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Morning Java: A truly special talent

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

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>> The Friday column appreciates all that went into Olli Maatta making the Penguins’ roster. He’s a truly special talent, and that’s not a term I toss around lightly.

Here’s some of my interview with the young man yesterday …

… as well as a couple questions I had for the captain on the same topic …

Some other randomness from Southpointe yesterday: Marc-Andre Fleury will play only two of the three games coming up the next four days, Dan Bylsma said, and one certainly would hope that means the Penguins buck the norm and use him both Friday and Saturday against the Isles and Leafs. I’ll be blunt here: With the way both those teams attack, Jeff Zatkoff will get annihilated. Save him for the Canes, and cross fingers. … A lot will be made of Fleury’s workload, but it shouldn’t. The great unspoken in the equation is that Fleury won’t go to Sochi. No way Canada takes him again after seeing all these playoff meltdowns in Pittsburgh. He’ll have two-plus weeks to freshen up in February. … These next two opponents will make for a great test of the new left-wing lock system. “People are going to have to face us for the first time playing this way, so yeah, it’ll be interesting,” Pascal Dupuis was telling me. … I’ll say no more than this: The Penguins’ players don’t think a whole lot of the various and sundry activities going on in Buffalo these days. … Sign me up for a Matt Niskanen trade, but not for a backup goaltender. You can get one of those for a lot less. … Would really hate to see Robert Bortuzzo get wasted. He’s shown real promise paired with Maatta.

News coverage of Maatta’s status is by beat man Rob Rossi. Lots of vital future info in here.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Islanders news from Newsday.

Here are official game highlights from NHL.com.

>> The Steelers got a history lesson on Oakland from Mike Tomlin. Good stuff from Alan Robinson.

Here’s our full Steelers coverage, including Ike Taylor’s restructure.

Here’s Raiders news from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Here are official game highlights from NFL.com.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls>> Jamie Dixon lands a nice recruit from Hampton in 6-8 Ryan Luther. Kevin Gorman has that.

You won’t be blown away by the other schools who offered, but it’s worth noting that one of them was Duquesne. Let that serve as just the latest example of how little cache the Dukes continue to carry in our region. And that’s why Jim Ferry is rounding up juco ringers from wherever he can. Can’t say I blame him. Fact is, nothing will change on the Bluff, fair or not, until there’s actual winning. Have to find that where you can.

>> Pitt football is facing a tough Navy rushing attack this weekend in Annapolis. Jerry DiPaola writes.

>> Penn State’s facing a tough Ohio State QB this weekend in Columbus. Chris Adamski writes.

>> The weekly chat will begin at noon right here on the blog, and you can submit entries as soon as you see the post. Just before that, I’ll check in with TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.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.

210 Comments

  1. Whoa, no comments yet?

  2. Excellent read DK. Good for the Pens to be pragmatic and be in the NOW.

  3. Having been out of town, I am curious as to how much playing time the backup goalie has seen?

  4. Song Perfect Ten The Beautiful South 1998—Paul Heaton wrote some biting lyrics but this song is more a set puns about relationship with Heaton and Jacqui Abbott trading lines.

    JAL’s Perfect Ten Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_cPa_79Ig8

    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 MLB Important Dates

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/schedule/important_dates.jsp

    BLOGS and such

    4—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: What Would the Pirates Do?

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/10/first-pitch-what-would-the-pirates-do.html

    Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Season Recap: The Bullpen

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/10/pittsburgh-pirates-2013-season-recap-the-bullpen.html

    Winter Leagues: Gregory Polanco Does It Again

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/10/winter-leagues-gregory-polanco-does-it-again.html

    The Pirates Should Become the Relief Pitching Factory

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/10/the-pirates-should-become-the-relief-pitching-factory.html

    AFL: Alen Hanson Homers In Loss, Phil Irwin Struggles

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/10/afl-alen-hanson-homers-in-loss-phil-irwin-struggles.html

    5 Bucs Dugout

    Should the Pirates trade for David Price?

