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May 2, 2013
Chat with Dejan Kovacevic
Where can I get a Crankshaft Pens Shirt? Those things are awesome!
My brother-in-law who doesn’t follow hockey asked me yesterday, “Are the Penguins that good or are the Islanders that bad?” I responded, “The Pens are that good!” Obviously, good and bad are not the ways to describe these teams, but what assessment would you make on the two teams and the overall matchup?
The status of Jeff Karstens is curiouser every day. He’s traveling with the team and doing some stuff, but is not rehabbing by pitching real baseball. And he doesn’t get mentioned as possible future help in the rotation. It’s like he doesn’t exist. Do you know anything you can relate?
Why does Major League Baseball continue to turn a blind eye to DUI, refusing to acknowledge this problem, doing nothing to prevent or deter it? Yovani Gallardo, Mark Grace (multiple), Matt Bush, Todd Helton…enough players/management in the past year to field a 25-man roster + management staff. In recent years, they’ve had both a death of a drunken player (Josh Hancock – STL) and sober player (Nick Adenhart – LAA). But hey, at least they have the PED problem under control…
I was thinking the same thing. He is not on a rehab assignment, and there was a blurb the other day where one of the catchers said his stuff was as good as it had been in a couple of years. That all sounds good, but I think the lack of clarity regarding what is going on with him is odd.
Agree with both of you guys.
He’s throwing bullpens while with the team, which would lead to a reasonable guess that he’s pain free. And I don’t remember reading that there was any structural damage to begin with.
Hurdle did recently say that he’s rehabbing to be a starter, whatever that means.
Just hope, I guess???
Nothing to do with moving into a weaker hitting league or cavernous PNC left field where even Erik Bedard managed a 3.26 ERA?
Nothing to do with peripheral numbers (K-rate, xFIP) that outperformed ERA, kind’ve like that Burnett scrub the Pirates got from the Yankees?
Nothing to do with 3 walks in 18 innings of rehab (aka spring training)?
I don’t expect much out of Liriano, but man, that is an awwwfully condescending articulation of the completely valid reasons that some people may.
Agree, again, NMR.
I will say, though, that the Jason Collins question/response was spot on.
I just replied regarding the Collins issue in the thread I should have put this in.
From the perspective I think Dejan took, I completely agree with him. Short and simple. I just wonder how different the perspective is inside the locker room.
Agree completely. Using Sanchez in the response of a question about Liriano hardly makes sense. One was a free agent many team went after and obviously has some upside left in his career. 10K per 9 pitchers don’t grow on trees. Sanchez was a lottery ticket that wouldn’t have sniffed the major league team if not for multiple injuries to Karstans, Liriano and McPherson.
It’s not like teams throughout the league have number 4 and 5 starters dramatically better then Liriano’s stats last year and there are variables involved that suggest Liriano could be better this year. Why don’t we wait and see? Not much unlike Martin who even if he returns to his last year average we can now see is a huge upgrade over Barajas because of everything else he brings to the team.
Lots of places still do that. I work at a Nuke Plant, am subject to drug and alcohol testing. So is everyone else here. But, it takes “multiple” DUI incidents to get any discipline taken. Granted, these events happen outside the station and during personal time, but still, “multiple” events???
I never could figure that out, either. I don’t know for sure, but I think it must have to do with the fact that alcohol is legal and, although drinking to excess and driving impaired is not, for some reason people that we all know seem to give a pass to those who do it – as though it is not a serious, dangerous activity if the person doing it is an otherwise responsible employee, parent, friend, etc. It’s sad.
I thought Dejan’s answer was so on the money. People are not making a big deal of this because society has come so far in this regard that a large % of us do not care what people do in their free time so long as they don’t preach to us and just go about their lives the way the rest of us do. I always assumed there are many gay players. Most teammates probably don’t care as long as those players remain good teammates and friends, and are focused on winning. Certainly, there are people that are mis-informed and stuck in the past on this issue, but it just seems like they are fewer and farther between nowadays.
A lot of the mainstream media doesn’t want this to be the case. They are making a bigger story of this than it deserves.
