sure looks like all concerned had themselves quite the experience at the Pete yesterday …

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls

That’s Dante Taylor above, of course. He and Tray Woodall, the other senior, really rose to the occasion on the court. But they went a little further in this moving press conference, courtesy of Chris Peak’s PantherLair.com site.

>> Evgeni Malkin cleared for contact? Yes, absolutely.

>> Willie Gay back to the Steelers? Sure, why not at the right price?

>> The Duquesne women are off to the A-10 tourney with high hopes. And those hopes are making the NCAA tournament, which I’m seeing as extremely difficult if they don’t have win at least a couple in Philly.

>> I’ll be on TribLIVE Radio today at 10:45 a.m. for a half-hour of baseball talk with our Ken Laird, who’s also here on site. My own show tomorrow also will be heavy on ball.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.

Comments

  1. Iceman says:

    Does the signing of Gay mean that Lewis is most likely on his way off to a team who can afford to pay him more?

    DK: One would hope not, but it sure looks like it.

  2. Stuart says:

    Dejan, the link to the column doesn’t work. Also can’t get to triblive.com/sports either.

    In the Pitt game, the panthers never led the score in the entire second half. robinson’s three tied it, and a second three put it away in OT. Not impressed with Tray in clutch, and Patterson disappears for long stretches. Johnson shot well in brief stints. I think the Freshmen will determine how far Pitt gors in madness.

    Any impressions on Clint Robinson, Brandon Inge? Hawpe certainly doesn’t impress”

    Stuart

    DK: There are some struggles with the entire site right now, Stu, but only with certain browsers. That’s why some — myself included — are seeing it, but not others. The techies are on it.

  3. Stuart says:

    Thanks DK, the links are fixed for my iPad (Safari browser).

    Good column on JMac and Pedro.

    Stuart

  4. Eric Bowser says:

    –> Instead of posting another long “column” – hey, I can’t sleep – I’ll just post the link to the it in order to make Drew happy.. something about long winded.

    http://pittsburghfancentral.blogspot.com/2013/03/team-defense-takes-leadership.html

    –> Dejan, good column on McDonald and Alvarez. No doubt in my mind, those two are key for 2013.

    –> Signing Big Play Willie Gay must mean resignation on ability to re-sign Keenan Lewis, if so, that’s too bad as he was finally coming into his own.

  5. Ghost says:

    Good barb by Neil Walker’s re: “all that hockey.”
    Lukewarm to cold on William Gay being re-signed. Opposing OC’s would be delighted though…
    Just spent several hours in the emergency room. My younger kid did an A.J. Burnett today. Tried learning how to drag bunt in the cages and took a 75 mph ricochet off the bat to the eye socket. When the vomiting wasn’t stopping, got him to the hospital. Brain is okay. Upper cheek bone isn’t. Got a fracture underneath what is shaping up as one helluva shiner. Took two dosages of morphine before he could bear to dig his contact lens out from behind the completely closed up eyelids. He’s 10 days shy of his 14th b-day though, so hopefully he’ll be back in action a little more quickly than Burnett was.
    So far so good with older kid making the varsity baseball team. More on that if / when we know for certain…

  6. Eric Bowser says:

    good luck to your son with a speedy recovery. Just tell him, chicks dig A.J. Burnett.

    Hoping my son (turns 7 next month) is able to play coach pitch this year but he’s had some medical issues, hope to get some ideas on Wednesday about his own issues throwing up (since October). Worst thing being unable to help your kids.

  7. Ghost says:

    Thanks Eric. Will tell him that about the chicks.
    Man, hard hearing that about your son throwing up. Hope it’s just something correctable like a food allergy perhaps. “Being unable to help your kids.” Yes, every parent’s nightmare. Godspeed to your son and family.

  8. Ghost says:

    By the way, agree with premise of today’s column. Particulary with JMac. If he can solidify us through the first three SP positions, we’ll have the wind at our backs. If he lets us down, the bullpen and all the best laid plans start unraveling early.

  9. MrB says:

    You may not be on a limb with JMac and Pedro, but you’re certainly on target. A rejuvented Tabata could also draw some votes and make for an interesting season.

