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Morning Java: A column just for kicks

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The ridiculous Monday column fulfills a challenge made a year ago as to whether or not I could score on a Riverhounds goalkeeper on a penalty kick.

No, really, that’s the topic.

Hey, they can’t all be super-serious magnum opuses like the Sunday column on Jason Grilli.

Here’s the video of the actual session, middle three kicks only …

And here’s my conversation afterward with keeper (and good sport) Ryan Hulings

I can’t sufficiently express my appreciation to CEO Jason Kutney, coach Justin Evans and others with the Riverhounds for their cooperation on this. And I’ll repeat here what’s in the column: They’re well worth watching and, actually, becoming more entertaining offensively as the season progresses.

And even if you’re not remotely into soccer, there’s always this view I snapped later from the press box …


>> The Pirates drop two of three to the lowly Cubs, by Karen Price in Chicago.

>> The Steelers seek a sequel from L.T., by Ralph Paulk.

>> Ray Shero plays the Penguins’ hero, by Rob Rossi.

>> If you missed it last night on WPXI-TV, here’s The Final Word.

>> I’ll visit with TribLIVE Radio today at noon.

>> A final thing today: This blog’s never been much of a billboard for Trib promotions, but some of you have asked in the past how you could see/buy our actual print product from out of town.

The answer is a thing called eTrib. It’s the online version of the newspaper, and there’s an absurd sale on it for four weeks at a total of 99 cents.

And no, I don’t get commission.

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.


  1. Read the column DK. Its great that the Hounds allowed you to take up the challenge, even if it was with the third goalie. I really need to get down and watch a game on that pitch. The view from the stands is outstanding.

    As for the Bucs, you win some and you lose some. This is a game that they probably should have never allowed the Cubs to hang around in. Hopefully, with the A’s in town, the bats can come back to life and Locke, Cole, and Franky can keep the A’s bats at bay.

  2. Great view!

  3. * “But I do have a sweet red jersey from a Serbian club team, as well as a matching headband.”
    – greatest line ever…. only outdone by the video!

    * Pirates need to score runs, doesn’t look like the pitching staff is going to be the culprit to a disappointing finish to the season and that might be intensified if Neil Walker goes down again. The sooner they make a move, the better it will be as it puts pressure on others to improve and this team needs a boost offensively now, I wouldn’t wait until the deadline.

    * Pitching is really good. AJ Burnett was fine today. Might need one more late inning reliever to support Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli as I’m not sure we want to see Tony Watson or Justin Wilson having to get a good RH batter out late in a game if those two guys are unavailable.

    * Pedro has to hit in the HR Derby…. and I think he has a chance to take a step in his star power with being in his hometown of NY and what he could do there. I suspect the contract extension is about to go up a notch.

    * Something Ray Shero has to fear, if one of the NHL forwards gets injured… who is NHL ready to step up to the bigs. Tom Kuhnhackl has the size and pedigree but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy or produce. Pens need him to come to camp and compete.

    • Just finished the Grilli column. Lots of good info from a lot of different people.

      • Not sure why my comment ended up there.

        I just finished the column by DK….not one of Bowsers.

        BTW EB, are you predicting a ‘disappointing finish to the season’ now?

        • No… I think they’ll finish with a good record. Disappointing would be not making the playoffs at this point. Not major disappointing like the last two collapses or the last 20 years but disappointing nonetheless.

          • I’m still very hopeful this year’s team makes the post-season. But I also agree that the expectations for them have been changed. That’s a great thing.

  4. Love your article. You take risks and put yourself out there. :-), I really like that about you. Plus your writing never fails to inform, entertain and inspire curiosity.

    Keep up the good work.

    DK: Thanks, Deb. That’s very kind.

  5. At age 10, forty years ago, I teed up a football on the astro turf at the Vet, and “made” a 27 yard “field goal.” So, since an extra point is only 20 yards, I’d say kicking an extra point qualifies as easy.

  6. Boy DK, after reading your experience, I feel for you.

    Back in the mid-80′s, the Pittsburgh Spirit (remember them??) , had a thing for every game, a fan, the head of a group, and a team executive would try to put a ball in the goal, just cant remember what it was for. Anyway, being I was the head of Pitt’s group that always got special prices for students to go to the games, I was frequently put out on the surface to kick the darn ball into the net. In my career, I was 0 for 9. Yep, an o-fer.

    Back on campus, I was the FG kicker for our intramural football team. Could make a FG from all over the place, from 30-35 yards in. i was always in trouble, because I frequently put the PAT’s in the stands…… resulting in someone having to go get it.