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/10/25/5027014/is-trading-for-david-price-a-good-idea

    6 Rumbunter

    Pirates GM Neal Huntington Joins RumBunter Podcast

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/10/24/pirates-gm-neal-huntington-joins-rumbunter-podcast/

    7 D Rays Bay

    Gauging Interest in David Price, Part 3: Pittsburgh and Los Angeles (AL)

    http://www.draysbay.com/2013/10/24/5022326/gauging-interest-in-david-price-part-3-pittsburgh-pirates-los-angeles-angels

    8 The Green Weenie

    Pirates – Who Is Coming Back In 2014?

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/10/pirate-contract-decisions-for-2014.html

    9 Pirates Official Site

    Streaking Scorpions walk off on Hanson’s hit

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20131023&content_id=63266146&vkey=news_pit&c_id=pit

    10 City of Champions

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Grading the 2013 outfielders

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/2013/10/23/pittsburgh-pirates-grading-2013-outfielders/

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Should right field really be an offseason priority?

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/2013/10/23/pittsburgh-pirates-right-field-really-offseason-priority/

  5. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Boston Globe

    Michael Wacha got big help in Game 2

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/10/25/michael-wacha-got-big-help-game/gSJIXs5IK20hTZ4Pqw88IM/story.html

    12 Beaver County Times

    Madden: Bucs need to let Byrd fly away

    http://www.timesonline.com/columnists/sports/mark_madden/madden-bucs-need-to-let-byrd-fly-away/article_de2bc2b8-7bbd-5693-8d27-2806703a0ddb.html

    13 Rant Sports

    Trading Jason Grilli Might Make Some Sense For Pittsburgh Pirates

    http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2013/10/24/trading-jason-grilli-might-make-some-sense-for-pittsburgh-pirates/

    14 Bay City Times

    Analysis: Lloyd McClendon very likely near top of list of managerial candidates for Detroit Tigers

    http://www.mlive.com/tigers/index.ssf/2013/10/analysis_lloyd_mcclendon_likel.html

    15 Boston Herald

    Red Sox throw away Game 2

    http://bostonherald.com/sports/red_sox_mlb/boston_red_sox/2013/10/red_sox_throw_away_game_2

    16 Sporting News

    Sporting News MLB awards 2013: Miguel Cabrera voted Player of the Year

    http://www.sportingnews.com/mlb/story/2013-10-24/sporting-news-mlb-awards-miguel-cabrera-voted-player-of-the-year

    17 St Louis Post Dispatch

    Strauss: Wacha survives again in the deep end

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/joe-strauss/wacha-survives-another-night-in-the-deep-end/article_754ec994-bb65-5a5c-88f0-8e79822e0dc5.html

    Bernie: Cards find their way back

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/bernie-miklasz/bernie-cards-find-their-way-back/article_d94c6243-4238-59d8-a8ed-ce6c2a17593a.html

    18 Bloguin

    How all the other MLB teams have better fans than the Cardinals

    http://www.bloguin.com/theoutsidecorner/2013-articles/october/how-all-the-other-mlb-teams-have-better-fans-than-the-cardinals.html

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    Dollar Sign on the Muscle Excerpt Ellis Clary

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22110

    20 Fangraphs

    Moss Grows On the North Side, Flourishes In the East Bay

    http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/moss-grows-on-the-north-side-flourishes-in-the-east-bay/

  6. Dejan, like you, I am thrilled and excited that Maata is staying n the NHL. The kid is a natural. Count me as one of h is biggest fans.
    The next milestone will be game game 40. I’m hoping he passes that one too.
    Thanks for the great write up.

  7. He belongs. You don’t have to be a hockey expert to notice it. It woud have been silly to send him back at this point.

  8. Jamie Dixon received a verbal from 6’8″ Ryan Luther of Hampton. Pitt also will have 6’8″ Sheldon Jeter of Beaver Falls coming as a transfer next year. Jeter played his freshmen season at Vanderbilt, and is a JUCO player at Polk St. (FL) this season. Also, highly regarded Maverick Rowan of Lincoln Park has verballed for the Class of 2014 as well, and Pitt is looking hard at 7’0″ Satchel Pierce of The Kiski School in Saltsburg, who is receiving a lot of interest from other big-time programs. Kevin Gorman reported on this in today’s Trib.

