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Morning Java: Time for some ball

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Wednesday column embodies a whole lot of thoughts I’ve had about the Pirates for a while now, all spilled out into this extra-length piece. My thanks to Bob Nutting and Mark Melancon for invaluable input.

This is our front page this morning, designed by the talented Melanie Wass

And below, with one flick of that cover, is the actual two-page newspaper spread on Pages 2-3, designed by equally talented Matt Rosenberg

In a related news piece, Nutting shared his view on demoting Gerrit Cole to save money.

Looking ahead to plans for the next month or so, I’ll be doing a lot more baseball in the columns. Will inform as those plans become more concrete, but it sounds exciting.

There will be more baseball on the radio show as well. If you missed it yesterday afternoon, here’s the full TribLIVE podcast, as well as video of the Melancon interview …

>> The Pirates blew away poor Joe Saunders, Rob Biertempfel reports, and Starling Marte had himself quite the night. But they’d better not be sleepless in Seattle, because the matinee today brings a much tougher challenge: Felix Hernandez.

>> Encouraging talks between the Penguins and Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke, per Rob Rossi.

>> Some tremendous Stanley Cup Final ratings info from NBC Sports’ PR folks. Pittsburgh never stops mounting evidence that it’s America’s No. 1 hockey city.

>> I’ll visit with TribLIVE Radio at 1:30 p.m. to discuss today’s Pirates column. I’ll then visit with Mark Madden on 105.9 The X at 4:30 p.m.

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 more, including 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 top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

433 Comments

  1. I believe that was well done. Thanks, DK…

    DK: Appreciated, Paul.

    • I believe I’ll second that emotion.

      • Third. Kind of like someone wrote on the game thread last night about Jeff Locke. Ho hum – another Jeff Locke performance, 7 innings, 2 runs and a W. Ho -hum, another great column by DK in a series of great writing performances. Although after some of the dreck that is printed, I never take quality writing for granted. Thanks DK.

        The sustainability of the columns is definitely not in question btw…

  2. Everytime I find myself drinking the Pirate Kool-Aid I think back to how I felt about this team last year at this time and realize it was the same feeling. Snaps me out of it and causes me to smack myself.

    • I would advise you to begin drinking again. We’re a small market team that, at best, has only has a 3 year window at being a playoff contender. The flipside is @SuckMeter.

      But, I recommend enjoying it while it lasts. The few years we enjoy with Cutch, Alvarez, Cole, and hopefully Tailon next year are the window.

      • I respectfully disagree, Gregen. We have to be a lot smarter than we have been over the last 20 years. No doubt about that. I think we are smarter now, but that is still to be seen. But, St. Louis is proof that it can be sustained in a smaller market. I realize their revenue is larger than ours by a fairly wide margin, but they also are paying more for their stadium deal than are the Bucs. They have maintained and are showing no signs of slipping. It can be done IF, IF, IF we are smart enough. Now, that part is debatable. I was just responding to whether it is possible to sustain winning.

    • +20

  3. Haven’t read the column yet, but I have zero inclination to give this team any kind of benefit from doubt until they are mathematically proven to finish over .500. Then I will golf clap three times and do the same next year. Not drinking that kook-aid.

  4. One of my favorite columns of yours.

    I think the logic-defying things about the 2013 Pirates mentioned in the column apply to the minor leagues as well. Indy is tops in International League with basically no starting pitching depth. Very few of the top prospects are having bad years. Stetson Allie is mashing the ball after converting from pitching.

  5. I would love to believe, but it is very hard to.

    I’m glad to see the owners enthusiasm of this team, that’s good, but this is setting up for Collapse III. I’m hoping not.

    I do think there is something different about this team.

    Bob Walk just mentioned that if this team continued to produce offensively like it has been of late, they wouldn’t be the 2nd best team in baseball, but the best. I agree, except this team is still young and still way to streaky for that.

    If the starters can do what Jeff Locke (I can’t “believe” I’m typing this) did tonight, 7 innings, 2 ERs then the sky is the limit.

    But am I the only one thinking Locke might be last years JMac? I sure hope I’m wrong. He throws effortless, complete opposite of JMac.

    Who knows, we’ll find out in a couple of months.

    Great article DK.

    • er, column

    • Nor Cal:

      I think there is room for Jeff Locke to slip back a bit. So can some other guys. And it will still be ok. Cutch should do better, and so should Walker. I heard Walk say that last night, and it made me cringe also. I don’t think they are the best team in baseball, but I also think they are a legitimately good team. We’ll see.

  6. Not to rain on the hockey ratings parade, but:

    Having teams in 2 of the largest TV markets in the finals helped. A lot.

    If the Pirates would have played last night the ratings here would not have been as high.

    Who in the heck were the teams in the finals last year that there was such an increase in the ratings this year?

    But this is very good news for hockey.

    DK: Small-market Los Angeles vs. small-market New Jersey.

    Want to try again?

    National ratings are only marginally influenced by involved markets, true in any sport. Much more about drama, star power that sort of thing.

    See Packers, Green Bay.

    • Aren’t the Green Bay Packers the exception to any rule?

      DK: I don’t know about that. Best ratings in the 80s for hockey were for the Oilers, from a city a lot of folks had never even heard of.

      It’s about the stars. I really believe that.

    • I don’t know about star power. Maybe that initially draws me in. But i won’t stay long if it’s not a series of dramatic, compelling games.

      I watched a lot of NHL and NBA over the past month or so.

      I tuned into the NBA finals and then tuned out because of drama-less games. Until the end when I plugged back in hard.

      Why? Stars? Going 7?

      Nope. Games improved.

      I STAYED with Chicago-Boston. Not because I like hockey better. Because I liked this DRAMATIC hockey better.

      So can anyone answer this question for me?

      In just the Pittsburgh market, how did the NHL’s game 6 compare in ratings to the NBA’s game 7, the two series’ final games

      Not trying to prove a point. Just very curious.

      • I see below that Dejan is tired of the topic.

        Fine. I’m a fan of both and my first time asking so I am not tired of it.

        Maybe someone else knows. And not gonna apologize for curiosity.

        • NEVER apologize for curiosity

        • Not to add any fuel to this debate (mainly because I don’t really care one way or another about the rating of the NBA or NHL)

          But I did hear someone say on the radio that they believed many people tuned into the NBA Finals, especially Game 7, because they wanted to see LeBron James fail. I believe there is truth to that.

          • Wouldn’t be surprised. And the reverse, too. He’s a polarizing figure.

          • I keep an interest in the NBA because as a teenager, I met Dr. J.
            I will never forget that encounter……… him signing autographs and talking with us in the snow outside of Richfield Coliseum for 20 minutes. The snow accumulated 1/2 of an inch in his afro, he shook his head and the snow was gone. Very classy man. So I will always watch parts of NBA game, unless a Pittsburgh team is on TV.

          • I’d love to see him fail, but I didn’t tune in :D

  7. OK DK, I’m here and able………what’s that avatar website again?

  8. I went to all three games this weekend and was blown away by the club. A totally different team from the one I saw in April at Dodger stadium. And Sunday, what do you say about Sunday? That was unexpected and unbelievable. I’m glad I was there to witness it in person. After the last two collapses I’m still pessimistic but I like what I saw this weekend. I go to Angels games regularly and seeing Mike Trout have a bad weekend is rare. Seeing the Angels have a bad offensive weekend is also rare, as evidence by their 14 run output tonight. If I take this small, three game weekend, snapshot in time I truly believe. I’m looking forward to seeing them in San Diego in August. Let’s go Bucs!!!!