    Go figure, could kick the football thru the uprights consistently, couldnt put a soccer ball in a net. No goalie. Yet I gagged every time.

    PS — I still like soccer even thought I broke my ankle playing a match in 1986.

  7. I didn’t see too much of the Pirate games this weekend, but I don’t like the fact that the Pirates lost a series to an extremely lesser team.
    It becomes more and more obvious to me every day that this team still can consistently hit….And consequently lacks in scoring runs.
    They continue to squander good pitching efforts.
    When you hold teams to three runs in nine innings….Winning should be definite.
    I understand not toying too heavily with chemistry, but RF has to be addressed.
    Jose Tabata and Travis Snider will not cut it in a pennant race…..

    • Jose has actually played respectably these two games he’s been back, albeit two games is merely two games. But I do wonder if he is being showcased. He has an incredibly trade-friendly contract.

      • When he signed that contract I thought it was team friendly but not so much anymore given his injury history and production.

      • Tabata has played pretty well since upon his return from the DL. Like many other fans out there, I have no trust that Tabata will be able to sustain this long term & Snider is a real disappointment. RF needs to be addressed – too bad the Bucs gave up on Brandon Moss.

    • Correction…still can NOT consistently hit.

    • Jose Tabata currently has the second best OPS on the team.

      • I don’t care what his OPS is….You will shortly see that he is not going to cut in a pennant race.
        If not for a Nutting-friendly contract, I’m not sure that Tabata is a member of this team in spring training.

        • Cheap Nutting. If he wasn’t so cheap maybe we’d have an right fielder who is hitting at least better than Marte.

          Oh, that’s right, we already do.

          Pardon me if I have a hard time taking your predictions seriously, but just about every one I’ve seen you make over the years has been wrong, often spectacularly wrong.

        • Daq,
          Pay Sis no mind. His MO is to make snotty, drive-by comments directed at other posters. Claiming Tabata is hitting better than Marte is just one of his disingenuous (to be polite) gems. Looked it up. Tabby has only been around for about 28% of the at-bats Marte has given us. Because of this, Tabby’s OPS jumped FIFTY points yesterday for having one good day. Without yesterday, Tabby’s lucky if he cracks the Pirates’ Top 10.

          I’m actually hoping Tabby does well. Have nothing against him personally and his success can only help us. But the clock is about to strike midnight for him…

          • Actually it might be smarter to pay mind to somebody who has occasionally been right about the Pirates over the last few years instead.

            • Unfortunately….I’ve been right plenty.
              You just “forget” to remember those times.
              I’m assuming you’re always right?…..

      • Tabata’s OPS is nothing but a fluke – a small sample size. But, for now, the BMTIB has been handed him the RF job on a silver platter. Chances are he’ll never sustain it long term.

        • You beat me to it; I concur. Wish Tabata well but not mortgaging the house on him.

          • I personally do not care for Tabata. However, if he can demonstrate that he can contribute as our regular RFer, I will put my personal feelings aside.

            I have to believe the BMTIB is working on a contingency plan here, though.

            • Agree with that, too. As I stated above, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tabby is being showcased before a trade.

              • Given his production and injury history, I’d be surprised if any team would want to take on the $11.5 owed him through 2016.

              • I agree with 21 about Tabata’s trade value. He might evolve into a decent player eventually but,since he signed his long term contract, he has done NOTHING to prove his worth.

                The other GMs know it so we are pretty much stuck with Tabata.

              • Not likely. If he stinks, he has no value. If he’s good, why trade him?

        • Maybe it is a fluke. Maybe some people are forgetting that Tabata was a highly rated prospect with the Yankees and is still only 24 years old, or that he hit well for the Pirates as a 21 year old rookie. I don’t know how he’s going to turn out. Neither does Daq. The thing to do is give him enough rope this month in the hopes that he doesn’t hang himself before the trade deadline.

          • Nice intellectual consistency. You essentially contradict yourself between this post and your 2:47 post, just above.
            This post (“give him enough rope this month in the hopes that he doesn’t hang himself before the trade deadline”) comes closer to what I’ve been saying.

  8. Dejan’s result notwithstanding, I still believe penalty kicks are the easiest thing in sports. They are one of the main reasons I’ve never gotten interested in soccer. It’s crazy to have two teams battle on even terms for a couple hours, then have the outcome of the game be decided by which goalie guesses correctly.

    Move the penalty kicks back another 10-20 yards and make the players actually need to exhibit some skill to score, as well as giving the goalies a chance to utilize their reflexes, and I’d be much more interested.