    A lot of people, myself included, have questioned whether Jamie Dixon could transition both his roster and his coaching style to meet the up tempo, offensive demands of the ACC. He has already added several new athletic, slasher type players in this year’s class, and appears to be adding length, athleticism and scoring ability down the road.

    I’m a big fan of Jamie’s and have marveled at his success at Pitt over the last 10 years while fielding teams with limited athletic and shooting ability. But, the wave of the future, if we are to believe how the referees are expected to officiate NCAA games beginning this year, is toward a faster paced, up and down game. Jamie appears to be molding his future roster to adapt to that style. It is good to see. The only question left is whether he actually can successfully coach this new style. I believe he is bright enough and creative enough to adapt, while still having a leg up on rival coaches from a defensive standpoint. I believe Pitt will be a basketball power in the ACC for years to come with Jamie at the helm.

    • College basketball games aren’t even going to resemble basketball starting this season, thanks to the changes in officiating. Not only are the handcheck rules going to be more strictly enforced, the new rules regarding charges vs. blocks is going to KILL defense.

      In the past, a player looking to take a charge needed to set his feet before the opposing player left his. This year, they have to set their feet before the opposing player begins his “upward motion;” in other words, before he even decides to leave his feet.

      Our coach has already told his players, it’s going to take coaches in this country exactly one exhibition game to realize that the best game plan is to drive to the hoop on every play, because it’s going to be next to impossible to draw a charge.

      The teams that are going to succeed are going to be the ones that have strong perimeter defenders that move their feet well in transition D and can stop ball on a fast break, and can keep their defender in front of them through screens, switches, etc. Those things were always important, but will be even more so now.

      • Good post. I’m worried they have seriously damaged the game I love. What next ? Set shots only ? No dunks.

        Seems like serious regression to me. No hand checks ? C’mon! This is 2013!

        • I don’t know, Osh. If it forces teams like Pitt to open things up a bit, maybe grab an occasional rebound and start a face break, concentrate on making a few more outside shots, I’m all for it.

          If you are concerned that defense will be lost, hopefully that is not the intent. I believe there will be room for sound defense. I think a lot of schools were evolving into a suffocating, mugging style of defense that I didn’t like. I think you can play man-to-man defense and continue to do the basics of blocking out, etc. without clinging to the guy you are defending or having some big guy step out and impede a guard from ever going to the hoop. We’ll see.

          I don’t really want to see the old UNLV Running Rebels, but I also don’t want to so 48-43, either. Somewhere in the middle is fine with me.

          • I guess I’ll have to see how it shakes out. Maybe it’s not as ominous as I think. Teams will have to make adjustments and it will be difficult for some kids who have played the sport a certain way since they were 8 years old.

            I’d be a bit concerned if I was a team like Louisville.

            • And, I think it is a double whammy of sorts for Pitt. The new officiating will be hard for them to adapt to at precisely the time they need to alter their style to align with the athleticism of the ACC game.

      • But, don’t you think they had to do something, Sean? I hear you about the block/charge now expected to go 80/20 (or maybe more) toward the offense. And, I do have a concern about that. Hopefully, these changes will be undertaken sensibly.

        • I think so, but not to the extent that it will be changed.

          Between you, me, and the wall, I’ve heard People Who Know Things tell me that the intent of the block/charge rule is absolutely, 100 percent, because they want to get rid of people taking charges.

          Handchecking is different; there needs to be a little more creativity and freedom on the perimeter, and as I said, it should help develop players to have to move their feet more to protect against drives and fast breaks.

          Then again, we won’t see how it’s going to play out for another week or so. Stay tuned.

          • Agree. That’s interesting about the block/charge calls. One thing I don’t want to see is a constant parade to the foul line, which might happen for awhile as players adapt.

    • I’m getting pumped. Really looking forward to more of an offensive game from Pitt.

    • From my friends who follow basketball very, very closely…………

      Jeter is a beast. Quick, powerful, nice shot selection. Described as a poor man’s Brian Shorter.

      Ryan Luther, on the other hand, was described as slow and methodical. Footwork will need worked on. New Castle played Hampton 5 times the past 2 years. Hampton came within 10 points once. Oh, New Castle never had a starter taller than 6′ 3″. Hopefully he continues to progress.