I thought J Sanchez was a worthwhile gamble. As you said, 10k/9 guys do not grow on trees. If not the Pirates, someone else would have given him a shot this year, and some other team will give him a shot after his release. Then, he really looked like he was getting it together at the end of Spring Training, and we needed a starter. He was awful, but that happens and it doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right thing to give him a shot. Unfortunately, Liriano, Morton and Karstens were not ready at the start of the season and they had to insert Sanchez. I think there is reason to believe Liriano can contribute this year. First of all, just coming from the AL, he now gets to face softer lineups, overall. Secondly, he will face a lot of RH batters in PNC, which is helpful to pitchers. Also, the Pirates defense on the left side of the field is pretty solid, especially in the OF, and they turn more balls into outs than most other teams. Finally, he strikes out a ton of hitters. He must exhibit decent control, with < 4.0 BB/9. If he does that, there is no reason a healthy Liriano cannot be a solid mid-rotation starter for the last 120 games of the year.
Now, why Hurdle/NH don't bring up Mercer to add something I have no idea. Ok, he is not quick and he probably has an average glove. We don't know for sure how well he can hit, but how will we ever find out if we never give him a shot? He looks like a potential .270/10-12 HR guy with decent OBP to me. Barmes would have to be a whole lot better as a fielder to make up for being the worst offensive regular starter in MLB. And McDonald is a Barmes clone. I don't get this.
And, I meant to also say, I think more players are open-minded on this issue than people think. They are young, and young people today don’t have as many hang-ups accepting people who are different in some way. If you can play and support the rest of the team, you are accepted. That’s my guess.
DK: Mine, too.
From my perspective, a guy who follows quite a bit of Pirate baseball, I don’t even see how the guys original question even made sense.
Where are all these fans and team officials “excited” for Liriano? The most “excitement” I’ve seen is for a warm body to replace Sanchez. And it’s not like the team is paving a golden road to Pittsburgh as soon as possible, either. They’re taking his rehab slow and methodical, despite the glaring need for somebody, anybody to pitch.
Just seemed like a question begging an answer, one he got.
DK: You’re adding something I didn’t say. I didn’t include fans. My reference was to the Pirates. You’d only have to listen to one interview with anyone in charge of the team, including Clint Hurdle, to hear that excitement. Not just for Liriano but also for Morton and even Jose Contreras.
Those are 3 legitimate major league players that have proven they have what it takes to contribute at the major league level in Morton, Liriano and Contreras. What team wouldn’t be excitied about switcing out 12% of their roster with proven players for the likes of Sanchez, Gomez, JMac, Hughes and Mazziro.
They aren’t expecting these guys to put up a 2.75 ERA just to be adequate major league baseball players at the tail end of the starting rotation which almost every team in the league has except teams like the Tigers who can’t find a consistant 5th starter themselves. Unless you see Nutting spending 60 million a year on a pitching staff like the Tigers are I’m not sure what you expect their rotation to look like. It’s the best I have felt about it in years. Did the bar for starting pitching of the Pirates raise to the same level as the Dodgers, Angels and Tigers of the world?
Very fair of you to separate the fans, DK.
Still not sure a baseball guy like Hurdle would appreciate you reducing his “excitement” down to a hope and a prayer, but I can’t fault you for sharing the impression you’ve gotten surrounding the situation.
Not sure about the answers to all your specific questions, Nate, but at least for me I’m looking for a starting rotation that can lead the Pirates to end up in the post season this year. And deep. Not having as much money as other teams is NOT an excuse this year.
Dejan never said that, Nate. Lets be fair.
If the “Pirates brass” truly doesn’t have any reason to be excited other than “hope” then I think Dejan is absolutely right in his apparent skepticism. I don’t happen to share the opinion, but I don’t fault him for having it.
I do slightly agree with you in the sense that the expectations for multiple low risk average or better additions to the rotation seems out of place for a team with the Pirates budget. Low payroll teams will always have to take more risks than high payroll teams.
Not to be obtuse, AW, but why?
Why is payroll not a reasonable answer this year?
Simple, NMR. It’s time to put up or shut up. Some call it “Win or be Fired.”
Well then, I guess we should all pack up and quit commenting until October.