    • Not that I know very much about soccer, but wouldn’t a kick coming from 10~20 yards deeper be extremely easy for the goalie to read and get to?

      • The goalie has to pretty much pick a side and dive toward it, with perfect timing. The net is too big to react after the kick. Goalies have to try to read the body language of the striker, and then pick a side. Or, they can stay in the middle and hope the striker kicks it there, which occasionally they do. Some players don’t like going for corners because there is too much margin for error.

        Totally a mental exchange between the 2 players.

        • JIm,
          That’s at the current distance. From another ten — and especially twenty — yards deeper, I would think that the goalie now has more time to react and at least get a hand to where it needs to be.

    • Its not as easy as it looks. Strike it on the wrong part of the foot, and the ball goes off on its on tangent. Lean back to far on the kick, and the ball goes sailing over the net. Needs to be struck just right for it to go. My high school team back in the day – we would have weekly competitions to see who would be the PK kicker for the coming match. Needless to say, I never was the PK kicker. Always sailed mine high and wide. Just use to striking the ball to clear the ball out.

    • You talk about how easy it is and theoretically it should be easy, however, the mental aspect of a PK is huge. I played varsity soccer for four years in high school and watched several of our best players miss PKs. I also saw our keeper make some ridiculous saves on PKs. The reflexes the goal keepers have and their ability to read the body motion and eyes of the shooter is downright unreal, and this was just a high school keeper, not a professional.

  9. Speaking of things that seem easy, and really are, how about whiffing Snider, Inge and forcing McKenry into a pop-up?

    Not to be critical.

    • All 3 need to be replaced … soon, DJ.

      Don’t need blockbuster deals to upgrade at all 3 slots. We just need competent replacements. Presley for Snider seems like a quick and easy decision. Snider’s confidence looks non-existent at the moment to me.

  10. You know what kills me about soccer?
    The off-sides rule.

    How in the heck do you make a sport with a moving blue line?
    I never could get the hang of it, so I played sweeper for my intramural team in college.

    Sweeper is a great job.
    Clear out anyone who comes into your zone, and then kick the ball as hard as you can.

    That being said, I’ll still never be a fan of soccer.
    I did, however, read your column as always, DK.
    Keep up the good work!

  11. Is it just me or does it seem we are operating at about a 15% rate lately in getting a runner on third base home with less than two outs? And with some of our better RBI guys at the plate.

    My sense tells me that between McCutchen and Alvarez, they’ve left about 25 of those easier RBIs on the field this year. I won’t burden myself with the actual stat, however.

  12. On the soccer field photo above, is that a separate Trib sign on the Mon or just the back side of the Pirates Charities sign over at PNC Park?

  13. Soccer played outside the United States is called “football” and is a game of magical attraction. The only time that penalty kicks are awarded during a game is when a defender has physically fouled an attacker or used a hand or arm to block the ball. Only championship games that have to have a winner are decided by penalty kicks. Otherwise, the games go into overtime and if there is no result are counted as draws.

    Apart from appreciating the running, passing and shooting skills of individual players and the teamwork between them, one of the true beauties of the game is the sudden change from defending to attacking, and then back again, all within a second or two, as possession switches from one team to the other. In that sense, it is a bit like basketball, but played without hands on a larger surface and much lower scores.

    To see a world class soccer player running at full speed while controlling the ball, weaving in and out among defenders who are trying to make a “tackle,” and then shooting at the goal with precision and accuracy, is one of the wonders to behold in the game.

    The offside rule is necessary to prevent attacking teams from flooding the goal mouth with players and scoring more easily. The rule does not apply, however, on corner kicks–another fascination of the game.

    Watch a world class team like Manchester United or Real Madrid or A C Milan or Bayern Munich play the game for an hour and a half and you will witness athletic poetry in motion.

    • This was a good post. Your appreciation for the sport comes through.

      I’ve tried watching games. Both the USA men’s squad when they made the final eight in the World Cup, and our women’s, who are almost always playing for the WC or Olympic title. It can be exciting at times, but so far the sport has not managed to sustain my interest.

    • Add a bit to that, the only time a penalty shot is awarded is when the foul or handball happens inside the box in front of the goal. Same foul at midfield would just be a free kick, not a penalty shot.

    • Not sure about soccer’s beauty. To me, it’s all a little Messi.

      Kidding aside, fascinated by the game and love the World Cup and Messi, arguably the world’s best athlete in a team sport but certainly no lower than top 5.

    • Great post, War!