  9. One aspect of the collapses in 2011 and 2012 was that the team they were battling for first place went on a tear (10+ wins in a row) while at the same time the Pirates went on an extended losing streak. I think the Pirates went from first place to 10 games out in about a week and a half one year. Maybe, if the fall had not been so quick, the team could have salvaged a better result.

  10. I agree with the sentiment that what the Pirates are doing is not sustainable. However, it doesn’t have to be. Look at the current NL wild card standings:

    1. Pirates 47-30
    2. Reds 45-33 (2.5 games behind)
    3. Padres 39-39 (8.5 games behind)
    Rockies 39-39 (8.5 games behind)
    Nationals 38-38 (8.5 games behind)

    An eight and a half game cushion for the wild card spot. In June. That’s crazy. If the Pirates play just .500 ball the rest of the season, they’ll finish 90-72. One of those other teams would have to play out of their minds to catch them. The Nats are probably the only team capable of doing so.

    I’m still in the pessimist camp, but the math is certainly encouraging for not only finishing above .500, but securing a playoff spot.

    • Excellent, excellent, excellent point Scott. And one that I haven’t yet read around here.

      The 98-win pace is almost certainly unsustainable.

      But they don’t take any wins away once you get ‘em. The longer the team keeps the pace, the less games left in the season they have to regress.

      As you said, and I truly cannot believe I’m typing this, simply playing .500 baseball the rest of the way works out to 90 wins. NINETY. In many ways, the math IS on the Pirates side.

      • It’s going to be ok, everyone! I know we’ve all been burned for hoping as recently as … last season. But, we need to treat the Bucs like any other team that is 17 games over .500 right now. What I mean is, this particular group is not the same team as last year. They have no particular inclination toward another historic collapse. These players do not carry our 20 year anchor on the field with them every night, and that is a good thing.

        This team is improved in so many ways. I’m not telling you they will win 100 games, or even 95. I’m saying it is ok to think they can go 35 – 50 the rest of the way. Don’t go all weak in the knees now. I’d say more, but I don’t want to be accused of being a wild eyed optimist!

    • I like Scott’s math. Said another way, to go 90-72 over the course of a season, a team needs to go 10-8 every 18 games. (18 x 9 = 162). So far, the Pirates’ splits in that regard are 10-8, 10-8, 14-4, 8-10, 6-1 (current). Most of the year, they have been steady with a few surprises to the upside. Consistency matters over the course of a season, and so far, the Pirates have it. I’m not expecting a Collapse III, but if there is, my guess is that most of us will be back here again next year, just like we have for the past 3.

    • Thanks Scott… this is the point we seem to be missing… the 2013 Pirates, while they are battling 20 years of ineptitude ‘off the field’, they are battling 14 other NL clubs ‘on the field’. In terms of playoff spot, this Pirates team, as presently constituted, ‘freak show’ as they are, without any big deadine pickups, are in my mind already plenty competitive to anyone who would threaten to take the wild card from them. The Padres, Rockies, Nationals, Giants and if you really want to Phillies either have more holes than the Pirates or are far behind with lots of ground to make up (Nats).

      Can fans in those cities ‘hope’ the Pirates collapse again and for their teams to scratch and claw their way to a wild card? Sure, but that hope is no more stooped in science as the Pirates fans hopes that this is finally the year that the 20 year curse is overcome.

  11. Nice column DK. It embodies the hope that is a sports fan. Excuse me if I still retain an air of caution about this team/franchise. But the longer this goes on, the easier it does become to believe.

    More later this morning.

    Hippo out.

  12. Dejan,
    I’m fully aware that you may roll your eyes at this question, but I’ve tried looking on my own and have been unable to find the answer. Just curiosity here, not an agenda. How did the NBA Finals rate in Pittsburgh in comparison to the Cup Final? Obviously the NBA ranking compared to other markets isn’t going to be anywhere as high as the NHL one, but in terms of raw numbers?

    And…the Bucs game goes final. Seventeen games over. Awesome.

    I also had a thought yesterday about your “Regrets” column from Monday, which I really enjoyed (not because I like seeing you proven wrong, just that you’re man enough to point it out). Here’s one to add: Didn’t you peg James McDonald as one of the two most important players going into this season? As it’s turned out so far, wow, talk about a total non-factor. Hasn’t contributed a thing, and yet the pitching staff is absolutely cruising without him.

    I apologize if either of these topics has come up already; I’ve just been too busy to keep up recently. Good to be back, though.

    DK: Tired of the NBA topic. Typical Penguins game outdraws NBA about 10-1 in this town. Eliminating Penguins from discussion is silly and somewhat desperate.

    McDonald was described as a swing vote, you might recall, meaning he could go violently one way or the other. Alvarez was the other. Never called either among most important.

    You should be able to find it rather easily.

    • WHOA!!!! SOMEone needs to lay off the Starbucks!!!

      DK, if I am following correctly, I dont think bagel was eliminating the Penguins from the discussion. And, am I not allowed to take an interest in the NBA because we are “tired of the topic”? I hope not.

    • DK, I re-read your “Swing Vote” column, and true, you did not actually use the words “most important.” However, as I correctly recalled, it was heavily inferred that the seasons of McDonald and Alvarez would go a long way in determining how the Bucs would do this year. The very definition of swing vote is “a vote that decides the result of an election.” Again, I’m not trying to criticize that characterization. When you asked for votes on Twitter, I also submitted J-Mac as the pitcher of choice. It’s just that as he went down on the DL again yesterday, I was just amazed recalling how influential we all thought he’d be this season, and how completely unimportant he has turned out to be.

      Meanwhile, I know you don’t like talking about the NBA. I’ll go ask another reporter/columnist for my answer about ratings. However, the idea that eliminating the Penguins is “silly and somewhat desperate” doesn’t make any sense to me. OF COURSE the Pens outdraw the NBA 10-1. They’re a hometown team. That’s why I’m curious to know how the ratings went without the Penguins involved. I would find it a decent indicator of how many local fans there are of each league, although I willfully admit that most local NBA fans are no doubt more “casual” in their fandom than NHL ones.

  13. Yes DK, you’ve put your finger on the angst we long-time Pirate fans can’t shake but this season must confront: We want to believe, we’re afraid to allow ourselves to believe, but we’re tippy-toeing in that direction by telling ourselves “it’s OK to believe / enjoy the ride / hey, whatever this is we’re feeling, it sure beats what we usually have to feel as a Pirate fan.”

    Tonight, Sean Casey said he won’t put the Pirates in his “Top 5″ because he did so last year. And by doing that he “jinxed them.” So presumably, Sean Casey has actually crossed into the “believers” camp, but just doesn’t want that to be this year’s Buccos downfall.

    To believe, or not to believe. That is the question.
    /To be continued… all summer./

  14. Whatever we do, let’s NOT do a Fenway Park and let a Neil Diamond tune take over PNC Park. The song I have in mind, but which is ‘the song that shall not be named,” (lest those of us even cornier than I start clamoring for it), is an annoying little ditty written by Diamond and made famous by The Monkees, then later made even more annoying by Smash Mouth.

  15. Dejan, thanks for the GREAT coverage of all sports. Loved the “easy to use” link to your video interview with Mark Melancon. Also enjoyed the newspaper front page and spread. Keep up the AWESOME work! I thoroughly enjoy!

    DK: Thank you! Milo also recommends the veal!

  16. I was someone who was so angry at the end of last season that I really was going to quit following this team. I still feel the specter of last season’s collapse. I was there in person for the 20th anniversary of “82″ — Tabata’s pathetic run from 1st to 3rd still fresh.

    I truly won’t feel comfortable until that threshold is passed. As Dejan has said many times, it is the goal until it’s no longer the goal.

    The game is in my blood. More so than all of the other successful teams in town combined.