I’m saying no staff has 5 number 1 starting pitchers. If you look at my first comments I’m clearly only stating that this team is better with those 3 guys then they are currently. Are they not supposed to be excited about that?
They could not and will never sign anybody to a contract the size of Verlanders extension, Anibal Sanchez or even Fister. That is fact. They have two option. They sign players like Liriano to these type of deals and see what happens or they can develope their own talent which they are but is still 1-3 years away. If you can honestly tell me that they could have signed Dickey, Sanchez, Grienke or even someone the level of Lohse then I can buy your stance that money is not an excuse.
I’m not making excuses for them, because a few management regimes have now failed in developing young, quality starting pitching. This group may yet produce a couple of #1-3 starters, but so far they have not delivered. That said, having money allows the rich teams to wallpaper over similar mistakes. So, to say payroll is not relevant this year, somehow, is not accurate to me.
What did I say that he didn’t say. He is considering Morton and Liriano failures before they even pitch one inning this year. I guarantee you if they released either of those pitchers there would be plenty of teams that would pick them up and place them immediately in their major league rotations.
I can’t say the same about JMac, Locke, Sanchez and Gomez. There would be a few for JMac and Locke but not as many. Why can’t they be excited about that? They are better and maybe a lot better on May 14th then they are right now. Can we just see them pitch 1 inning. That is all I’m asking.
DK: Liriano and Morton aren’t being dropped to Earth this month from storks. They did exist before. They have pitching records, stats, histories.
If you want to hope those change, feel free.
On a slightly different note, Milwaukee has turned itself into a middle market team and their market is probably the same or even slightly smaller than ours. They also traded for the overrated, headcase Greinke, and rather than sign him long term traded him to LAA for a guy who looks to be a future perennial All Star SS. Sadly, we have not mastered that feat.
DK: The only way you change a market size is to add or subtract population.
Let me add that I agree with Ariba in that IF these pitchers don’t produce, then the FO should be held accountable.
But we’re months away from that.
Right now, IMO, they cannot be faulted for going with risky players simply because the opposite is too expensive.
The Rays replaced James Shields with a prospect and Carlos Pena with James Loney. Those are high risk moves. They made them because they could not afford guys like Edwin Jackson and Adam Laroche.
The Pirates are not different.
They are 16-12 and have better pitching on the way and Cutch and Walker that will play closer to their career averages. Heck even Barmes and Alverez have played below their expected level. Why do have to defend being positive and or excited.
He never said they are failures already, Nate.
He’s only saying that due to their history ther is a high risk of failure.
That is not incorrect.
I don’t agree with Dejan in that he doesn’t seem to acknowledge the things that make these players also likely to succeed, which certainly skews the argument, but that’s his choice. Can’t fault him for it.
DK: Recent history indicates otherwise. When this management team acquired Wandy last summer, I applauded it in the form of a headlined column. Because he had a real history of actual success. Even did that with A.J. because there were meaningful underlying indicators that he could still pitch the way he once did.
If you’re doing that with Liriano and Morton, you’re hoping.
You don’t, Nate.
I feel our points are just as valid as Dejan’s.
What is frustrating is they are winning and 80-90% of DK’s comments about the Pirates are negative or footnoted with a but this is not sustainable. Well other things are not sustainable like your 4 and 5 starters having a combined ERA of 8. Like Cutch batting .225 or Barmes batting well below .200 and if he does Mercer and DeJesus have played very well in the minors.
I will agree with Nate in that have said I think there is a decent chance Liriano will perform like a #3-4 this year. I think the NL and PNC Park suit him more than prior locations (CHISox bandbox & MN Thunderdome). That doesn’t guarantee anything good, though. I admit there is a lot of hope, but I think some realism in my opinion. What do the Pirates have to sell about these guys but hope? There are no other options now with Cole struggling with control. Morton had a handful of promising starts a few years ago. I hope he magically does that every night now, but I need to see it to believe it. Karstens has pitched a lot of brilliant baseball over the last few years. But, he always breaks down. I think Mgt is selling hope because that is all they have. I am buying the possibility that some of it could come through.
Whoa, back up a minute on Charlie.