    • Glad someone else around here appreciates the sport. I played soccer all the way through high school and it was by far my favorite sport to play. The amount of skill, stamina, and smarts you need to have to play the game is spectacular. Much of the excitement of the game is lost when you watch it on TV though. To really appreciate a soccer match, you have to be there, watching it in person. Only then can you appreciate it.

      On another note, soccer fans are the greatest fans of any sport out there, and I’m not just talking about fans in Europe or fans in World Cup games. Two stories about this. Went to a Columbus Crew vs. DC United game in DC back in high school. We were sitting in a section next to a large group of Crew fans who had driven down from Columbus. These people did not sit down or stop cheering the entire game. I didn’t realize we had those types of fans in the US.

      Second, I went and saw a professional game in Honduras. We had the joy of getting to watch the game in the capital city and the local team, Olympia, was playing. The locals we were watching the game with told us before the game started to watch the local fan section when Olympia scored a goal. Olympia scored and we watched. The entire fan section (it was behind one of the goals) sprinted down the stands to the front of the bleachers, some jumping halfway up the fence at the bottom, and then they all sprinted to the top of the bleachers. While all of this is going on, someone else was setting off firecrackers in the bleachers. I was sitting their with my jaw dropped. It was crazy.

      • “These people did not sit down or stop cheering the entire game. I didn’t realize we had those types of fans in the US.”

        Haven’t you ever been to a college football game? :-)

      • Except sometimes they take it far too seriously in other countries. The tragic story about the ref and player in the Brazilian league is just tragic. Soccer fans lose perspective quite often in other countries, and they use their passion as an excuse to do all sorts of horrible things. Happens far too often.

  14. I’ll forgive the soccer subject, Dejan.

    Just this once.

    But all those abject adjectives?

  15. JAL’s Candy Everybody Wants Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates Stats

    5 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker

    BLOGS and such

    6—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: What Led to Last Year’s Collapse and Why This Year Is Different

    Cubs Break Through in Extra Innings to Win Series

    Prospect Watch: Taillon Has a Good Start; JaCoby Jones Gets a Start at SS

    7 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates lose in extra innings to Cubs, 4-3

    Why we still root for the Pirates: An interview with Eric Simons


    Game 89: Cubs 4 Pirates 3

    9 The Green Weenie

    Bucs Fall In 11 To Cubs 4-3

    10 Rumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball: The Neal Huntington Show

    Can Liriano compete for Cy Young award?

    11 Raise the Jolly Roger

    Cubs 4 Pirates 3

  16. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    12 Chicago Tribune

    Late-game drama goes Cubs’ way,0,7469805.story

    13 New Jersey Com

    Federovitch: Pittsburgh Pirates are a compelling story in baseball

    14 Rant Sports

    Starling Marte Should Have Been An All-Star For Pittsburgh Pirates

    15 Las Vegas Review-Journal

    Bettors think hot Pirates won’t run out of steam

    16 CBS Sports

    Athletics-Pirates Game Preview

    17 Post Tribune

    Jose Contreras looking at comeback with Indianapolis Indians

    18 PBC Site

    Marte’s heroics force extras, but Bucs fall to Cubs

    Notebook: Soreness in side has Walker out of lineup


    19 Baseball Prospectus

    The Week In Quotes

    20 Fangraphs

    Estimating Pitcher Release Point Distance from PITCHf/x Data

  17. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Lawrence Timmons sees himself as a ‘game-changer’

    Matt Hasselbeck wants to win a Super Bowl on a Steelers-like Colts team

    22 Steelers Depot

    - Steelers Starting Running Back Battle Will Be Fun to Watch


    23 Daily Mail

    Messi upstaged in front of Henry and Co as amateur scores overhead kick wonder goal

    24 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 5 July, 2013

  18. George Plimpton, you are not… at least on the pitch. You couldn’t find a proper boot for the challenge? Crikey.

    On the other hand, nice piece…if people would only realize just how difficult the game is; how running six to eight miles per game; how creative and elaborate, or simple and straightforward, or imaginative and cunning the game really is.

    And you’re correct about the language and terminology. Each sport has its own and soccer’s language is much more exacting in detail than most American sports (the Brit influence).

  19. I think Dejan proved his point. He still scored, and nearly had another.

    Try bringing in any guy off the street to hit a ML pitch, or a minor league pitch.

    It won’t happen 20% of the time.

    • 20%? You bring in someone off the street to hit MLB pitching and he won’t hit it 100% of the time……or, equillivant to Travis Snider at this point.