    I think this is a special year. Maybe the stars have aligned and Zoltan has come from another solar system to make it happen. Or perhaps, these players have a will to win that has unrivaled since the glory days of the early 90′s.

    The opportunity is there guys. Take it. We have been waiting for so long.

  17. It’s not two decades of disappointment and despair, or the weight of 20 years, it’s 33 years.

  18. Excellent article, sir.

  19. DK – Great, in-depth article.
    I believe that between the law of averages, and some actual talent….The Pirates are going to finally take matters over .500, and perhaps quite a bit further.
    I’m still not even close to a believer of any of Bob Nutting’s words.
    He knows how to talk….But he’s not saying anything.

  20. DK:

    What can I say except spectacular column. Please let us well know when you fully believe. Until then, keep a critical eye to the sky and enjoy the ride.

  21. I’m not sure if I believe, but I’m definitively supportive. Love for this team is literally encoded in my DNA and I’ve come to terms with that over the past few years. I’m hopeful for this season, yet will watch with a much more objective and emotionally checked perspective.

    One thing that I do find encouraging about this season over the last two is that the club seems more openly aware and concerned about some of the statistical issues associated with their current success. That (transparency perhaps) to me appears different than in the past two seasons.

    By and large it’s a young team trending younger. It’s great to see these guys improving and gaining confidence. The veteran leadership by example and performance has been huge. A LOT of game decisions have worked out for them. They have been picking each other up all year and are showing signs of collectively heating up. They’re proving to themselves that they can hang with any other club at home or away.

    It’s going to be an interesting summer.

  22. Hoka Hey everyone!
    .
    Pirates win…Pirates win!!! XLVII wins down, …and XXXV to go.
    .
    Yes, GM Neal and Mgr. Clint ….82 wins DOES make a difference.
    .
    Beat Em’ Bucs !
    .
    .
    PS: I want to believe too DK…..but can’t and won’t do it (again) ….until the embarassment of 20 years is FINALLY wiped away. That said…..it is fun watching this team perform….. :-). Lots of great young talent assembled …..Cole + STAR-ling + Locke + Pedro added to the pool of vets like Cutch + AJ + Grilli + Martin + Jones + Neil improve the odds of succeeding……………………………….

  23. JAL’s Red Skies Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOQAYyB35Kw

    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 Stats

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsjN0zO-DxI0dHVOMzdPYm9wUEJtdVJ0WWUzVWhFc2c#gid=0

    5 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013draft

    BLOGS and such

    6—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: Pirates Seeing Some Increased Power in the Minors This Year

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/06/first-pitch-pirates-seeing-some-increased-power-in-the-minors-this-year.html

    Pirates Beat Mariners 9-4 on Power of Marte, Inge

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/06/pirates-beat-mariners-9-4-on-power-of-marte-inge.html

    Prospect Watch: Andrew Lambo Hits His 19th Homer of the Year

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/06/prospect-watch-andrew-lambo-hits-his-19th-homer-of-the-year.html

    7 Bucs Dugout

    Lambo, Harrison go deep

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/6/25/4464928/lambo-harrison-go-deep

    8 WHYGAVS

    Game 77: Pirates 9 Mariners 4

    http://www.whygavs.com/pittsburgh-pirates/june-2013/game-77-pirates-9-mariners-4.html

    9 The Green Weenie

    Pirate Notebook

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/06/pirate-notebook.html

    10 Rumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates Tony Sanchez Becomes Fan Favorite After Long Ride

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/06/24/pittsburgh-pirates-tony-sanchez-becomes-fan-favorite-after-long-ride/

    Pirates A.J. Burnett Tweets His All-Star Game Starting Pitcher Vote

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/06/25/pirates-a-j-burnett-tweets-his-all-star-game-starting-pitcher-vote/

    11 North Side Notch

    Five home runs power Bucs to 9-2 win over Mariners

    http://www.northsidenotch.com/2013/06/five-home-runs-power-bucs-to-9-2-win-over-mariners.html

    • Red Skies The Fixx 1982 New wave band that had several hits in the 1980s.

      • Along with the Cars, another band that was completely mislabeled when they first came out.. Both bands were labeled “techno-punk” by the music “establishment”. Smh.

        This song is one of my favorites. There are two versions to this song, I happen to like this version better.

        Interesting sidelight to this band……….. when they broke up, the lead singer, Cy Curnin, turned to designing, and making women’s Haut Couture hats…….. beconing very successful at it.

        Thanks for this song, JAL.

  24. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    12 New Pittsburgh Courier

    Inside Conditions…No more excuses for Pirates

    http://www.newpittsburghcourieronline.com/index.php/sports/14395-inside-conditions-excuses-no-more

    13 Daily Herald

    Snider likes being a Pirate

    http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130626/SPORTS/706269885

    14 Sports Illustrated

    Unprecedented NL Central race could prove merits of new playoff format

    http://mlb.si.com/2013/06/25/unprecedented-nl-central-race-could-prove-merits-of-new-playoff-format/

    15 Charleston Daily Mail

    West Virginia Power: Barnes finding his groove at the plate

    http://www.dailymail.com/Sports/201306250194

    16 CBS Sports

    Pirates- Mariners Game Preview

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/gametracker/preview/MLB_20130626_PIT@SEA/piratesmariners-preview

    17 Seattle Times

    Pirates rough up Mariners

    http://seattletimes.com/html/mariners/2021269003_mariners26xml.html

    18 PBC Site

    Pirates looking like championship contender

    http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130624&content_id=51656580&vkey=news_pit&c_id=pit

    Locke, five homers key Bucs’ fifth straight win

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_06_25_pitmlb_seamlb_1&mode=recap_away&c_id=pit

    Hurdle’s new off-day regimen paying dividends

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130625&content_id=51733094&notebook_id=51733296&vkey=notebook_pit&c_id=pit

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    10 Hollywood Endings for Major-League Teams

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=21036

    20 Fangraphs

    Footspeed and Forcing Errors: A Case Study

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/footspeed-and-forcing-errors-a-case-study/

  25. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    How the Steelers will get more interceptions in 2013

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/6/25/4461068/steelers-defense-preview-2013

    Steelers 2013 draft class could be one of best ever in modern NFL and team history

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/6/25/4459546/steelers-2013-draft-class-evaluation

    22 Steelers Depot

    - Rookie Jarvis Jones Says He Understands the Steeler Way

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2013/06/steelers-rookie-jarvis-jones-understands-steeler-way/

    Soccer(football)

    23 Daily Mail

    Let football’s State of Origin game begin! It’s North versus South in a game for pride… but who would feature in your XIs?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-2348491/MARTIN-SAMUEL-column-Let-footballs-State-Origin-game-begin-North-versus-South-battle.html

    24 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 25th June, 2013

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/247/world-soccer-daily-10-stories-you-need-to-read-25th-june-2013

  26. Liked the article DK, but please don’t roll out of the country this summer.

    I don’t want any potential jinxes. I’d love to believe, but I’m saving my belief for win #82.

    35 to go.

  27. On quibble with the article, I don’t see Martin as the first productive FA they signed. Kevin Correia won 12 games both seasons with Pirates. That might not be great but it is productive.

    • My one quibble with the article is that I wanted to see Nutting quoted as saying “The FO has responded well to Win or Be Fired”

    • True, and it’s not like Javy Lopez or Octavio Dotel were unproductive. They just ended up as trade fodder.

      If you want to get really technical, Garrett Jones was a free agent signing, but that’s not the type of signing that’s being discussed. He fell more in like with the “dumpster dive” type of acquisition.

    • Probably meant to say first productive position player signing.

  28. Believe in what?

    Do I believe this team will win its division?

    Nope. Possible, I suppose but, honestly, I do not believe I will.