The kid underwent a transformation in 2011. New mechanics, new pitch, new approach.
That resulted in 171 innings of 3.83 ERA baseball. NOT a couple good starts.
Isn’t it possible to be a realist, who holds the team accountable and still be excited as a fan? I think I can recognize Mgt’s failures w/o falling into some “all or nothing” category of people who feel everything they do is automatically wrong until they win 90 games for 3 straight years. I think Nate has every right to think Liriano/Morton/Karstens will improve the rotation, as I feel the same way. But, I still hold them accountable for the obvious mistakes over the last 20 years. It’s just that I am not giving up no matter how long it takes.
All valid points, Nate.
Sounds to me like you don’t like Dejan’s writing. Simple solution to that.
That’s fair. I’m just frustrated because not as many people see our comments. What DK writes effects the view of this team throughout the city. Especially casual baseball fans. I just feel he has it out for this front office which is completely his right to do.
How can Travis have such postive things to say and DK such negative stuff? I know Travis is new to covering this team and doesn’t have his opinion altered by 20 years of losing, but really souldn’t this team be judged and the FO moves be judged on the merits of this year alone. Thes are by the way the 2 most expensive free agents ever signed by the organization in Martin and Liriano so you really can’t use the Diaz, Overbay, Hinske type pickups to predict failure.
I think it’s great we have Liriano, Morton, Cole, McPhearson and Taillon all available if needed this year and we also have Black, Irwin, Kingman and Hredia showing signs of being future options. I like to focus on that and the fact that we are 16-12.
DK: Oh, no. Please tell me we don’t have to revisit the difference between a beat writer and columnist for the zillionth time. Can’t we at least make some of these discussions original?
Nate, if you want straight opinion-free news, you have options.
If you want completely sanitized, company-endorsed news, you have an option. All happy stuff all the time.
If you want a totally clean slate — and that crazy remark about how this management team should be judged “only by this season” shows you do — man, I don’t even know if there IS an option for something that Pollyanna-ish.
If you want what I feel is a fair, honest, unfiltered, experienced, informed and deeply engaged view of the Pirates — at least that’s the goal — then I hope you stick around. I take more pride in the work I’ve done covering the Pirates than anything else I’ve achieved in this business, and that includes things people once termed “negative” such as exposing Dave Littlefield’s joke of a Latin American program.
There have been others. And even though people like you would cringe and dive under a table when I wrote them, nobody complains about them now.
Figure out what you want to read. I’m not changing how I do business as it relates to this team to give you hope. It’s run very poorly, worse than you know. It needs a change in management to make the next step, for many more reasons than whether or not Russell Martin hit a handful of homers over a couple weeks.
That’s your decision. But do me a favor and drop these pointless accusations after this either way. Really tired of it.
NMR: Fair enough, Morton was a decent pitcher for longer than I recalled. But, then his arm blew up. I think it is legit for fans to hope he does really well when he returns. And, in fairness, he has been throwing well in rehab. But, of the 3 guys, I think he is more “hope” than “substance” right now as far as being productive this year.
I actually love his writing and read every column he writes. Finding it more difficult to read anything about the Pirates. I feel he drew a line in the sand last September and told himself not to cross it.
DK: Yeah, explains the trip to Bradenton and five columns from down there, plus the ode to Starling Marte a few days ago and several other things you either didn’t read — which is fine — or are ignoring.
I actually feel the most confident about Morton. He was trending towards being a very solid number 3 starter. TJ surgery has pretty good results in the past 5 years. Liriano does scare me a little but not as much as Sanchez, Gomez and JMac.
Responding to Nate at 4:11:
I’m with you, man, on the lack of respect for the Bucs. Unfortunately, I now live outside of Chicago and have kept my 3 kids as Bucco fans for over 10 yrs now – and sometimes I wonder how I am doing it! The awful Cubs has something to do with it, I’m sure. I want the Bucs to get that respect back, and I bet you feel like me that this period of the next few yrs seems like they are truly on track to get back to being an impact team. In a lot of people’s view, though, they feel they have been sold that line many times. I follow DK on Twitter, columns, blogs, etc. and I don’t think he is really out to get the Bucs by any means. I think he feels it is his job to hold them accountable, though, and to be fair, this 20 yr run has burned their reservoir of goodwill with most everyone. Hopefully, the next few yrs will turn everyone back around. If that happens, you will see DK give them their due. I have seen him write that he is a baseball fan. He just needs tangible proof and accountability. I can’t speak for him, but that is the vibe I get from him. I thought he was pretty positive most of last year when it was deserved.