  10. JoeyBats says:

    THAT isn’t even close to being a fair trade off! :-( I understand that they would then anticipate moving K.Allen into the starter role and use “Big Play” Willie Gay as the nickel …but wow….what a tremendous drop off in the over all talent level of the DB’s.
    .
    .
    .
    Let’s hope they find a way to keep Lewis.

  11. JoeyBats says:

    PITT hoops:

    Gotta love the way that Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor picked up the slack for ailing Steve Adams yesterday in the win against the ‘Nova Wildcats yesterday.

    * Zanna ….37 minutes ….14 pts …19 rbs …2 blks.
    * Taylor…..24 minutes…..7 pts …. 6 rbs …2 blks.

    However, make no mistake, the Panthers aren’t going anywhere in the NCAA “Big Dance” without the Big Fella (as Dick Groat would call him). Let’s hope that Adams’ ankle injury is not chronic/lingering. He should NOT play at all in the season finale @ DePaul on Sat 3/9…..rest it for the Big East tourney

  12. Drew71 says:

    About the column…

    First, no politics.

    Second, I especially agree about McDonald. The points were well made so I won’t repeat them.

    Pedro is important and even more of a swing vote than Pedro. Because McDonald HAS to improve for the team to improve. Pedro has a neutral gear option. If he neither improves nor regresses, 30 HRs is more than useful. And if the rest of the lineup improves from last season, his RBI total, the silly stat, will increase just because of what other guys do in front of him.

    So yes. I’m All In for McDonald. Regardless of the Electoral College.

  13. Jandy says:

    Ouch, that’s not good.

  14. Jandy says:

    Oh Lord, Ghost…that poor kid! Hopefully the recovery goes quickly. My heart goes out to him.

  15. Jandy says:

    You too, Eric, hope they figure out what is wrong and fix it!

  16. Jandy says:

    Your link is a good read, Eric. Perhaps Iginla would be a great addition eh?

  17. JAL says:

    JAL’s Life’s Been Good Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5l083VYKmI

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    http://gobuccos.com/pittsburgh-pirate-news/

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Spring Training Tracker

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/st2013

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: Minor League Camp Officially Begins

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/03/first-pitch-minor-league-camp-officially-begins.html

    Pirates Notebook: A Comeback For Jose Tabata, Or A Small Sample Size?

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/03/pirates-notebook-a-comeback-for-jose-tabata-or-a-small-sample-size.html

    2013 Could Be the Season Where Jameson Taillon is Finally Unleashed

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/03/2013-could-be-the-season-where-jameson-taillon-is-finally-unleashed.html

    6 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates drop Astros, snap losing streak

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/3/3/4060940/pirates-drop-astros-snap-losing-streak

    7 This is Getting Old

    Get Yo Tickits! A.J. Burnett vs. Jeff Samardzija

    http://thisisgettingold.net/2013/03/03/get-yo-tickits-a-j-burnett-vs-jeff-samardzija/

    8 Call to the Pen

    Can the Pittsburgh Pirates Avoid the Second Half Gangplank?

    http://calltothepen.com/2013/03/03/can-the-pittsburgh-pirates-avoid-the-second-half-gangplank/

    9 Rumbunter

    The Pittsburgh Pirates Left-Handers Should Be A Mayhem Commercial

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/03/03/the-pittsburgh-pirates-left-handers-should-be-a-mayhem-commercial/

    10 Green Weenie

    Bucs Outlast ‘Stros 8-6

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/03/bucs-outlast-stros-8-6.html

    And After A Week of Camp…

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/03/and-after-week-of-camp.html

  18. Thundercrack says:

    DK referred to Locke & McPherson as kids. They’re 26.
    But what I didn’t realize that JMac is 3 years older than them.

    I am a Pedro fan. I don’t care what anyone says – he ain’t a bust. And I have a feeling he won’t be moving to first base for a while.

  19. Thundercrack says:

    “Just wait.”

    That is my new motto for this season.