    Do I believe this team will play at LEAST 35-50 ball from this point out to win at least 82?

    Yes. Absolute Loc…well, just yes.

    Do I believe this team will earn a wild card slot?

    Not YET. Not betting AGAINST it. Not ready to push all my chips onto the Playoffs proposition bet. Hoping. Following. Finger crossing, sitting in lucky chair, wearing same underwear all season…you know. Fan stuff. That’s what makes it fun.

    Not knowing is part of the fun stuff.

  29. I’ve never really understood the need to think in terms of do I believe or not. I just want to win today. And after today, the next one.

    • YES! One game at a time, one day at a time. Perfect!

      • :-)

        Don’t recall ever hearing this believe or not sentiment Jandy until The Fan radio station came to Pittsburgh. They’re big on those discussions.

        • It’s HYPE, but it’s fun, 21.

          I don’t know what will happen, but these guys, this team, are a lot of fun. They pull wins out of their butts like no team I’ve ever seen, in any sport, except maybe the Penguins two seasons ago, when Sid and Geno were hurt. But even at that, these guys are just something else.
          They pull boneheaded base running stunts, then turn around and make a spectacular DB or smack a ball into the river. You just never know what they’re gonna do next. What stunt they will pull to win.

          Gotta love ‘em. And I’m not giving up on them.

    • Clint Hurdle said before a Sunday game (home against the Braves, I think), “This is the most important game we play today.” Tunnel vision helps, to a certain extent.

    • That has been my mantra all season so far. Enjoying the ride…ONE game at a time.

  30. Dejan:

    Never trust a man in transition lenses. Too shifty.

    You’ll win me over any day by sticking to the numbers, as you have all season. But I’m not sure any numbers could explain what is keeping most people from “believing”.

    You’re on record as saying the collapses were a symptom of depth. Seems like the first place to start looking for the answer to the rest of the season would be there. I certainly don’t expect you to have an answer today, but this is a column I sincerely hope is in the works.

    • That would be a really good column. What has changed to make the outcome change when this season is all said and done?

      I don’t know how DK feels but I do believe the depth is better. The fact the we had 100′s of post yesterday debating the merit of sending Cole down to the minors when he is pitching really well is proof enough for me.

  31. Let’s see what the club does at the trading deadline. The math was in the club’s favor the past two years as well, and something went wrong in the 2nd half. I think they have a slightly different formula this year, including more pitching depth and players who are a bit more seasoned. Plus some big money teams have flopped opening the window a bit more. I hope they can keep it up. It sure would be nice to see playoff baseball return to Pittsburgh!

  32. When the Pirates signed Martin I thought to myself..here we go again. Then I believe Martin said something to the effect I couldn’t pass up the money….I was convinced we had another guy coming in to retire on the Pirates dime. I was wrong. Guy has played his heart out. He is a leader on this team..Kudos. I really believe this team wants to win. Lets just hope Huntington doesnt muck it up at the trade deadline.

    • Muck it up???? Two years ago Ludwick, and Lee were not the reason for the collapse. Both men played very well. Last year Wandy, Snider and Sanchez did not play great but hardly were the reason for collapse 2. All 5 of those players were actually some the Pirates better players down the stretch. No player(s) brought in either of those years would have made up for the regression of the players that where on the team before the deadline.

      If the current players that are getting the job done regress again it doesn’t matter what the front office does. Any one player will not add more then 2 or 3 wins over the course of 60 games after the trade deadline. Even a good starting pitcher would only get 12 starts. If he pitched great you may get 8-2 for a his record compared to a reasonable 5-5 for whomever he replaces.

      In my opinion it will be up to the current group to continue what they are doing and the organizational depth that DK correctly points out as being flawed the last two years to keep this ship not only afloat but moving forward.

      • Or, maybe we could turn the roster upside down in the middle of the year – bring in high paid stars who are going for one last shot at a title. That would be an excellent strategy. Now, let’s see, has that been tried recently in this town with positive results?

  33. I had to go back and look at the video highlights to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

    Brandon Inge hit a home run! He was 2-3 last night.

  34. Turning around 20 years of losing is not easy. Changing that mindset is very difficult even with improving talent. Same for fans. The Pirates as an organization has to win back the trust of being a first class organization. Baby steps of adding selective veterans and developing young talent is a delicate balance. The performance has never matched the rhetoric and until that happens on a consistent basis, tough to believe or go all in. But at least they give one good reasons for watching,

  35. Organizational depth: check. Above average trades and FA pickups over the off-season: check. Well-executed, passionate baseball, virtually every night: check. It’s simple: The 2013 Pirates have not fit the narrative that some have bitterly clung to, even when all evidence was pointing in a different direction. Some saw this early, while others will take 77, or more games, before they change their minds on this club. But yea, Hoka Hey, one more time, what the hey.

  36. “It’s baseball. It’s the sport, more than any other, that moves to its own beat, that makes its own magic.”

    The BEST line ever! Baseball has been magic to me all of my life. Its ethereal thread has woven through the many chapters of my life. It is part of me…in many ways, it has defined me. Magic!

  37. JMac is to remain in the DL for the time being with continued issues with his shoulder:

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/6/25/4464328/james-mcdonald-update

  38. Pirate Thoughts:

    Neil Walker leads the team in OBP, yet bats near the bottom of the lineup most nights. I’d like to see him at 1 or 2 when the opposing starter is a RHP.
    ————-
    Gaby Sanchez for full time 1B? Not so crazy when you consider his OPS vs. Righties is .696. Travis Snider sports a .690 against RHP. Put in Jones in RF most nights.
    ———-
    I love fake baseball injuries. Absolutely shocking that James McDonald all of sudden has shoulder tightness and needs to go back on the DL.

    • Only two qualified 1B in all of baseball sport an OPS under .696. That won’t get it done on a team vying for the division title.

      This creates a problem since Garrett Jones is in his worst slump since August 2010.

      • Correct, NMR. Gabby still does not hit righties well enough to play against them every night. This is not lost on NH. Patience.

  39. Excellent column. Leo Durocher is a smarter man than I ever gave him credit for being.

  40. Wow! What a great column. Be sure and save this one for an anthology that I hope you have published someday!

    • PS Just when idiots like Randy Miller begin to poison my view of sports journalists: Bang! You issue a column that reminds me that, with all due respect to Willie Nelson, my heroes have always been journalists!

      You have the gift. I can string words together, but I can not write.

  41. “Or the five years of failure under the current management team.”

    I don’t really agree with that assessment. When the current management team took over in fall 2007, they inherited a mess. A bad and ageing big league club with few assets to trade and a minor league system that ranked near the bottom. Keith Law referred to the minor league system at that time as “scorched earth”.

    Since then, they have turned around both the MLB team and the minor league system. The Pirates have the second best record in baseball and are 13 games over .500 since the start of last season. The minor league system is now ranked very near the top. Jeff Passan recently quoted a scout saying it was easily the top system. Jason Parks of BP recently said it is easily top 3 and may be the best; and that is after Cole was removed from consideration.

    5+ years may seem like a long time, but that is how baseball works; it takes forever for small market teams to rebuild the right way. And given where they started, I think it is time we start to reevaluate our opinions of the front office.

    • While I am optimistic, PhillyPirate, it’s way too soon to just turn our opinons around. I’ll wait a bit on that, see how things are in say September.

    • Huh? Losing seasons from 2008-2012 = “five years of failure under the current management team.” It’s not an opinion. It’s fact. Look it up.

      • I think it would have been difficult to have a winning team in 08 & 09. Especially with their long-term plan

        • They had 5 losing seasons. That doesn’t change no matter what excuses are made. It’s not a value judgment.

          • My argument is that losing, at least from 2008-2010 was absolutely guaranteed back in 2007. No one, no matter how good could have changed that.