A frustrating thing for me is that the Steelers get a pass for everything. You have to admit that they have more than earned the same public goodwill the Pirates have squandered. But, to me, the Steelers have really slipped in the past 2 yrs or so, and it seems very difficult to find any fans who even see the possibility that they won’t be a contender for the Super Bowl every yr.
I hope you are right about Morton. He was showing promise, and they are getting better and better with TJ. He is supposedly blowing 95%+ with a lot of movement in rehab. He has only done it one season, though. The other guys have performed well for longer.
I still love your writing. Even this last reply you did.
Not every comment should be taken literally. In another post I said that 80-90% of the comments about the Pirates are negative so I obviously realize you have done some positive columns and made some postive comments. None of course giving credit to the front office except for the decision to wait out Karstens and get him at the right price.
I’m pretty sure DK expects and even wants people who passionately disagree with some of his ideas to express them here. That is why it is a blog, and not a fan club chat room. Passionate disagreements lead people to change their opinions or convince others to change theirs. Nothing better than that.
DK: All feedback welcome. Always.
DK said he does not care whether the team he covers wins or loses but how can you not be excited when you get to interview guys like Iginla, Crosby, and crankshaft!?
DK: I don’t “get to” interview anyone. It’s part of the job. They’re the people I cover
That said? Sure, people like those you mentioned can be fun. But there are good people and fun personalities on losing teams, too. Makes little difference. One of my favorite people ever was John Van Benschoten, who did nothing but lose.
It’s your opinion that I am hoping. I say their history points to them being upgrades and possible huge upgrades to the current staff. You are definately picking which history and stats you want to support your side of the argument. Obviously that is your right to do but it is your opinion that I or people within the organization are hoping. I don’t believe it is a hope that 2 of the 4 between Cole, Morton, Liriano and Karstans give use a reliable starter from the middle of June until the end of the season. I think it’s an even odds bet which I would take over the last 20 years in a second.
Meant 95 mph+.
I can see how you get more material to write about with a struggling team though. It must be exhausting to keep tooting the same horn though day after day after month after year after 20 years after +1x.
DK: Why would tooting the horn be the default mode?
If a team stinks, you write that it stinks.
If it stinks for 20 years, you write that for 20 years.
“If you’re doing that with Liriano and Morton, you’re hoping.”
I don’t know what to say, Dejan.
If you refuse to accept that 2011 happened to Charlie Morton and that he has regained the tools needed to replicate his success.
If you refuse to accept that Liriano had peripherals comparable to, if not better than AJ Burnett.
Then we simply don’t have a discussion worth having. I’m acknowledging the risk involved, yet you seem oblivious to any positive surrounding these two.
DK: No, especially in the case of Charlie, we’ve seen better. But people are dismissing Tommy John as if it were a headache. Look at the numbers when those guys initially return.
I agree that he doesn’t mind the disagreement as long as it remains civil and that is appreciated.
You will never change his mind. He does this for a living. It probably wouldn’t make much sense for him to disagree with what he just wrote. In the case of Karstans he acknowledged overestimating the interest in Karstans but in a real time back and forth I would be surprised for him to say more then he respects your side of the arguement and can understand why you would see it that way.
DK: Changed my mind in a week about Le’Veon Bell upon having more time and more information. But I went from knowing very little to knowing a lot more.
You want a couple happy weeks of baseball to undo five- plus years of damage by this management team.
I’ll say it again: You’ve got options over at HappyLand.com.
Let me know how it goes over there. By the sixth story you read about Jonathan Sanchez’s “sensational stuff,” I suspect you’ll have the same reaction most have.