  20. DK:

    I applaud the nerve it took to do that, knowing it probably: a) would not go well; and b) was going to be on camera. Seriously, I give you “High Marks” for the effort.

    You proved a good point about soccer. Turns out it’s really, really hard. I have a daughter who plays at a very high level. She’ll be a high school senior this year in IL, and has had a scholarship to a B1G school since shortly after her sophomore year. She plays outside, and speed and agility are her strengths. The things she, and many others on the field can do with a ball become more amazing when you’ve never played before but are forced to try it yourself.

    I remember a few years ago, just for fun, my daughter’s club coach invited the parents to play a friendly scrimmage vs.the girls, who were maybe 11 at the time. I figured, “Hey, I run and work out. I’m in good shape for an old guy. I’m pretty sure I’m a good athlete – or, at least I was. I may not have ever played soccer before, but how hard could it be for a guy who played baseball, basketball, etc?”

    The coach played keeper against us, and I recall at one point he said to me, “Are you trying to kick the ball directly at me? There’s an entire net to shoot at.” I could go on and on, but I’ll just say that soccer is one hard game. The fitness level and skill of the players at higher levels is stunning and cannot be fully comprehended until you get out there and do it. Think about how awkward the simple act of manipulating a ball with your feet is. For novices like me, it was very humbling, very fast.

    That doesn’t mean it is a game for everyone. A lot of people in the states did not grow up playing soccer, as in my case. We thought the kids in my neighborhood who played were wimps. I now know that was not the case. I’ve come to love and embrace soccer, although I still won’t get caught uttering the phrase “The Beautiful Game” anytime soon.

    I think one of the biggest impediments to the game catching a better hold in this country is the often dismissive and arrogant attitude of other sports held by soccer enthusiasts. They drive away a lot of people they should be trying to attract. I grant you that soccer is difficult, and I proved that. But, put some European soccer coach on a baseball field and have him try to hit a 90 MPH fastball or run down a line drive in the gap. Maybe ask him to run 75 ft at top speed while driblling a basketball, and pull up and make a 20 foot shot on the run. That person would gain a better understanding very quickly of how much skill it takes to play any sport at a high level, just as I did when I tried my hand at soccer.

  21. “…even did a little stretching in that I stood up upon getting out of my car.”
    Thanks, Dejan…almost spit out my Pepsi reading that. Made it feel less like a George Plimpton column…more like Dave Barry.
    Seriously, though…good column.

  22. About that ball game yesterday, at Wrigley …

    * Took my 3 kids.

    * Enjoyed it very much, although Chicago summer humidity can be brutal – and it was yesterday.

    * The Bucs blew so many chances to seize that game early vs. a soft Chicago pitching staff.

    *.229 with RISP on the season is last in the NL, I believe. It has to get better, and I assume it will. I mean, if most everyone agrees that we will do worse in the 2nd half of the year in the categories we appear to be over-performing it stands to reason we will improve where we are struggling. Right? Seems logical.

    * Marte’s HR absolutely took all of the air out of Wrigley. Fans were all standing, waiting for that last strike. He hit the HR, and half the place immediately went home.

    * The Cubs hit about 4 balls well all day. The Bucs actually scalded a lot of balls, but hit way too many right at people all day long. Long OF line drives, flyballs to the wall, extremely hard hit balls right at infielders for rally-killing DP’s. It was just one of those days where the breaks did not go our way, and we did not take advantage of numerous opportunities.

    We’ll be fine. You can’t win all the close ones.

  23. DK,

    Great piece as per usual. Good you put your money where your mouth and foot were and tried something new. Many of us do not have the guts to put ourselves out on a limb and write from a love and respect of the craft the way you do. Thank you very much.

  24. I’m not pushing the panic button, but this weekend shows that you can’t take any club for granted.

    They are all full of professional atheletes and if you don’t play well, they will kick your arse.

    That being said, I’m thinking PRNW might be out for a while? If so, what roster move do we make?

    It seemed as though PRNW was coming around with the stick.

    • Remember, we dont need to make any moves at the deadline.
      Stay the course, all is well.

      In the meantime, enjoy the Brandon Inge/Clint Barmes variety show !!! ;)

      • Followed by Neal Huntington hosting The Gong Show.

      • plan,
        With 3.5 weeks until the trading deadline, who is saying that we don’t need to make any moves?

        Are you saying that you feel all is well and we don’t need to make any moves?

        • Moves will be made. It is a necessity at this point to address some issues, such as the RF conundrum. Some we will agree with, some will make the blog blow up like the Stay Put Marshmallow Man.

