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Morning Java: From Aaron to Edinson

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Thursday column celebrates Pitt’s Aaron Donald and yet another major national honor, even as it wonders why the biggest honor of all is completely out of reach.

And here’s my extended interview with Donald on TribLIVE Radio yesterday …

My sincere thanks to E.J. Borghetti, the Panthers’ beyond-compare SID, for an extra effort to arrange the Donald interview. And to the great Bill Fralic for his generous time last night.

Here’s news coverage of the Lombardi Award by Jerry DiPaola, who is headed down to Florida today for the final two awards Donald could claim.

>> Ben Roethlisberger looks and sounds like a man ticked off about losing but also prepared to do something about it. Alan Robinson reports, and Matt Rosenberg designs that strong front page up there for you.

See for yourself right here …

The Bengals’ balanced offense poses a problem, by Ralph Paulk.

Here’s our full Steelers coverage.

Here’s Bengals news from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Here are official game highlights from

>> Brandon Sutter is doing pretty well for a center so light on the wings. Josh Yohe reports. The club is back on the ice this morning in advance of tomorrow’s visit from the Devils.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Devils news from the Newark Star-Ledger.

Here are official game highlights from

>> The Pirates extended Charlie Morton and acquired Edinson Volquez on the third day of the Winter Meetings. Rob Biertempfel and Travis Sawchik are covering the event in Lake Buena Vista.

My views on Morton can be heard on the radio show podcast. It’s about 25 minutes from the start. As for Volquez, he’s an OK gamble. Still has the stuff, as evidenced by a consistent K rate. The numbers obviously aren’t great, especially for Petco Park, but … low cost, low risk.

To translate for Pirates bloggers: These moves, when duly appreciated as a whole, are brilliant. Beyond brilliant, really. What we’re witnessing here is the very essence of take-charge, smart, innovative management. A triumph of mind over matter. An affirmation of the intellectual and objective over the old and staid ways of the other 29 franchises.

Hope that meets the bar.

>> Duquesne gets dunked by Penn State at Consol, by Chris Harlan.

>> I’ll check in with TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.m. From there, I’ve got one more — and final — visit to the dentist this afternoon, after which I’ll work on a Friday column about the Penguins.

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. Great to see a journalist take on the triviality that is the Heisman. I’m sure it grew in stature from Kinnick’s poignant speech as the nation drifted toward war and later emotionally immortalized by Cappelletti.

    But the modern version, with its bloated importance assigned to it be ESPN, and its source for crass marketing by schools seeking it for promotion and recruiting, have reduced it to a shallow commercial award. Add to it that only so-called skill position players win it.

    I couldn’t care less about it.

    DK: Reader asked me tonight how many NFL playoff games the past 16 Heisman-winning QBs have one.

    The answer is one, and don’t don’t overthink which one.

    • +1, for all the reasons you cite. Though the crass marketing you mention has been around for a while now. Over 40 years ago, Notre Dame literally had Joe Theismann change how his name was pronounced so that it would rhyme with “Heisman” and make him too irresistible to sports writers to not vote for him. Until that very crass campaign (not Joe’s idea), “Theis” had the long e vowel sound, as in “bee.”

    • Lets not forget the Heisman winners that didnt even make a splash in the NFL. Charlie Ward went to the NBA. Eric Crouch didnt make it out of training camp. Danny Weurffel? Jason White? For some of those guys to win the award was a complete joke.

      If it weren’t for ESPN creating fake hype every week for the award, it could go away. And I wouldnt mind.

    • Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!!!!!!!

  2. I’m going to beg to differ about the Pirate moves.
    Morton is an ordinary pitcher to me. A low velocity guy that got exposed a bit as the season went on.
    He’ll pitch a decent game or two, and then a complete stinker.
    ….BUT he kept his salary “under” the $5 mil a year mark for 2014, so he’s a keeper.
    Let’s see if he’s retained when that salary shoots up to $8 mil in 2015 and beyond.

    Volquez was run out of the the west coast (via LA and SD), and is an established problem hurler.
    This might be a move worth chancing IF it didn’t look like the one named Edinson was going to be the one named AJ’s replacement.
    We shall see…..But it sure looks that way at this point in time.

    I’ve been relatively quiet about the off season moves of the Pirates.
    It’s still early, and I’m willing to slightly give them the benefit of the doubt after they did add to a playoff run with Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau.
    However….The rhetoric that GM Neal Huntington has been spewing as of late is none too sweet.
    One can never believe what they hear from a MLB GM at this time of the year, but Huntington has an unmistakeable tone of a guy that is now secure in his position.
    He’ll play it cheap (per the boss)….And everyone will like it or lump it.

    • Better double check that low velocity remark. Morton finished the season with an average fastball of 92.8 mph… Or just a tick better than soft tossers Matt Latos and Clayton Kershaw (92.6) and Jon Lester (92.7)….