  9. Today is Friday & you know what that means ? One day closer to Dave Wannstedt being the head coach of the Tampa bay Buccaneers. Yes ! Yes ! Yes !

  10. 100 days exactly until the start of Sochi Olympics. I can’t wait for next April when people will start calling for a SC and Gold Medal winning coach to be fired.

    The American drought ends at 34 years under Bylsma!

  11. @DK

    Wow you think fleury has no chance for team Canada? I think yzerman would be crazy and incompetent to scratch him off the list. You see the camp orientation list? Holtby, smith and price over fleury??? Please…that’s crazy. Barring injury i’d take Crawford, luongo and fleury all day long.

    Speaking of team Canada, how bout Dupuis’ chances of making the squad? Who’s going to do a better job on the big ice in the bottom 6 on the PK, forecheck and backcheck than duper?

    As for Team USA…any reason there’s no talk of Piece making the squad? Then again maybe we shouldn’t want too many pens going across the pond…

  12. If a trade of Niskanen can bring some grit up front, then I’d be for trading him, but I am unconvinced on Bortuzzo at this point. And I agree with DK, would definitely not trade Niskanen for a backup goalie.

    Anyone have any thoughts on possible returns for him?

    • The main problem is, whatever the Pens would get back would have to be making less than $2.3m in order to stay under the cap. My guess would be they’d look for a high draft pick or a good forward prospect back in return (or both) to free up that $2.3m to possibly sign a back up goalie at league minimum. Also freeing salary up to stay cap compliant is important when players return from IR (Bennett, Neal).

  13. what does it Maatta? Pens. Lord Stanley’s Bowl. 2-ought-14. Etch it (his name on the cup yinz loonies)

  14. Nobody seems to have mentioned DK’s rather crytic statement about how the Penguins feel about the “goings on” in Buffalo. Is he referring to the John Scott & Patrick Kaleta suspensions, or the fact that the Sabres are barely icing an NHL-caliber team, despite all the money Terry Pegula is spending?

  15. Oh Hipposter, you are so naughty!
    Posted on the chat:
    theplanisworking:
    Bigger winner at the Olympics…….. US Hockey Team, or Fleury, for getting those 2 weeks off.

  16. Here’s this gem:
    Thundercrack:
    “Love My Way” by English band The Psychedelic Furs, is that your ringtone? Thought I heard it during the opening rant of your radio show.

    and Dejan’s reply:
    Dejan Kovacevic:
    Wow, you’re good. Yes, one of my top-five fave songs of all time

    Way to go Dejan, now TC will have a swelled head…

  17. Thundercrack:
    Sixth & Penn. I am on my way

    Dejan Kovacevic:
    Be sure to get here in time to pick up the tab.

    lol

  18. Casper:
    What’s the date on that Sunday column with the glowing review of the Pirates’ player

    Casper, Dejan didn’t say Pirate’s player, he said athlete:
    There was one athlete this summer who was an epic jerk to me, in particular, and it didn’t deter me in the slightest from writing a glowing Sunday column about the season he was having, including how gracious he appeared to be with other people. What he thought or thinks of me could never have been part of it, and it wasn’t.

  19. Greetings, All! Just back from out of town – again. So will this be the game where the Steelers finally beat Oakland like most everyone else does, or will my hopes be dashed again like Lucy pulling the ball away just as I’m gonna make the kick?

  20. DK wrote a glowing column on Grilli and one on Troy Watson. I don’t see Watson as being a jerk, but what do I know?

    • Good research, Lucky. I guess we’ll have to speculate. As an aside, I can’t see Grilli being a jerk, simply because he’s gone through so much professional adversity to get where he’s at. I’d think the guy would welcome the opportunity to be heard. And he seems great with the media everytime I’ve seen him interviewed.

      I’ll qualify the above by saying that we don’t even know if it was a Pirate. Both Grilli and Watson may be wonderful people.

      • Good points.

        Roy Holladay wouldn’t talk to DK about Charlie emulating him, but that wasn’t this past summer.

      • DK said the player was an epic jerk TO HIM, specifically. Quite possible the player simply didn’t like him. No exscuse to be a jerk, mind you.

        • Hey, it’s an NMR sighting…how are you, friend?