  20. JAL says:

    NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Beaver County Times

    Jones’ minor adjustment led by major improvement

    http://www.timesonline.com/sports/pirates/jones-minor-adjustment-led-by-major-improvement/article_144a64cd-54fc-5497-b36d-e0ff8b806742.html

    12 USA Today

    Nightengale: Baseball union targets drug cheaters

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2013/03/03/mlb-union-targets-drug-cheaters-ryan-zimmerman-michael-cuddyer/1961159/

    13 CBS Sports

    Pirates 8, Astros 6

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/gametracker/recap/MLB_20130303_HOU@PIT/pirates-8-astros-6

    14 Rant Sports

    2013 Fantasy Baseball NL Central Catchers

    http://www.rantsports.com/fantasy/2013/03/03/2013-fantasy-baseball-nl-central-catchers/

    15 Fake Teams

    Three (Possibly) True Outcomes: Gerrit Cole

    http://www.faketeams.com/2013/3/3/4057440/three-possibly-true-outcomes-gerrit-cole

    16 MASN

    What a difference a year’s made for Nationals’ Zach Duke

    http://www.masnsports.com/byron_kerr/2013/03/what-a-difference-a-years-made-for-nationals-zach-duke.html

    17 ESPN

    Dodgers becoming the team to root against

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/33428/dodgers-becoming-the-team-to-root-against

    18 PBC SITE

    Walker’s bat wakes up as Bucs down Astros

    http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130303&content_id=42222018&vkey=news_pit&c_id=pit

    Tabata’s renaissance scrambles outfield plans

    http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130303&content_id=42222820&vkey=news_pit&c_id=pit

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    The Week In Quotes

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=19742

    20 Fangraphs

    Additional Contributors to Rising Strikeouts

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/additional-contributors-to-rising-strikeouts/

  21. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    AFC North Roundup Finales: The Offensive Line

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/3/3/4044214/afc-north-roundup-finales-the-offensive-line

    Ben Roethlisberger turned 31 years old Saturday, re-living some of the best memories he’s created

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/3/3/4059058/steelers-ben-roethlisberger-birthday-highlights

    22 Steelers Depot

    -Steelers 2013 Draft: Ranking The First Round Draft Pick Options By Position Probability

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2013/03/steelers-2013-draft-ranking-first-round-pick-position/

    Soccer(football)

    23 Daily Telegraph

    Tottenham Hotspur 2 Arsenal 1: match report

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/premier-league/9906035/Tottenham-Hotspur-2-Arsenal-1-match-report.html

    24 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 1st March, 2013

    http://thisisgettingold.net/2013/03/03/get-yo-tickits-a-j-burnett-vs-jeff-samardzija/

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Penguins Usage Chart: March 2

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/3/3/4059334/penguins-usage-chart-march-2-2013

  22. JAL says:

    Life’s Been Good Joe Walsh 1978 Walsh was with the Eagles when he recorded this song as for a solo album. Peaking at 12 this was his biggest solo hit.

  23. Drew71 says:

    “Pedro is important but McDonald is even more of a swing vote than Pedro because McDonald HAS to…”

  24. Jandy says:

    I knew that was what you meant Drew Dahling.

  25. Jandy says:

    You gotta admit, 4 for 13, three doubles and a homer look good.
    I’ll be happy to wait and see.
    Show us, Tabby.

  26. Jandy says:

    I’m relieved Malkin is coming along with his post-concussion status. Good to see he’s feeling good. Hope to see him Friday against the Flyers.

  27. Jandy says:

    My daughter is 26. So yeah, you call them kids, but in the world of professional baseball, they’re middle aged.

  28. John Lease says:

    The most hopeful sign of Tabata’s road back is the Pirates trying to deal him.

    With their track record, he’s on his way to stardom.

  29. Thundercrack says:

    BTW, this is easily the line of the day:

    Walker: “See, this is what happens when you only come around once in a while because you’re out covering all that hockey.”

  30. Jandy says:

    +1
    hilarious, and I love hockey!

  31. Karen22 says:

    HAHA! Yep!

  32. BillyBaduka says:

    Best wishes to your son and family Erik. Hope that things are cleared up soon.

  33. BillyBaduka says:

    I’m glad to hear Malkin is progressing. I’d be OK with another first opponent though. Flyers were up to the Broad St Bully antics against Ottowa this weekend.