      • I double checked it alot in the playoffs and it was not consistent.
        The TV commentators (not that they are God) made mention of it numerous times.

      • Good point, Bostons. I’m pretty sure he also got stronger as the season went on, not weaker. But, why ruin a good narrative with the truth?

        And, that comes from a guy who hates the Volquez move and is frustrated more has not been done this off-season.

    • Ah, Daq, your “fan club” will be out in full force today.
      The pitchforks and torches normally associated with 115 Federal Street, will be now going to the Greater Los Angeles area.

      Morton’s signing, depends on which Charlie we get.

      “Thomas” Edinson Volquez……… yeckk!

    • I love how the Volquez signing and a yet to be announced decision from AJ Burnett HAVE to be mutually exclusive. Andrew Fillipponi was pushing the same reasoning last night, ignoring the second part to any argument about moving pieces in a pitching rotation. If we didn’t learn anything else last year it’s (and it’s something every true baseball fan knows) that you can never have too much pitching.

      • You’re right that you can never have too much pitching. But do you really think the Pirates are paying him $5 million to pitch out of the bullpen? Unless he blows up like Jonathan Sanchez, he’ll be a starter, along with Morton, Wandy, Liriano and Cole. That’s your rotation. Locke and Taillon are plans B and C when the usual injuries pop up.

        It would be hard to envision the Pirates bringing back AJ under these circumstances.

    • I really wish that you would find another team to “root” for.

  3. Well said B’Gosh. Doesn’t the constant commercialism from ESPN make you tired? Remember last year and the sheer volume of Teo? By the way what ever happened to him?

    Can’t help but view with suspicion Dejan’s endorsement of the BMTIB. Is Volquez really an early fav for the Cy Young?

    I guess you just can’t speed up the calendar.


  4. To Ryan in NorCal:
    “Not quite sure what Mike Tomlin has to do with cap space. Pretty sure that’s not his job.” (From this morning, in reply to a comment I made last night.)

    You gotta give me more credit than that. I reread my post and see that it’s ‘conceivable’ to interpret my post as tying Tomlin in with the cap space issue. So my bad if my phrasing wasn’t the best. But I assure you that wasn’t what I was saying: last night my beef with Tomlin was squarely with his “You put your right foot in, you put you right foot out” little dance number on the sidelines which is going to cost the team a draft pick. On the other hand, Daq loves the Hokey Pokey. We can see him putting his “right foot in” every time we look at his avi. Shake it all about, Daq!

  5. Dont know if I can agree with the “beyond brilliant” hyperbole in the notes above. I like the Morton extension, if we get the “good” Charlie. That deal does show smart, innovative management.

    The ‘Thomas” Edinson Volquez deal, however, doesnt look too good at first glance. I was one of the few people who liked the AJ deal from the start, because him getting out of NY, and his previous success with Miami gave reason for hope. Liriano had some good numbers, and switching leagues would give him a boost. When he hurt his arm, I was skeptical, but Ray helped him, and we saw the results.

    With Volquez, I certainly hope Searage can improve him. I understand that at $5 million, its low risk………. but it also looks to be low reward. I feel the $$$ should have been spent on another pitcher, or used for another position of need.

    Not criticizing the FO on this overall, just not buying the hyperbole.
    Given the success Searage has had with this staff, just going to have to wait and see.

    • I would agree that we shouldn’t get too excited, that it’s best to “wait and see.”
      I do think Neal got it about right when he said identifying players that are bounce-back candidates is not doing anything special, that actually getting them back on track “is the challenge.” And this is where the Pirates have to live — leveraging the Ray Searage / PNC Park / defensive efficiency advantages in extracting bounce-back performances.

    • Plan,

      I think yinz may need to get your sarcasm meters recalibrated. That overly superfluous language was directed at the anti-DK fan club, a.k.a the “pirate bloggers,” At least that is how I read that short departure from reality. Of course, my sarcasm meter may need adjusted, too.

    • Well, we all know from this that the Bucs weren’t about to sign AJ Burnett, so we’ll just have to hope for the best from this particular signing although signing Volquez for one year for $5 million does seem to be a bit much.

      • I don’t see how the two are mutually exclusive…what happens when Wandy’s elbow flares up again…what if the league has in fact solved the riddle that was Jeff Locke, or more importantly what if he can’t find the high release point that he had when he was pitching at an All-Star level. There is never enough pitching.

      • If Volquez can get $5 million and Morton can get the type of deal he got, then tier 1 pitchers like Burnett etc. should be making over $20 million a year. These salaries are just unbelievable!!!

  6. “To translate for Pirates bloggers: These moves, when duly appreciated as a whole, are brilliant. Beyond brilliant, really. What we’re witnessing here is the very essence of take-charge, smart, innovative management. A triumph of mind over matter. An affirmation of the intellectual and objective over the old and staid ways of the other 29 franchises.”