I thought the same thing, Kevin. I believe DK is Pittsburgh born and raised. I don’t know of any writers on the Pittsburgh scene who appear to love our city as much as he does. As a crazy sports fan, which I assume he is, how could he not be more excited on a personal level when the local teams are doing well than when they are struggling? I think he is saying that he has a job to do, either way, and his passion for his job is separate from a possible personal desire for them to do well. There are as many juicy stories when a team is not doing well as when it is succeeding. I know I would have a hard time separating my fandom from my writing, but good writers need to be able to do it. He does not get paid for being a “homer.” Just the opposite.
DK: I’d say that’s a fair characterization, only I’d still amp up how the job itself overrides everything.
When I covered the Steelers most recent Super Bowl loss in Dallas, I swear it didn’t even hit me until I got home that, you know, THE STEELERS LOST A SUPER BOWL.
You just focus on the work.
Time for Nate/NMR and Dejan to thumb wrestle. I’m willing to accept the result and proclaim the winner ultimate blog champion.
Yep, I couldn’t be a columnist, journalist, or whatever DK is for the same reason. I get way too passionate about things.
DK: So do I. But it’s about the job. I don’t like most of what I write, but I liked the deadline piece this morning. Left Consol last night feeling really good about it.
That’s my passion, not who won or how or whatever.
I’m sorry you feel that way. What pointless accusations are you referring to. I’m simply having a back and forth debate with you on how reliable the Pirates pitching options are. I do believe your view of the FO is much more negative then mine. I also believe it is your honest opinion. I also understand as a columnist you have to take a side and defend it. So I’m not accusing you of anything except having a differant opinion then me.
I only mentioned Travis because he really has had some positve comments about the team present and future. If I’m not allowed to to disagree with you then this is a horrible blog being that what you say is the jumping off points for conversation.
I truly am sorry if you feel I was accusing you of anything other then having a differant opinion then mine. I didn’t mean to imply in any way that you had some agenda that effected what you write about or how you comment. I think you believe every word you write. If you didn’t then you wouldn’t be as good at your profession as you are. Which I believe you are one of the best.
DK: I appreciate that. I’m just tired of the agenda crap, honestly. I don’t think these guys are very good at their jobs. One bullpen-heavy April of success won’t change that, to put it kindly.
It’s fair to say we are miles apart in our opinon on this matter. Unfortunately you are probably correct since you are a lot closer to the situation then me. As a long suffering Pirates fan I hope you are wrong in this case.
America—love it or leave it!
Hi, NMR. Just getting back. Whew, got a little hot in here, looks like. Just to be clear, from my perspective, I am definitely NOT saying we can’t/shouldn’t talk about anything until the end of the year. In fact, I totally reject that view. I was merely reacting to Nate using dollars and cents as an excuse, totally apart from the relative merits of the pitchers. Once U asked, I was trying to short circuit my response by mentioning the “win or be fired.” I like talking Bucs, good, bad or indifferent. But let’s leave off the “we’re a small market team.” In fact I heard FC say on more than one occasion, one time in person, that they would never use “small market” as an excuse for not succeeding.
Maybe I should sit on all of them?
I could kneecap em.
I would like to think that the Pirates are on a better track with the way this team is battling now. However, I am no fool. I am a realist. I know one month of good baseball does not a season make. With this team, it has definitely been a 20+ year marathon full of cast offs, swap meet deals, wrong turns, and disappointment. I hope that it changes, especially for those players that hustle, night in and night out to put the best product possible on the field. Thank you for doing what you do.
Kneecap me, and I will fall on them.
I think DK takes an inordinate amount of grief because he is really the only one who calls things pretty close to how they are.
Other reporters/columnists have a more positive bent………………… and I feel that is because they dont want to be shunned by the Pirates. But in any event, if you tell it like it is, you will make your fair share of enemies. But comtinue to tell it like it is.
If one wants lipstick on a pig, you have to get in the mud to put the lipstick on that pig.
That all being said………………….. GO BUCS!!!!
What did I miss?
But don’t I keep hearing and reading that the TJ surgery isn’t what it used to be and neither is the recovery?
DK: It’s become a very solid experience for most. But the initial return is what I’ve been citing consistently. Those can be rough.