            • Look, I really don’t want to get into this whole debate again for the 5 millionth time. If you think there is no one on the planet who could have won in 2008-2010, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. Does that mean you would agree that 2011 and 2012 were failures?

              • “Look, I really don’t want to get into this whole debate again for the 5 millionth time”, says the guy who started the debate in the first place.

              • NMR— have a nice day.

              • How bout them Blackhawks :D

              • It all depends on how you describe failure. If it is simply reaching .500 then yes it is failure. If you believe you have to learn to crawl before you walk and learn to walk before you run then you may think that last two years are just part of the process.

                In my opinion there is definate value in what happened the last two years. Especially the way both years happened. If they finished last year with the same record but did it by consistantly playing around .500 ball I don’t think it would have had the same value. The front office and the players both found out what it takes to win over 162 game season. We will only know if those lessons and perceived added depth pays off at the end of the season.

                If they finish with 92 wins this year then I would say 2011 and 2012 were not failures because it all plays a part in this years success.

                I still look at 2011 as a mirage and they simply were never as good as their record. I think 2012 was a glimpse of what could be and they actually where a team good enough to be above .500.

              • Yes, I agree on that wholeheartedly Arriba. You are 100% correct about ’11/’12. And I am on the record as saying we are headed in the right direction.

      • I don’t necessarily call that failure. More like the cost of doing business for a small market MLB team. It takes a LONG time to rebuild in baseball due to the fact that young talent takes a long time to develop.

        The Pens can draft Sid and have him on the ice the next season. The Steelers take Ben and he wins his first 15 starts or whatever the next year. You take a players in the MLB draft, you see them in 4-5 years.

        No matter who took over from Littlefield, whether it was NH or a Theo Epstein-type; it was going to have to be broken down and built back up. No other way around it

        You have to look at the process. And the process has delivered a competitive team at the major league level and a top minor league system. I say the process is working.

        • If i fault NH for anything, it is that he didn’t go far enough with the teardown efforts. He traded the few MLB players that had any value for player who were close to being big-league ready; which gets you players with lower ceiling. Trading for minor leaguers who are further away you would have gotten more upside.

          This is what the Astros have done and I think they will be successful. They were the worst team in the league for 2 years in a row and working on a third. They traded for minor leaguers that are further away and basically just gave up on winning for 4-5 years. But in the process, they will get young players with lots of upside and potentially 3 straight overall #1 picks.

          Imagine if the Pirates had done that and had the number 1 overall pick in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Harper, Cole and Strasburg.

        • Really was not much breaking down to be done to a system that was so broken to begin with.

      • Feel free to list all of the team that posted .500 records in their first, second or third years of a total rebuild.

    • PP,

      I have re-evaluated Neal and the FO on an ongoing basis. Neal is still double-tongued and needs to think before he talks.

      That said, I will be among the happiest when the streak is broken and we play meaningful late-season ball.

      Until then, the BMTIB must remain as labeled unsuccessful. Neal can build a bullpen, but lacks in other essential areas.

      I like the system better now. But prospects are prospects until they do something. Evaluation continues.

      JMHO

    • I’ll just state that 2008-2010 did not have to be losing seasons, that it was far from a “guaranteed thing” as you suggest.

      Huntington sucked at major league player procurement up until basically Trade deadline 2011 when he acquired Lee and Ludwick. He’s been fairly astute since then, or at least passible. The fact that it took him 4 years to figure out how to find an already established MLB player contributed greatly to the 2008-2012 losing seasons.

      I do believe it was the right decision to tear apart that 2008 team and go rebuild, but that doesn’t excuse the suck fest that followed and technically still hasn’t ended.

    • I’m in your camp, Philly, 100%. But, I also think it is fair of people who have waited and remained loyal for so long to say that they need to see the team finish above .500 before they are willing to accept what “looks like” a real change for the better. We will all need to accept this on our own timetables, and that is completely natural to me.

  42. “The relievers rank sixth in ERA but a terrifying second in innings pitched.”

    If you go back and look at the data at Fangraphs (or anywhere you want to get it, really). You will see that bullpen IP and performance (measured by ERA, xFIP, WAR, etc) do not correlate at all. Some very productive and successful bullpens pitch alot of innings; other do not.

    Tim Williams did a very nice article the other day suggesting that the bullpen was not over worked and that most pitchers were inline with career IP numbers.

    I do think the bullpen is due for regression and that is a cause of concern. I just don’t happen to think it has anything at all to do with the number of inning pitched.

  43. This year really IS different, perhaps best summed up by the feeling I get when I see Marte, Martin and Locke on the field in Pirate uniforms — that is a real difference.

    As for Inge, perhaps he has noticed what the oft-maligned Josh H. has been doing down at Indy?

  44. Very nice column DK, sums up the feelings of many long-term fans.

    Based on an extremely limited sample size, I’d like to see Tony Sanchez stay for a while with the Fort going to Indy. He’ll (the fort) get adequate playing time there to keep him sharp (as sharp as he can get) while we get a longer look at Tony.

    I’d like to see a rotation with Cole following Locke. Think that might confuse some bats?

    Stuart

    • Stuart I agree. Maybe if Cole stays up they do something like that after the all-star break when they can reset the rotation. They may even have Cole skip a start to line something like that up to save some innings for him.

    • I’d rather see Sanchez at AAA piling up at bats than rotting on the bench in Pittsburgh.

    • There’s a nice article by RB about Sanchez in the Trib. I hadn’t thought about how much experience he had with so many of the pitchers with rehabs and whatnot.

  45. Great stuff today DK! I think this sums up the feeling of a majority of folks. I told myself at the beginning of this season that I was not going to get invested in this team, regardless of performance, until +82 was assured. Then I watched a few gamea & I have to admit, i’m back on board. Hard to watch this team and not be impressed & excited.

  46. This year could be the year solely because they have some AAA guys who could step in and perform. Imagine how bad last year would have been if AJ’s bunted eyeball took an extra month to recover from, Morton goes for Tommy John, and Karstens spends the whole year on the DL, and JMac never appears better than average. In that scenario, we’re sunk so far that we’re sellers at the deadline and never acquire Wandy.

    Hell, I’d figure we’d be sunk this year if you had told me Wandy and AJ had spent longer than a 15 stint on the DL.

    I’ll be the first to admit I figured Jeff Locke was just our next Zach Duke/Josh Fogg-ish kind of guy. Guess he could still turn out to be Zach Duke, but midnight hasn’t chimed yet on his pumpkin.

  47. I really have to say that I look at each season as its own. I don’t really look at 20 years of futility. I understand that those 2 years have happened but I don’t let the past change my view of the present or future.

    All that said I do view this team as being the first team in a while where I don’t think there are players that really don’t belong in the majors. They even have a little bit of bench depth.

    I will just keep supporting the Bucs like I do every year. This year I just have more hope than in recent years that I will be able to continue to support them into October.

  48. Pats released Hernandez.

    Boy, that didn’t take long.

    • it must look pretty bad for them to do that.

      • They really have their players’ backs, don’t they?

        He must be up to his neck in this one.

        • I think it’s more an issue of the Pats not wanting to be seen supporting a soon to be charged (and eventually convicted) murderer.

          This kid’s been bad news for a long time.

      • Think Chris Rainey and the Steelers last year. Cannot take that chance.

      • Yeah, I think they should have been aware of what he is being charged with before releasing him. Although, this would have been the move in the end, I don’t feel it had to be done so hastily.

        • Dom–you wanted the NFL to take action last week.

          • I don’t remember saying that. I’m not saying you’re wrong but I don’t recall saying that. I have an awful memory.