    I don’t want to see opponent running Malkin his first game back. Philly builds a whole alternate sport within a sport with that stuff.

  34. Drew71 says:

    I liked Pedro’s “No.”

    I’m picturing Pedro’s dry, blank, earless stare before letting Dejan off the hook.

  35. 21sthebest says:

    Prayers to both you guys.

  36. Jandy says:

    Yeah and I believe Zolnierczyk got 4 games from Shanny. Next?

  37. 21sthebest says:

    Pedro is obviously a key but for me the most important thing for this offense is the No. 1 and No. 2 hitters getting on base. .291 and .304, respectively, last year is just not even close to where it needs to be, IMO. Both were near the worst in the NL last year.

  38. kr70 says:

    “More columns about baseball” Bring it on!!

  39. Drew71 says:

    Imagine if Pedro has an identical season. 30 HRs and .244 BA. Now raise the OBP of the guys hitting in front of him by 30 points or some level that represents a major step up but is still realistic. Think how many more runs they produce. Think how pitchers react to Pedro and guys hitting behind Pedro if the pitcher is facing a 30 HR guy with others (more often) on base.

    That is, until all the caught-stealing’s empty the bases.

    (Why do I do that? Why?)

  40. JohnS says:

    I believe that RF is going to be the key to season. I would really like to see Tabata win that job. He is a guy that has hit .300 in MLB (ok .299 in 105 games). I don’t believe we will see power from either Snider or Sands and it would be great to be able to slide Marte down out of leadoff.

    When all is said and done it will be about the pitching.

  41. 21sthebest says:

    That’s what I’m talking about Drew! I’m not a huge Moneyball type but that’s one concept I agree with.

  42. Drew71 says:

    So. We have the Armless One (Liriano), the Eyeless One (AJ), the Hitless One (Barnes, though Hawpe is doing a pretty good imitation this spring), the Earless One (Pedro) and the Ageless One (Jose).

    With his weight loss Tabata could be the Gutless One but people would misunderstand. We’ll save that for a pitcher who refuses to throw inside.

    I miss Doumit. The Gloveless One.

    For awhile this blog was the Foo-less One.

    They better win. Or Neal will be the Jobless One.

    – The Clueless One

  43. JMB says:

    Where’s the pic of you and DK?

  44. NMR says:

    Enjoyed the recent proliferation of good ole fashioned phooey-less baseball stuff, Dejan.

    Is anyone at least a little bit surprised that James McDonald was the consensus swing vote pitcher and not Francisco Liriano? Seems like all DK wrote about Jmac could also be said for Liriano with the added backup that he actually HAS had elite big league seasons whereas Jmac has only showed flashes.

    I wonder if this is because people are more familiar with James or because people have no faith that Francisco has anything left.

  45. NMR says:

    You truly have a gift, my friend.

  46. cosmo says:

    i would also throw in Grilli into that mix. He’s a key figure. If he can’t hold down the closer role, what is the backup plan ?

  47. Jandy says:

    Drew?

  48. Jandy says:

    It’s not fair! lol. He doesn’t even have to work at it! ;)

  49. Bizrow says:

    Game thread is up

  50. Drew71 says:

    Post office wall

  51. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    I think the same can be said for Pedro’s defense as for his offense- really Jekyll and Hyde. Sometimes he can bumble the most routine ground ball and cause a stadium-wide forehead slap. Other times he’ll dive like you wouldn’t think he was even physically capable of doing in the first place, then fire a rocket to first while you’re thinking there’s no way the runner’s going to be out- and usually gets them by a full step.

    If he can be the Jekyll just a little more often, I think he’s going to have a big year. I’m going to vote for .274, 38 HR, 105 RBI and the dark horse stat- 3 SB!

    JMac I’m just not as ready to be optimistic about.

  52. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    I have no faith that he won’t fall on the steps out of the dugout.

  53. JohninOshkosh says:

    I was really impressed with the statements coming from the MLBPA and its executive director, Michael Weiner, regarding drug testing and more severe sanctions. Never thought I would see the day where the union and players would be talking about 2 strikes and a lifetime ban as well as voidable contracts.

    Michael Weiner, the anti-Fehr.