          • Might have just been a “drive by” for NMR.

            • seems that way….the peckerhead ;)

              • Haha, just leaving the non-baseball conversation to you guys. Trying to be kind to Dejan’s wishes.

                Still checking in, though.

              • Dejan told you to only talk about baseball?

              • Haha, no, I just don’t watch much other than baseball, thus really don’t have much to say.

                And when I do talk baseball, I have a tendency to be lengthy, which I understand has the unintended effect of turning off readers looking for more topical conversation, such as football and hockey during the winter months.

                DK and you guys have plenty to discuss, so I’m trying to keep my baseball talk on the Bucco Blog where I can blab away.

        • Dejan prolly forgot to being an extra Starbucks for him ;)

        • Hi NMR — Very true. My feeling is that if you’re a public figure in the public eye, then I think you’re held to a different standard than bringing things down to a personal level. In my line of work, I work with a lot of people that I don’t or don’t think I would like personally. But I always treat them professionally during work.

    • Gotta say I’m not jazzed with trying to figure out who wasn’t nice to DK. Maybe the guy had a bad day. Dejan gives us so much good stuff that trying to figure out what he didn’t say seems much less interesting.

    • he also said summer…

      • here it is again:

        There was one athlete this summer who was an epic jerk to me, in particular, and it didn’t deter me in the slightest from writing a glowing Sunday column about the season he was having, including how gracious he appeared to be with other people. What he thought or thinks of me could never have been part of it, and it wasn’t.

    • That’s the one I was thinking of. And someone alluded to the fact that he (Grilli) wasn’t as nice as he seemed. Don’t remember if it was on this blog or elsewhere. My mind is letting me down once again.

  21. Now I’m going to be quiet before I get myself in a pickle ;-)

  22. So nobody wants to talk about the Steelers game? I’m thinking it’s big – win and we’re back in the hunt. Lose, and….. The Raiders have been our Freddy Krueger team, however.

  23. DK,
    I love your writing and this article in particular. I have a friend in Finland that I bounce all the latest Pen-fin news off of including this story. Although to note, we didn’t have a Finnish contingent until we picked up Jussi. And as a further side-note, I was very disappointed that Janne Pesonen did not work out.

    All that aside, I agreed with everything you wrote except for the penultimate point.

    “It’s needed not just new blood but new elite blood for far too long.”

    My problem with this statement is two-fold in that is both over-generalizing and minimalizing the other changes going on with this team. Before I take it out of any context, I believe you are referring to the penguins team as the “IT”.

    At best, I would only refer this “IT” to the defense. Also, Rob Scuderi is not “new elite blood” so I would say that bringing back “the piece” for MULTIPLE years is as much a statement as bringing in the new elite blood in Olli Maatta. The loser in both of these moves is Simon Despres, who has essentially been cast off, and potentially Matty Niskanen who is a year away from free agency.

    On the other point, I would look at the offense differently and just say we need HEALTHY elite blood. I would definitely like to see what a full year of Malkin & Crosby looks like going into the playoffs to compete for a cup.

    Anyway, I love your writing. Just wanted to point out what I thought was a disservice to the certain players.
    Thanks,
    ~Kevin

    • & how about a full season of a healthy James Neal & Chris Letang as well?

      • kris*

        and Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Oops! Yes, Kris.

          Or, if Pierre McGuire is saying his name, Kristopher Letang. Has anyone ever heard him referred to as Kristopher by anyone other than Pierre? Maybe his mom.

        • Congrats on getting in on the chat!
          First time I ever saw you get in.
          Must have kicked somebody……….

          See you in the hockey thread…. Zatkoff in goal…. YIKES !!!!

      • At some point you would think the injury bug would stop messing with our best players, and let the Pens be a whole team for a long stretch for a change…

      • I agree totally and echo Jandy’s Amen. However, I am not yet willing to extend my best wishes over Letang and Neal. Afterall, the D has been solid and will only get better. And I think it helps Malkin to get experience and maybe develop chemistry with someone else (Jokinen).

        Since the two headed monster was first conceived, everybody was talking about how difficult opponents would have trying to prepare/game-plan for not just one elite line but two. That hasn’t really happened since 08-09 in large part due to the offsetting injuries to Malkin & Crosby.