          • Oh, I remember now what you’re speaking of. I didn’t want a double standard held against Big Ben since he wasn’t charged w/ anything but I understand it now since it was brought up that the NFL might have had more info than the rest of us.

        • Pats can do whatever they want, it’s their team. They obviously feel like this is going down the drain for Mr. Hernandez, so best to cut ties decisively. Good for them. It is America and Hernandez will be innocent until proven guilty but that doesn’t mean he gets to keep a job in the NFL, that isn’t a right it’s a privilege.

          • The Pats know this won’t stick to them. He’s no longer on the team, and the lap dogs at ESPN will treat the home team as though they never employed him a week from now.

        • We know they weren’t aware of the charges?

          • There has to be a charge, they just haven’t announced it yet, last time I checked anyways.

            Can’t arrest someone without a charge, can you?

            • Of course there’s a charge. Dom was saying that the Pats released him without knowing what the charges are.

              • I’m thinkin the Pats knew the charges.

              • I assumed the Pats don’t know of any charges. I suppose they could have been informed before the rest of us. Even if they waited till the charges were announced then I would have felt better about them cutting him. Of course, it’s their team and Brandie might be right that they him gone b/c of the distraction but if I were handling the situation, I would have waited.

              • I think the Pats are all over the charges, this is big bucks to them and a big loss to their club.

                Mr Hernandez is in deep doo doo.

                And unfortunately a fellow is dead, thats the worst part of this.

              • Have there been any more sleazier programs than the “U”, or Florida?
                Man, it like inmate central there.

                Shame these are “institutions of higher learning”.!

              • My Buckeyes follow closely behind in some aspects.

              • Lucky, almost any big school with a successful athletic department has these problems. The ones that dont are few and far between.

              • I think that NFL security knows exactly what the charges will be.

                Wouldn’t surprise me to find out that they already know the verdict of the trial as well. :-)

              • I appreciate that Plansky. I hate to see the Santonio Holmes of the world associated with the Scarlet and Gray.

                And the Maurice Claretts and the Art Schlichters and, to a milder extent the Terrell Pryors.

              • Dont forget Lucky, in 99% of these cases at colleges, the administrators turn a blind eye, in exchange for power and $$$$$$$$$$$. That is the saddest thing. Not the athlete that gets what he can………… its the “adults” that allow them to run amok.

              • Very true.

                I really liked Jim Tressell. Still do.

                Now Gordon Gee. That’s another thing.

                Glad he’s gone.

              • Lucky, I used to live near YSU. Tressel was deep into bad stuff there, but since he won 4 1-AA titles, the fans and media turned the blind eye. Clarett was just the same pattern he always followed. Hope Meyer is better, but with all the crap that has gone on at Florida over the years, if I were a Buckeye fan, I would be very worried.

              • Good points, all.

                Spent 2 years at YSU. Met my wife there. Football was a back-burner thing back then.

              • Lucky, then you have heard of New Castle, Pa.?

              • Been there many times.

                You a former Hurricane?

              • Yes. Red Hurricane. This past year, the school’s basketball team lost a crushing game in the state semis, to the eventual state champ. Had tickets to Hershey arena and everything. (Being it is only the next town over).

                Yes, YSU was in the dark ages for sports for many years, and they are back there again. The Tressel years were the only successful period. Looking at the toen now, it is easy to see why.

              • Red Hurricane here as well. Great season for the Canes’ hoops team. I’m no longer in New Castle but listened to pretty much all the games on MSA Sports Net over the web.

                Anyway, small world.

              • I think they also may have come to the conclusion that they overpaid on his last contract. He’s just not all that good. Catches a bunch of 8 yard passes.

                Not that the Pats would take this opportunity to correct a bad decision they made. They are above that, of course.

        • Could have released him because it could have proven to be too much of a distraction to the team. Imagine the media circus. The only team that perpetually invites a medias cir us is the New York Jets, and look how that turns out.

      • I agree. They might know a lot more than we know. We suspect some things, but they might have more info.

    • Oops. I missed your post.

    • The Pats will always be in the playoff hunt as long as they go Brady but as of right now they have a guy named, Michael Hoomanawanui listed as their # 2 TE behind Gronkowski who might not be healthy at the start of season. I was thinking they’ll change from the 2 TE offense.

  49. DK, great article.. you captured the essence of being a FAN…not a fair-weathered jump on the bandwagon fan (like my Uncle in WVA who changed from being a Pirate fan to a Braves fan…yes, Braves!)…. I have been a Pirates fan all my life and that is what being a fan is… you don’t just change where you are from and root for the winners……

    A lot of sports really is believing… and not giving up hope even though all of the ‘science’ points against it. Without hope, only a few teams’ fans each year would bother to show up at the games, wear the colors, sing the fight songs, debate with other fans on blogs, etc. It’s the lifeblood of this business, the business of sports.

    I have noticed since day 1 this year the Pirates approach has changed… most noticeable in Clint Hurdle… what he says, how direct he is in answering questions, and how he has much more aggressively made changes to the lineup and approach. I think Neal has also showed some changes as well, though harder to see. Good to see that Nutting has followed through on need for change…it wasn’t wholesale personnel changes but more importantly tangible changes that are making a difference.

    • I agree with that last paragraph, cmat, especially the part about Hurdle. He’s been different from day 1.

      • Accountability, AW…and competition. Can’t underestimate how important it is for a manager to have guys ready to step-in, step-up and out-perform those that may be ahead of them in the lineup, rotation or bullpen. Makes his job so much easier to say: hey, here’s the standard…achieve, produce or we’ll find someone else who can.

        They’ve got the looks of a division winner… that 5-game series with the Cards (July 29-August 1 with a day/night DH thrown in the mix) will be huge…and probably be an early indicator of just how far the team has come or has to go.

      • I agree with that last paragraph too, but I wonder if we’re just listening to them differently because of the winning.

        • I’ve thought it from day 1 (at least about Clint) like cmat. Before the winning. And I mentioned it here.

        • Yes winning makes everyone look like a genius. I give Nutting very little credit for any of this. The only thing I give him credit for is finally taking his wallet out of his pocket and opening it up just far enough to allow the front office to actually pick up some pieces to fill holes. Sad but true the Martin signing was largest free agent signing ever for this team. You can’t make steak out of hot dog meat.

          Although you can make a really good footlong hot dog and I understand that some think the front office failed to even do that.

          • Why so bitter? It’s his money, not yours or ours, and he’s the one who signed off on all of the money spent on the drafts as well as the free agents. Takes a lot more than throwing money at a mess to make the mess a winner.

            • I’m just tired of the blame always going to the front office and very little going to the players or owner. We are 17 games above .500 and the main topic on today’s blog has been the front office. Can’t we just enjoy this and not debate if we are playing so well despite the front office.

              • Sure… I agree… the blame game can be spread around quite a bit to all levels of the organization, but the ball seems to be rolling in the right direction. Had to have a plan…they did. Had to execute the plan… they did and didn’t–depending on the situation or to whom you’d discuss it. Plan starting to bear some fruit….and I’m really enjoying it.

                But to give Nutting very little credit? Ok…I’ll agree to disagree with you there. “Win or be fired” is pretty tough to argue coming from an owner.

              • IMHO, until the FO changes their spots, they will always be receiving criticism.

                I must admit though, its been a while since any of them have inserted their feet in their mouths or done something publically that smacks of arrogance.

                Again, and we should let this go, they have been their own worst enemies.

                Ok, I promise, from this end, end of commenting on this

              • I guess we all see what we want to see, nate, but if you look at it again, I think you will see that hasn’t been the main topic, and you may have been one of the first ones to bring it up. I think you reacted defensively to a comment Chuck Snow made critical of Neal.