    I’m thinking DeJan was high when he wrote that.

    Still waiting for a competent first baseman. Apparently, though, the Pirates feel that they could go into the season with Gaby Sanchez and be okay. Oy vey.

    • I personally think it was too much Starbucks.
      But you may be right, a “performance-enhancing substance” could have been used.

  7. It’s forever amazing to me that the Nutting Regime (in all their divine propaganda) has managed to convince a decent percentage of the public that Pittsburgh just cannot financially compete with the likes of Seattle, Detroit and Milwaukee.
    A convenient falsehood…..

    • I don’t think Seattle can compete with Seattle. They’ve thrown some Nintendo money around before without much to show for it. But this Cano deal was positively stupid. Even if he really IS 31 years old, he’s not going to be earning his keep 10 years from now. Not even five years from now. I say he’s about 33 years old now, and playing out his peak. The Mariners are going to end up paying $240, 000, 000 between now and 2024, and all for about two to three more years of elite baseball. Then Lloyd McClendon will be fired because that’s a lot easier to do than undoing all the damage and legacy-costs Jack Z has been heaping upon the Mariners.

    • Seattle is obviously not too certain about the double knee surgery 32 year old (at the start of the season) either. He (Hart) signed a team friendly deal for $5 million, and Seattle wasted no time in doing a deal for Logan Morrison….’m not suggesting that Hart is a bad gamble…but I don’t think he supports you Nutting is cheap crap.

  8. Heh, heh… Pirate talk — especially FO talk — has hijacked the thread. That oughta drive Dejan to go on a Starbucks bender.

  9. DK – Just listened to your podcast, and couldn’t agree more about the Steelers.
    These changes “should have” been made last year in my opinion.
    Kevin Colbert spoke of big changes, but did not significantly follow up.
    This team (and many assistants) needs to be gutted.
    If they would’ve done that last year, we might not be sitting here at 5-8.

  10. DK,

    Thank you for the column on Aaron Donald. It’s good to know that he is able to appreciate all that is going on around him and out the Heisman snub in perspective. The Heisman only has meaning on paper. So many of the past recipients have been flame outs that the award really has no relevance any more.

    Both Mr. Donald and Mr. Bill Fralic are graduates of my Alma Mater…Go Big Red!

  11. ‘it depends on which Charlie we get’


    But that could be applied to a bunch of pitchers when they sign. I think it could apply to Scott Feldman, Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson.

    Hey, it could even apply to AJ Burnett if they sign him.

  12. I am in like with the Morton contract.

    It is fair to call Morton a average, even mediocre starter.

    It is fair to call Morton a bona fide MLB starter.

    Now go look at what mediocre, bona fide starters with equivalent service time get paid these days.

  13. Anyhow, we now have something more important to worry about now that Major League Baseball has banned home plate collisions.

  14. JAL’s With Plenty of Money and You Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 MLB Important Dates

    BLOGS and such

    4—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: How Much Do You Trust Ray Searage?

    Pirates in the Mix For Ike Davis

    Pirates Unlikely to Make Rule 5 Pick; Could Lose Zack Thornton

    5 Bucs Dugout

    Thoughts on the Pirates’ Edinson Volquez deal

    6 Rumbunter

    Five Reasons Why I Like the Edinson Volquez Signing


    Charlie Morton gets an extension

    8 Green Weenie

    Bucs Lock Up Morton

    9 Rant Sports

    Pittsburgh Pirates Make Bad Decision To Sign Edinson Volquez

    10 City of Champions

    Charlie Morton signs three-year contract extension with Pittsburgh Pirates

  15. 11 Pirates Site

    Hurdle has new challenges after breakout ’13 for Bucs

    12 USA Today

    Will new rule keep All-Star catchers behind the plate?

    13 Baltimore Sun

    Major League Baseball’s winter meetings [Pictures],0,5066741.photogallery

    14 ESPN

    Scott Boras pokes Jay Z, teams

    15 Baseball Nation

    Why Bobby Grich will never be a Hall of Famer

    16 The Morning Journal

    Column: Baseball’s Hall of Fame has too many double standards

    17 St Louis Post Dispatch

    Next up for Carpenter? A front-office job, he hopes

    18 Cincinnati Enquirer

    Yankees turn down Phillips trade, talks still continue


    19 Baseball Prospectus

    Nine of Our First Front Office Hires

    20 Fangraphs

    Locking Up the Second Charlie Morton

  16. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Ben Roethlisberger: ‘I think the offense is as good as it’s been in a long time’

    5 Burning Questions as the Steelers begin playing for pride

    22 Steelers Gab

    Bengals At Steelers Wednesday Injury Report


    23 Goal

    With the U.S. national team’s January camp a month from kicking off, here is a look at the players Goal can see getting call-ups, including some 2010 World Cup veterans.