        • TC,

          I believe that was an jab towards DK’s column from last week, but there is no need to panic, just yet.

          Plain and simple though, Snider, Inge, McKenry, and Barmes are not getting the job done.

          • What does he know?!

            Oh no, there goes my percentage.

            And I am much more concerned about RF and Inge ( he is also a terrible pinch hitter).
            I’m not worried about the backup catcher and backup shortstop at this point.

            • Dang,TC, you’re in a thundercloud mood this morning! :P

            • Are you worried about the chemistry?***

              *** I’m actually being serious and not sarcastic for once.

              • I am not worried about chemistry at all.

                I would be extremely worried if they got rid of Inge and it somehow disrupted ‘the chemistry’. That would mean that many of the players on the roster are dummies —and fail to see that Inge can’t play anymore.

        • TC

          yes, I was referencing DK’s column.
          But there are many Pirate fans who agree with him.

          Not me.

          We need a bat in RF, and pitching depth.
          Dont want to give away the farm, but neal needs to look hard at upgrades.

          • Sorry, that reference went over my head

            But to be fair, if Walker is injured I would imagine that DK may change his opinion.

      • ^This

        Guy is slashing .332/.388/.482 with 18% k-rate and 8% BB-rate. No platoon split to speak of.

        Tell me he would not be an improvement over Brandon Inge.

        • I wouldn’t like to you like that, NMR ;)

        • Numbers say he is a consistent bat which is sorely lacking. Play all the spectacular consistent defense you want, but if the runs are not coming, it’s time for a new body.

        • Wouldn’t mind seeing what he can do…I’m still not convinced that Jordy is the answer, but he’s better than the alternative at this point.

        • Somebody beat me to the punch on this one. I was going to post about him but then scrolled down and saw he was already mentioned. People forget this guy was a high level prospect at shortstop before the injuries. He is not on the 40 man but either would anyone we trade for be. Why not find a way to get him on the the 40 man and give him a chance. He certainly hasn’t done anything to hurt his case.

        • Not to mention an .871 OPS. I say go for DeJesus and get him up here – NOW!! His old man played a good 10 to 15 years in the bigs so, maybe he has a decent bloodline.

          He has to be better than (Cr)Inge. At this point, Dick Schofield, Sr. or the O’Brien twins might be better than Inge!

      • Hey, could he be our backup infielder going forward? Can he play 3B?

        • Yes, he can play 3B, from what I read.

          • Thanks. Would you feel comfortable with him in our lineup the rest of the way or should we still trade for one?

            • Thats tough.

              As a backup infielder/part time 2B? Sure, why not.

              As a starter? No, no I wouldn’t.

              For the record, I previously thought that 2B should be a position that is open for improvement even before Neil Walker’s latest injury. Guy simply isn’t getting it done.

              • That Utley guy would look nice in the middle of the order.

              • Walker obviously isn’t hitting like he has in the past but his OBP is still at an acceptable level for me.

              • @TJ – I’ve always loved his swing, so I am admittedly biased, but Utley would be a huge upgrade over Walker.

                @21 – Absolutely right. The problem is that he’s been used too often as a run producer when he simply is not getting the job done.

              • Utley would be a nice addition, but won’t happen.

                We dreamt about Stanton, this one is even more out there.

                But I too have always liked his swing.

              • You mean not getting it done this year? Absolutely. But personally a down year for him at this point doesn’t make me feel like the position should be open for improvement. I also feel like he has improved defensively.

                I think we have a number of needs right now and going into the next year or two. This one isn’t one my radar screen yet.

              • @21

                Keyword “yet”.

                This is obviously just my opinion, but I don’t see Walker aging well. I think the last six months are going to be closer to what we see in the future than what he did in 2010.

                Last year we saw him struggle to hit lefties while strikeouts started to creep north. His .325 BABIP was also due to come back down to earth.

                Factor in injuries starting to pile up with his history as a football player / catcher and I don’t think its crazy to imagine a guy who will already finish 2013 as a 28 yo past his peak.

              • “I don’t think its crazy to imagine a guy who will already finish 2013 as a 28 yo past his peak.”

                I don’t think it’s crazy either but I’m not concerned. I don’t care what sports he played in high school and what position he played in the minors.

            • When you think about walker it’s hard to believe he has been in the system for almost 10 years. The thing that worries me is the back injury. You just never know with those types of injuries. With the injuries he’s been having he’s starting to remind me of Jose Silva who couldn’t walk to the mound without breaking something

              • Again, not trying to be an alarmist. Not saying this is set in stone and the guy is a bum.