              • Are you wearing my shoes today, AW? :D

              • Too big. ;-)

              • ROFL! Touoche`

              • Oh really AW I am imagining all the post today about the failure over the last 5 years. Some by yourself.

                I guess I saw what I wanted to see when someone responded above to you by saying.

                “Look, I really don’t want to get into this whole debate again for the 5 millionth time”, says the guy who started the debate in the first place.

                I would like to live in the now and enjoy the winning but since past failures somehow made it onto today’s blog I pulled a chair up and presented the opinion that the failure falls on the players, owner and front office. Not just the front office. There has been a lot of the front office is good and the front office is bad debate today. It is not imagined by me.

              • Mine was very simplistic, Nate. Just ask NMR. The record is the record is the record. Theres no value judgment there. Nothing to debate, really. And, as usual, the idea I started the debate was false. But why start using facts now. Show me where I started it. Everything I said was a response to someone else. If you want to rely on other people disagreeing with me, you will have some fertile ground. On both sides of this tired debate.

                If you want to talk about today, I’d be happy to engage, but with the FO supporters and detractors it always goes back to 2008 and earlier.

                But the record is the record. That’s the one thing we know.

              • AW we will always disagree with were the blame lands for the losing. Most of what Philly Pirate said I agree with. It’s your right to disagree with it but please do not tell me I am imagining there being a lot of discussion about the front office today and please to not claim I am any more responsible for starting this debate on this blog today anymore they you are. We both responded to someone elses post. You to one positive about the FO and me to one negative about the FO.

                I would have been perfectly happy talking about how awesome the Pirates are right now and which of their awesome starting pitchers they have to send down to the minors or to the bullpen but other topics came up on the blog. Maybe I should do what Jandy does and just “yawn” whenever an old tired arguement comes up especially on this day when the Pirates sit more games above .500 then any other Pirate team since 1992.

              • As you’ve said before, we’re bound to disagree. Seemingly about everything. You’d think we were married. :-)

          • Well we agree on one thing for sure. We would love for the Pirates to win so we don’t have to disagree on why they lose. Hopefully we are posting about the Pirates in October instead of who the back up running back is for the Steelers.

      • Agree 100% with both of you. Clint is buying into some things that he never would have bought into in the past.

    • I think that Hurdle’s aggressiveness comes from actually having alternative options to choose from. This team is much deeper than the last two.

  50. When do the draft picks need to be signed by?

    Seems that there has been a lull in PBC signings.

    I sure hope they can get Meadows name on the dotted line

  51. NOT wading into yet another FO ‘protector vs. slammer’ debate, aren’t those great fun??….. but a lot of GMs around baseball are not ‘well-liked’ by their fan base …they often practice political speak, dance around issues, are overly defensive on their moves/strategies, etc. that said, Neal, in my opinion, has been poor at communication but has gotten better at player evaluation and execution. He is growing into the role and making progress. I’ve long said the Pirates need more, they need a good to great GM, not one who is just now becoming average. But Neal is far from the worst GM in baseball and if we took random audio from the 30 GMs, you’d have a hard time picking Neal out of the lineup.

    • I think he is also growing into the role, and have been saying that here for awhile. I might slightly disagree with one thing, though, cmat. I think he is now better than many are giving him credit for, and the results are in the majors and minors. Was handed garbage, and after several initial mis-steps has slowly made it respectable with a good chance of something special going fwd.

      I do understand that bright people can see it both ways, though. This thing is far from finished.

  52. I am more amazed at life around me every single day

    You just can’t make this stuff up

    http://social.entertainment.msn.com/tv/blogs/blog–kris-jenner-promotes-daytime-premiere-with-video-contest

    Why?????

  53. I’m one of those “crazy” people who believes no matter what. This does not mean I don’t have a crisis of faith from time to time, but I retain my belief that ALL of Pittsburgh’s sports teams — baseball, hockey, football, soccer, etc… — will win the day. At the end of the day, it’s just a game played by grown adults that provides a brief respite from the day-to-day responsibilities of life. Good or bad, sports bring people together. So, I’ll continue to believe in any team team representing the City of Pittsburgh, my hometown.

  54. That big Kool Aid Man, all full of Pirates Punch, is waiting outside my office waiting to crash through my office wall if the Pirates beat King Felix today.

  55. If I could whisper in the GM’s ear, I would say get on the phone & talk deal with the Red Sox. A closer would solidify their hold on 1st place and you could demand either Iglesias or Bogearts for one or two of our guys (say Wilson and a strong minor leaguer, for example). The iron is hot and the sox will trade with somebody — I think we are a perfect match.

    • are you suggesting they trade jason grilli? cant see them trusting justin wilson as their closer and can’t see him and a prospect being enough for one of Boston’s top prospects.

      • The mantra up here is win, now. Their closer siuation is dire — they will not wait. Personally,I would trade Grilli for Bogearts in a heartbeat. But I am saying we should use our asset strength to get some of their asset strength. If that invoves Grilli, so be it. bogearts is awsome and is not limited to SS.

        • If Cherington would give up Bogearts for Grilli, I would be elated.

          As is, he wasn’t willing to trade Iglesias for Hanny, so we may be out of luck.

        • I need some help finding any trades in the past 5-10 years that involved someone trading their top prospect for a veteran closer… I think we vastly overrate closer values in deadline trades…. Sox can easily pick up a Kevin Gregg who would probably be just fine and not have to give up much….

        • I don’t think he’ll take Grilli from us in exchange for Humphrey (Bogearts). I think his rear end is still on fire for the spanking he took in giving us Melancon for Hanny.

      • Betcha right now, the Red Sox are wishing they would have agreed to put a SS in the deal instead of Melancon ;-)

      • Melancon could close, assuming his arm is still attached in four days, but why break up the chemistry?

        We’d have to trade the rights to Ryoto Higarashi to the Yaccult Swallows and get Casey McGehee back from Japan to fix the chemistry if we traded Grilli.

  56. Put me down as optimistic and reasonably certain that the streak is over and having a hope that we’ll still be in it come September. Seventeen over is already better than we’ve been in a long while.

    I’m avoiding the word “believer” because it has so many shades of meanings and connotations. But yes, DK’s column was fantastic — nailed a lot of the things I’ve felt for years.

    I wonder how much of the shortage in the run differential is due to pitchers who are not on the current 25-man roster.

    One of the reasons I prefer baseball to either basketball (especially at the NBA level), or to hockey or even football is that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”. (Y. Berra) You can get down to one strike left and score a dozen runs in baseball. In sports with a clock you can go home before the game is over on many nights, giving up when you’re behind and beating the traffic when you’re ahead.

    On the other hand baseball doesn’t televise well. Football and basketball are actually easier to follow and more exciting on TV than they are at the stadium. To really appreciate baseball you have to go to the ballpark. Zooming in on the first two enhances the action, while with baseball we get the repeated picture of the pitcher holding the ball. (And so baseball announcers become legendary. And there’s a large contingent of fans that still follow their teams on the radio.)

    But I’m rambling. Who’s pitching this afternoon.

  57. But think how good Martin’s neck would feel, come September!

  58. Sorry, jumped the thread.

  59. I follow the Pirates. I root for the players. But I’ll remain pessimistic until I see otherwise. We’ll see where they are on Labor day.

  60. Off topic… I went to a Somerset Patriots (Atlantic League) game last night vs. the Camden Riversharks. Lo and behold, who should be in the lineup for Camden but Delwyn Young.

  61. Oregon placed on 3 year probation by the NCAA today. They lose a whopping 1 scholarship. That Nike money must be able to get you out of a lot of trouble.

    The NCAA is an absolute joke.

    • And their coach is in the Witness Protection Program at Lincoln Financial Stadium in Philly.