  54. NMR says:

    Count me as one who isn’t very surprised that Tabata can still play baseball.

    My fear is what happens when he works his tail off in ST yet still finds himself riding the pine while Marte and Snider get the first crack at a starting spot. Tabby is just too fragile.

  55. aglebagel says:

    Yup, I was one of the few on Twitter who did not vote for Pedro. My guy was Tabata, and I’d even put Starling Marte second.

    I just have a feeling that for the most part, we know what we’re going to get from Mr. Alvarez. Sure, he can still improve a bit, but I have a hard time seeing him raising his batting average a ton. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine him striking out any more than he did last year. He’ll get his homers when he gets them.

    If Tabata or Marte can really step up in a leadoff role, it would pay huge dividends.

  56. JoeyBats says:

    One VOTE for JOBLESS ONE !

  57. Jandy says:

    Better late than never :)

  58. Arriba Wilver says:

    Could not have said it better myself. Agree 100%

  59. DC in DC says:

    Dejan,

    I took a moment to add a comment ‘not loving’ a column choice. I wanted to drop you a line on the columns since – really fantastic work. A co-worker and I play a game ‘What did you learn’. Here’s my Letterman ripoff learnings

    10. Living in the Capital City of Canada makes people just a wee bit delusional.

    9. Outside of RB, the 2013 Steelers are ….. done.

    8. Curling is not just shuffle board on ice.

    7. The Pens learned patience through Sid’s ordeal.

    6. Pirates need career years, none more than JMac and Pedro, to avoid Ground Hog Day 20++

    5. Curling is a massively entertaining spectator sport anytime a newbie shows up.

    4. Flower must be saved. Vokoun must play. (still agree despite results)

    3. Have to get to a game at Coors Field to hear some good music.

    2. Curling ….. Mmmm, Beer. (Yes, I liked the column. Ranked above soccer)

    1. Win, or be fired. For me, has led to ‘Win, or The Plank’ and all the great visuals that come with the Pirates front office exiting via a dip in the river.

    Second post. Will not be making a habit, but do enjoy your work. DC.

    DK: Thanks very much, DC. Agreed on Vokoun.

  60. JohninOshkosh says:

    Dejan:

    You devote too much of your writing to baseball. How about more columns about hockey.

  61. Jandy says:

    +1000000000000000000000000000000000000

  62. NMR says:

    Do either of you think Walker should be batting 2nd?

  63. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    My wing vote for this season is Travis Snider.

  64. kevnj says:

    one of my favorite songs ever. Had to play it as soon as I read this. Thanks

  65. Sisyphus says:

    A fun song, but it ain’t no “Funk #49″.

  66. Jason81 says:

    Do you mean the player that will eat the most chicken wings throughout the season? :D

  67. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    Correct, sir! I must’ve confused the swing vote…

  68. Kevin says:

    What, nobody talking hockey today?

    I’m disappointed that Malkin is back already. I was hoping he’d be back next weekend for the islanders game at the earliest. Bylsma must really want him back fast.

    2nd. Who are the cutting if Malkin is back today? Don’t they have to move someone since Malkin was on IR? Or am I missing something?

    DK: I believe some of the pucks has bled over into the game thread. Boychuk on waivers.

  69. Dom says:

    Pedro seems like a great guy.

  70. Dom says:

    What is a wing vote.

  71. NMR says:

    Never heard anything but. Except from fans.

    Go back one year ago around this date and read the reaction.

  72. Dom says:

    Did he have a poor reputation a year ago? If so, who cares? Let’s bury the hatchet with the man. Just like how you can’t choose your parents, you can’t choose your third basement.

  73. NMR says:

    Lucky for you, you clearly weren’t around Pirate blogs in the days where people claimed that wearing his hat over his ears was a sign of poor attitude. Yeah, that really was a thing.

    I’m with you and have been all along. Always felt he got an unfair shake because of his weight and struggles with the bat.

    I was just pointing out that NOBODY was talking about Pedro in a positive light this time last year. Glad to see that has changed.

  74. Eric Bowser says:

    Hey, I thought I had the hockey columns covered? :(….

    lol

  75. Eric Bowser says:

    I’m worried that Malkin is back so soon…

 
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