        And don’t give me Staal. Yes, we had 3 capable lines. I am beginning to believe more and more that the production was due to opponents weaker lines facing our 3rd. Afterall, Staal only has 2 points so far this season and was virtually a non-factor last year as a top 6 forward.

    • Dealing with injuries is part of sports. We focus on our own teams because we like them. But it’s really part of the overall process. Sometimes they’re devastating, but it’s still part of the process. Haven’t heard much about losing Pouncy and Foote in the first game for the Steelers as an excuse for 2-4. And that’s a good thing.

      • Mainly because injury hasn’t been the biggest problem with the steelers this year. For a better yet non-healthy sport comparison, I would compare the loss of Crosby earlier this year to the loss of Big Ben last year.

        • to extend it even further (in terms of production), I would compare the loss of James Neal to the loss of Plaxico Burress. And the loss of Kris Letang to the loss of… Casey Hampton? bah thats a bad comparison in multiple ways… maybe the loss of the ’08 Casey Hampton.

        • The offensive line sucking has been a big issue. Not to mention the “quarterback” of the defense, with the most experience, being injured in the first game.

          Nope, hasn’t been Ben. I still don’t get the problem with pointing out Maata is a premier talent that the Pens haven’t seen for awhile, which I believe was your point.

          • I firmly believe Maatta is that talent. But, maybe I am reaching a bit. I would not consider “keeping Maatta” to be the most important change to the whole 2013-14 penguins team.

            In my mind, the introduction of “elite new blood” is a bonus/whipped topping/whatever you wanna call it…. It is not the main course.

  24. I see I missed the whole string on the Civic Arena.

    Ah well.

    I was watching the Kardashians.

  25. Is there still those competetive draft choices awarded in MLB? Did the PBC get one this season?

    Been meaning to ask that, but keep forgetting to do so.

    • Hi Biz.

      I believe the Pirates got a pick in “Tier B” or something like that, which basically means after the second round instead of the 1st like last year. Figure somewhere around 70ish overall.

  26. By the way, I humbly nominate DK’s usage of the word “precocious” in his column for word of the day!

  27. I mentioned the hot start of Gregory Polanco in the Dominican Winter League yesterday. I wasn’t sure, but I thought Alen Hanson may have one HR in AZ Fall League. Biz correctly pointed out that he had not hit one yet. Hanson’s ears must have been burning, because he launched one last night. Hanson is now hitting .293 (12/41) out there in the desert. Alex Dickerson is hitting over .300.

    As far as the Gold Gloves go, if I were picking I would probably go with Martin over Yadi. I know they are neck and neck, but Yadi has won ever year since 2007. Give Russell a little love!

    Cutch will probably win his 2nd in a row. He has really improved in CF, but it is hitting and reputation that will put him over the top. Carlos Gomez of the Brewers may be a shade better defensively. (Ducking).

    Marte should be the slam dunk winner in LF, but CarGo hit 26 HRs and hit for a much higher avg. and has the reputation. Marte will need to wait another year. Hope I’m wrong.

    • Cutch has improved but I am still not sure I would consider him an elite CF. Probably much better guys with the glove playing out there, but it is like you said reputation and bat make a difference.

      It will be hard for Martin to leapfrog Molina for the same reasons.

      • Forgetting for a second that anyone is dumb enough to give a fielding award based on hitting performance, Yadi Molina winning the Gold Glove over Martin this year will show why defensive metrics are so necessary.

        A large number of “baseball people” seem unable to understand that defensive performance varies year to year, as is so obvious with hitting.

        Do I think Russell Martin is a better defender than Yadi Molina? Absolutely not. But do I think Russell Martin was the best defensive catcher in the National League THIS YEAR? There is absolutely no doubt.

      • I’ve never understood the reluctance of Pirate fans to acknowledge Cutch is a pretty damn good defensive center fielder. First it was Marte (as a minor leaguer) was better. Now I’m seeing Polanco is better than both.

        Just an observation.

        • 2nd or 3rd string quarterback syndrome IMHO.

          • Well, Marte IS better than Cutch, and until you see Polanco, I don’t see how bringing him into the conversation helps your case at all. How do you know he isn’t better than Andrew?