    • Puishment seems less than the school’s previous self-imposed punishment suggestions!

      A rule without a sanction is not a rule at all.

  62. Today, we talked about the Pirates FO (groan), Hernandez getting arrested, college ahtletics run amok. Covered it all, right?

    Wrong!!!

    http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/9424556/oregon-ducks-put-probation-ncaa-loses-scholarship

    http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9424219/ausar-walcott-cleveland-browns-rookie-arrested-tuesday-charged-attempted-murder

    Just never ends.

  63. Has anyone heard anything on what are Ruschel Shell’s options now that he left UCLA and Pitt won’t take him back?

    As a Slippery Rock grad, I think he would make a fine addition for the Rockets ;-)

    Seriosly though, seems as he is in a big pickle.

    Had many chances to see him play highschool, as I live in Hopewell, but never got around to doing it.

    • I am not up to date on the transfer rules, but I think he would have to go to Division 2 to play. Isnt Slippery Rock 1-AA??

      Loved going to Rock football games when I was younger. Their stadium is out in the middle of nowhere, but……………

      And I believe they played a game at the Big House one year………. 65,000 people attended .

      • When I went there, where the stadium now sits, was just an empty hill, very good for kite flying though.

        • Rather than my usual “reading but not commenting” MO, I’m a posting machine today. I’m a Rock grad as well. Plan, the Rock is D-II. I’d love to Rushel at the Rock. I’d make the trek to go see him tear up the PSAC.

        • Hi Biz — I spent 3 out of 5 years at Keister Apartments off of Keister Road. Which is why it took me 5 years to graduate. I heard a few years back that those projects burned down or were torn down. Probably good for the overall graduation rate.

  64. Got a late start today. Work got in the way. Usually, I find a way to manage my way through it, but not on this day. So, I just worked my way through all the comments.

    First off, I loved the article DK! Very well written, as always. Great topic!

    I don’t know how many of you have noticed, but there are a whole lot of people on here today commenting that either don’t comment very often or don’t comment at all. I suspect they loved DK’s article, felt it connected with them in some way, and felt compelled to chime in. A whole lot of them, I would guess, often read the blog but have not felt the need or desire to jump in until now. I, for one, absolutely love that.

    I also love that the regulars here, and by that I mean the people that have been the caretakers of this blog for long before I ever showed up, are immediately accepting of newcomers. Sometimes it is hard for a new poster, I think, to dip his or her foot in the pool (or the pond). It is kind of like showing up at Cheers and just grabbing a seat next to Norm and jumping into the conversation. You never quite know if you are offending anyone, or whether they are going to tell you to get lost. No one here ever takes that attitude with anyone. All are welcome. People fight from time to time, and yes it can get pretty testy now and again. But, by and large, this is a great forum and a very accepting one. In the end, we usually (I said usually) settle our differences and shake hands, figuratively speaking. I am thankful for that.

    As for the Bucs, I have said all along they are very, very much on the right track IMO – and it is just my opinion. I don’t think they are yet a great team, but I also don’t rule it out. I do think they are a legit good team that I have thought should finish in the 85 win range all along. With some good luck, I thought 90 was possible. With some bad luck, I thought 81 might be a struggle. I no longer feel 81 is a struggle, and I don’t think anyone in the organization is still of that mindset. We only need to go 35-50 to get to 82-80. For some people, that will be enough for this year. I am totally fine with that viewpoint, but I am past that stage. This is now about the playoffs for me, and I will be disappointed if this season ends at game 162. I choose to be optimistic simply because that is how I was raised. My dad always said nothing much gets accomplished by people who expect bad things to happen. There are enough bad things that can happen in life that are out of our control that I am not going to take bad thoughts into something as simple as a baseball season – even if it is year #21.

    I recognize that this losing streak has gone on so long that we will not all totally buy into where this franchise is headed at the same pace. I can’t tell someone else what to think or how they should feel about all of it. But, I can tell that interest in this team is sky high right now. That is a very good thing. For those of you who live in town, if you don’t have tickets already for this weekend, you may find it harder than usual to obtain them last minute. I think weekend day games will slowly but surely also be tougher tickets to obtain. This is all good. I think we are being rewarded for hanging in there all those years, and I think the reward is just beginning. All are free to agree or disagree, as always. If you are having a hard time believing because the wounds are too deep, I get that as well. I think you’ll end up back on the train before long. I don’t know that, of course. I just choose to believe it. We’ll see.

    • +1 for the post.

      +2 for the Pond reference. :)

    • I’m in the first passenger seat on that train. Enjoying every minute of it.
      Jim, I thoroughly enjoy your contributions to the give and take on this blog. Hope you stick around a long time.

    • Glad to have you here, Jim. I enjoy your company.

      I guess Milo is Norm. But, who, then, is Cliff ?

      • I thought I would be Norm, coz I am the fat guy………..

        • The only person I have ever persoally met on this blog is JD and he was a great guy. Otherwise, I have no idea what anybody looks like. So, I do not want anyone to think I think Milo is big. Only clever and been around the blog awhile.

      • Thanks, John. I don’t about Cliff. That will take some thinking. Sam is still up for grabs, too. And Frazier, of course. Coach, Woodie. Diane. So many.

        • My favorite line ever from Cheers is Norm saying to somebody after that asked where Sam was “He’s taking a Clavin”.

          The actor that played Cliff is now on a show called Legit that is on FX. Very funny but definately not for everyone.

          • John Ratzenberger, right? I think he also hosts a show on cable that has something to do with skilled laborers. I heard him talking once about how we are no longer producing enough people in this country who can operate technical machinery, etc. That is true, btw.

    • Well said Jim. I know what you mean about being hard to post at first.

      Good analogy with Cheers.

      I wish I could check in and post more during the day but work prevents it, not blocked just a lot to do at work.

  65. New game thread is up, BTW

  66. Thanks Jim, well stated. You are a welcome contributer to the blog. I always enjoy reading your post and agree with almost everything you say.

  67. **** A T T E N T I O N ***
    Any new comers, we hope you like what you see here. We love “chatting” with you.
    Bizrow (a regular contributor) has complied a list of hometowns for everyone who participates here, and we’d like to add YOUR hometown to Dejan’s Lunatics’ Asylum list.
    Please chime in anywhere and Biz or I will see it and make sure you’re represented on the list.
    THANKS! :)

  68. one last thought from me before i have a client meeting and then head to Safeco for an audience with the King…..

    Seems to me it is way, way easier to post something to the effect of ” Let’s see where the Pirates are around Labor Day” pessimistic view than it is to “This team is different, I can see 85-90 wins and playoffs” at this juncture….

    I think Clint says it all the time and it is worth noting again and again… many of THESE players have nothing to do with 1993 – 2012. All of them I think have zero to do with anything prior to 2008. If this team either collapses, stays the course or soars into the World Series, it will be purely and only because of what THIS TEAM does on the field over the next 86 games.

    For the players (not the fans and it is that perspective that DK so effectively took today in the column), the only perspective on the past that is worthwhile is last year, and Clint constantly talks about the lessons learned and things they are actively doing differently and how each player has ‘things to work with’ this year to avoid the same result. Even 2011 in my mind is out of bounds given the roster turnover and the fact that that team was more ‘freak show’ then true contender.

    I will add that NH hopefully will have learned from 2012 that the players — and the chemistry — are looking for bold additions at the deadline for deficient areas, not safer ‘years of control’ moves… RF is the target there, and it doesn’t have to be Stanton (it won’t be) to do the trick.

    Let’s go Bucs.

    • Well said, cmat. You are on your game today – especially with the pressure of needing to get something on the record, then conduct business, then get to Safeco. I envy the last part today.

  69. Aaron Hernandez has been charged with murder.

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