                But the arbitration gravy train is already set in motion for Mr. Walker. He’s going to start getting more and more expensive.

                These are the kind of jams that sneak up on a team. Before you know it, you’re paying a 2B $8m to play 130 games and not break a .750 OPS.

              • I agree with NMR.

                I don’t see NW as the long term answer at 2B. He’s been a nice piece to the puzzle, but his numbers continue to drop.

                I do think he’ll spend the rest of his arbitration years with the Pirates, but I don’t see any long term extension being handed over to him.

                Maybe an extension to buy out his arbi years, just to keep the price lower.

              • Weird…

                so I actually looked up numbers instead of going by my eye, which I usually do and was surprised that NW’s OBP is a few points higher than last year and almost the same as his break out year of 2010.

              • @Ryan

                He deserves A LOT of credit for that. Drawing more walks than ever before.

                He’s also still above average vs. righties (.812 OPS).

                But it’s the little things adding up that have me worried. Increased platoon splits, injuries, and cold streaks aren’t usually signs of a guy who is aging gracefully.

              • I agree. His right/left numbers are so out of whack, have people talking about keeping him on the left side.

                Does he then become a platoon candidate? I know you’ve mentioned that before.

                What NW truly deserves credit for, is his defense. Remarkable where he’s come.

              • Neil has refused to entertain the idea of giving up switch hitting this year, from what I’ve read.

                But yeah, watching Brandon Inge, who is supposedly a capable major league second baseman, really puts into perspective just how far Walker has come with the glove.

  25. I can understand that NH is unable to make a move for a starting RF but why can’t he go out and obtain a backup infielder for the time being so we can part ways in Inge?

  26. The Nationals acquire Scott Hairston, could they NOT have gotten him before the weeknd?

  27. Nats have traded for Scott Hairston. They gave up their 27th ranked prospect for Hairston and his non-PED helped .172 average.

    • One more name to cross of the potential trade target list for NH. Seems like the type of roster fodder that NH would go after. But give the Nats and Dodgers credit; they have seemed to identified their weakness and tried to address it before the deadline.

  28. I have been spinning my wheels on the past few weeks of Penguins activities and something kind of stood out to me and I was curious as to others thoughts…

    Despite some in the front office calling for Bylsma to be fired he was extended for 2 years.

    Bylsma is named head coach of the USA olympic team.

    So my head is trying not to play conspiracy theorist but I’m a huge conspiracy buff (JFK specifically) and will throw this out there. Shero who is or was about to be on board with the USA hockey management team and likely knew that Bylsma was a finalist or the choice to be head coach.

    Would Shero keep Bylsma only to see him hired by USA hockey as its head coach or would USA hockey have hired a different coach had he been fired by the Pens?

    I don’t believe either played a factor in the decision on Bylsma but its easy to throw out the idea that Shero pushed for Bylsma to be USA head coach and had to push to keep him with the Pens despite pressure to fire him possibly to keep USA hockey from looking bad for hiring a coach that had just been fired.

    • DK also said he was a JFK buff.

      Personally, I agree with those that say that Oswald acted alone.

      • You can really get yourself wrapped up into the JFK theories just like you can the 9/11 theories or for that matter most of the stuff that the government has done over the past 12 years.

        We could easily say the Pirates have been part of a conspiracy over the past 3 seasons; drawing us in with their winning only to lose it at the end. All a part of Nuttings master plan to take over the world!!

  29. Read the column. Liked the column. Certain that soccer players are tremendous athletes. Soccer is boring. Live. On TV. Penalize players for getting behind the defense. Boring.

    • I never understood why off sides is called in soccer. You eliminate that silly rule and you got a kickball game. Seriously get rid of it like they did the 2 line pass in hockey

  30. By the way, the Trib’s iPad app is a mess. Links open and then disappear replaced by some error message. I still have not been able to read the Grilli column. And this is an ongoing problem.

    • I second that, CW. It’s been a mess since we had that last blog meltdown where posts were appearing out of order. I assume that was because of an “upgrade.” Whatever it was, can’t really get to links, and sometimes I go to the Internet site to avoid the problems.

  31. Isn’t it strange how Sands was the name everybody kept mentioning during the Hanrahan trade but he currently seems to be the least likely to contribute piece of that trade. Obviously Melancon has been great. Stolmy has been inconsistant but his stuff looks good. He looks like he could at the very least be a bullpen guy or interesting spot starter. Dejesus has been nothing short of great in AAA. I can’t check his splits right now but he seems to have hit well all year with every month probably coming in above or near .300. Even Sands was starting to warm up before getting injured.