            Andrew McCutchen is a good fielder. As you said. He is not elite, as is Marte.

            Seems like your argument has a disconnect.

            • How do I know he isn’t better? That’s what you got? Really?

              How do you know Marte is better in center field than Cutch?

              • Where did I say he was a better center fielder?

                I said he’s a better defender.

                He’s faster, has a far better arm, and is at least as good of a route runner as Cutch, by my eye.

                Pretty sure I’m not alone here.

                You can’t use the 2nd string QB argument when the starter actually IS worse. And again, that says nothing at all negative about McCutchen himself consider the level of Marte’s abilities.

              • NMR—”Well, Marte IS better than Cutch”

                I guess I misunderstood.

              • No, you understood perfectly. Marte is a better defender.

                What exactly are you arguing?

              • Marte has played 182 games in the majors over the last 2 season. I can’t say that he is ‘elite’.

                And Cutch’s arm is suspect at times, but so is Marte’s in regards to accuracy.

                I’ve seen enough of Cutch in center – and how many catches he makes – to know that if someone is better than him he better be damn good….and I haven’t seen that person yet.

        • I never equated people saying these 2 could be better defensively with the idea that Cutch is not very good in the field.

          I believe some of that actually comes from the Pirates organization itself. When I read that those 2 guys are actually better defenders than Cutch, it is from people who get their info. directly from the organization – scouts and front office types who saw all 3 at similar stages.

          FWIW, I think Cutch is a very good OF. I also think he has gotten a lot better in the last year or two. I don’t think it is any slap in the face to Cutch to say the other 2 guys may be better. We know Marte has a better arm. And, a lot of the people who saw all of them at the same stages seem to think Marte and Polanco can be better major league outfielders. They may get better breaks on the ball. They may charge or go back better, etc.

          Cutch is still a better overall player than Marte, and we can only hope Polanco is ever his equal as an overall player. Whatever slight advantage they may have defensively is overshadowed by all the things Cutch does so well.

          • Well said, Jim.

          • I don’t know if they’re better, Jim. Neither do you or NMR. I just get tired of the dissing of Andrew’s defense.

            • Let me channel my inner Arriba Wilver…”Who is dissing Andrew’s defence?”

              • I have no idea what you mean. If we want to channel “inner stuff” about NMR, we might break the blog.

            • Let me get this straight, are you saying that none of us have the ability to judge defenders or that judging defenders is impossible?

              Really lost me on this one, AW.

              • I’ll make so simple even you can understand it:

                I think Cutch’s defense is underrated by many Pirate fans, at least based on what I see on this blog.

              • Not by me. I believe we have one of the top 5 defensive CF in MLB.

                I believe we have the #1 defensive LF in MLB.

                My understanding, from what I have read, is that we may soon have the #1 defensive RF in MLB.

                Overall, we may soon have the best defensive MLB OF in a long, long time.

              • & if all the things I just said about ranking our OF defensively, maybe the team needs to rethink its philosophy of stocking up on groundball pitchers. :-)

              • I meant if all the things I am saying “are true.”

              • I agree, AW.

                Now what does that have to do with Marte, Polanco, or football players?

            • No, I don’t know for sure AW. We discuss all the time here the fact that defensive metrics are a lot more inexact than offensive ones. But, I believe most industry experts agree that Marte is a superior OF to Cutch. They use defensive metrics, which have graded Marte at the top of the league in 2013 vs. Cutch who is just below the top. But, they also take into account scouting ratings of them, which had Marte graded out higher defensively than Cutch throughout his minor league career. At least, everything I ever read said that. I have heard the same about Polanco. But, it is true that I don’t know for certain.

              I actually think most Pirates fans would say Cutch is the better defender. I think that is because he is a Top 10 overall position player in MLB right now.

  28. I’m missing something and actually really disappointed I did not suggest we pick up the Moose. The Rangers gave the moose a tryout and ultimately they cut him because Martin Biron came back. Well, Martin Biron is now retired so wonder who they’re using to backup Lundqvist.

    • And further on the topic of the Rangers… whoda thunk that Torts would leave NY and be successful and Alain Vigneault would struggle? Just find that to be an interesting topic in itself.

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