    • Isn’t Sands playing in the GCL now on a rehab assignment?

      • Wait…. If you are injured in AAA you get to go to AA on a rehab assignment? What happens if you get hurt in A ball? Sent to fantasy camp with Bob Walk?

    • Sands still may have something, he is only 25, which I would worry if he were in AA ball. I wouldn’t give up on him yet.

      Though his AAA numbers are aweful, could be because of the injury.

  32. Slow week at the office, didn’t have much work for the intern. Enter Jim’s comment from above:

    “*.229 with RISP on the season is last in the NL, I believe. It has to get better, and I assume it will.”

    So, Mr. Intern, what are the chances that Jim is right?

    I proposed a pretty simple test. One of the more widely accepted “sabermetric” theories is that batting average with runners in scoring position isn’t a definable skill, but closely approximates overall batting average in large enough samples. Assuming that as the hypothesis, I had him compare each teams overall batting average to their average with runners in scoring position going back 10 years.

    The results couldn’t have verified the hypothesis any more clearly. Over the last ten seasons the league-wide difference in BA and RISP is exactly 0.00093. Case closed.

    Seeing as the Pirates don’t have 10 years worth of at-bats left in the season, my next question was how far does the difference fluxuate on a yearly basis.

    Turns out the 2004 Brewers and the 2012 A’s set the mark at +/- 0.027. Furthermore, only five of the 300 test samples came in at +/- 0.020 or greater.

    The Pirates, specifically, have never had their BA w/ RISP fall less than 0.005 below their overall BA over that ten year period.

    Without delving into confidence intervals, one can reasonably conclude that the Pirates current 14 point deficit is due for improvement. BUT, it is also firmly within the real of possibility that it won’t, or at least not enough to make a difference.

    Best way to increase BA w/ RISP is to increase overall BA. If this team is looking at additions, that is where it should start.

  33. Jesse Chavez with the 4 inning save for the A’s yesterday.

    I will light a candle in his honor.

    Hopefully he will be too tired to face the Buccos

    • This is a team the Buccos do NOT want to face right now. A’s are hotter than you-know-what.

      BTW, see if anybody notices who’s on 1B for them, no joke associated with this punch line.

      • I’m sure you see them more than I do Ryan, so correct me if I’m wrong, but this strikes me as the best team Billy Beane has put together.

        • In my time here in California, which has only been 3 years, I’d most definetly agree.

          These guys remind me of the Red Sox when they won the WS in 04′ or the Giants of 10.

          Very scrappy team with excellant pitching.

    • I hope I’m wrong, but I have a bad feeling about this upcoming series. The Pirates have looked really bad since squeezing out that win against the brewers last Sunday. Offense has severely sputtered and defense has looked sloppy. Oh, an we’ll likely be enjoying Brandon Inge on a regular basis until the all-star break.

      • Why Inge? Move mercer back to 2nd and Barnes at SS. Improves your offense from a .190 hitter to a .200 hitter.

        • Just a guess on my part based on Hurdle’s comments yesterday…..hope i’m wrong.

          “Inge needs to get some at bats to stay fresh to be able to have the chance to produce.”

          “he’s a guy that’s got barrel to his bat when he gets consistent at bats. When he gets consistent at bats, he’s shown the ability to produce runs.”

  34. Catching up on some reading & I just read Rob Rossi’s piece on Ray Shero from yesterday’s paper. Does whatever Shero pays Rossi count against the cap ?

  35. Just watched The Final Word for the first time. Like it a lot.

  36. AS a person who has watched a lot of Isotope baseball here in Albuquerque I always loved watching DeJesus play. Normally I was on the 3rd base side near the bag so plenty of chances to see him field and hit. Both he and Sands were very good players here for the Dodgers. Then again I also went to see JMaC a lot when he was pitching here and he sure changed. Would love to see DeJesus get a shot now before the ASB to see if he can cut it before the trade deadline.

    • Does the ball carry there as well as it does everywhere else in the PCL?

      Might explain Sands’ HR production.

      I had a buddy of mine play in that league, had similiar numbers to Sands, never panned out either…

      • Thinking the same thing.

        Always wondered if the altitude/atmosphere had a noticeable difference to the naked eye.

      • Ball does carry well here. ABQ is also a mile high city and downtown proper where the measurement comes from is lower than the ball park.

  37. The pitchforks will be out today as both Barmes and Inge are in today’s lineup. Alvarez moved to clean up and Jones dropped in order, interesting.

  38. Pedro batting cleanup tonight

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