    24 World Soccer Daily

    Latest match-fixing scandal is nothing new


    25 Pensburgh

    Pens Points Wednesday: Thornton Hearing Set for Friday

    Song: With Plenty of Money and You Tony Bennett with the Count Basie Band

  17. indicates that the Phils are sniffing around about acquiring A.J. Burnett.

  18. Was catching a little of the Blackhawks wipeout of the Flyers last night, and there were Milbury and Jones showing tape of players accepting challenges to fight after legal, but physical, play. The clear message was that Orpik brought what happened on himself because he refused a challenge to fight Thornton after he threw the big check earlier.

    I was so angry that I spent 20 minutes researching executives at NBC Sports and finding one to vent my fury at via e-mail. Don’t know if it will even bring a response.

    This sport has got to save itself from its caveman faction. To see this on a day when MLB had the good sense to finally start removing collisions at home plate was the height of irony.

    • I applaud your contacting the NBS Sports researching execs, Wild Bill.

      Milbury and his fellow color analysts need to recognize that they are not members of the NHL Player Safety board, or even employees of the Situation Room in Toronto. Opinions are great, but I wish Their job was to just highlight moments that have actually happened/are happening in that day or night’s games, not stir pots. Sadly, it’s stirring pots that is more marketable.

      Why can’t the sports analysts focus on the notable moments that take place during the game, specifically on fantastic passes, dekes, shots and saves from around the league? There are other games going on simultaneously, so there is bound to be some decent footage available. Spending 4 minutes each intermission to briefly mention goals that are scored in other games is nice, but I think NBC network can do better.

      • Forgive milbury…he has an upper body injury…wanna guess which one? :)

        Didn’t see the segment you’re referring to but obviously why bother mentioning that orpik saved his dmen from being even more short handed than they were? And if he wasn’t a card carrying member of the KDUU he would’ve found as many examples of players declining to fight for legit reasons as well. Really wish the NHL and they’re minions would stop embarrassing the rest of us who are slightly more…whats the word im looking for?….evolved!

    • I had the same reaction – the neanderthals continue to promote this ritual and ignore that this mugging didn’t take place during the course of play. I continue to be frustrated that Claude Julien is not called out for his input into this action. Not only does the coach actively call the line changes, but he is the one setting the tone within the game -

  19. I think the Heisman is flawed but I also think that it’s still a very prestigious award. And I never made the connection that it’s flawed because a lot of Heisman winners flame out in the NFL. Two very different games with different competition, IMO.

    • Agree. It’s a college football award, not ” most likely to succeed in the NFL” award.

      • Agreed. Who cares what he guy does at the next level? These awards are for the now.

        Generally speaking, Heisman finalists are like the rest of the CFB population; most of them arent going to make it. A lot of them might pay their dues as special teamers in the pros before becoming starters.

        Just because Willie Parker had a great run in the NFL and whatever QB that won the Heisman his senior year didn’t does not mean Parker should have been judged to have been the best player in college football that year. That goes for anyone that year.

      • Oh, so you agree with the decision to give the award to Jason White over Larry fitzgerald, when Fitzgerald had a better year ??

        The award is a popularity/publicity contest. The best player doesnt always win.

        • Huh? How you got that out of what I said is beyond me. What I was saying was I agreed it was flawed and that what someone did in the NFL wasn’t really relevant to whether the best college player got it. Didn’t say the best college player always wins.

        • Well, the best player/team in ANY sport doesn’t always win the award. Life isn’t fair.

          Is there a tendency to take the quarterback from the No. 1 team more often than not? Yes, but they’re also likely a big reason that their team is No. 1.

          Is it because the coach built a system around them? Probably. But that means they have the skills to run that system to (at least) near-perfection.

        • Really hard to compare the 2 from their totally different positions.

          Jason White was well deserving of the award, but so was Fitz.

          It helps that OU finished #1 in the BCS that year and Pitt couldn’t even smell it.

      • Well said, 21 and Arriba!

  20. Why is everyone questioning the Volquez signing? 1 year/5million isn’t really breaking the bank(even for our lovable Pirates). No long term commitment. Injuries happen to starting pitchers (We should be aware of this by now.) Volquez has similar stuff to Liriano, in terms of velocity and strike-outs. His issue, similar to Liriano before coming here, is control and walking batters. Doesn’t Searage fix that more often than not?

    For every Liriano there is a J.Sanchez, but at the rate we got Volquez, I’m willing to take the risk. And I think that is why Dejan was so glad to praise the signing. In today’s market, $5 million is next to nothing(sadly).

    • I bet if they had locked up Burnett prior to this, or at least made a trade or signing of a decent starting pitcher, no one would have an issue, Zico. But, this doesn’t feel like a “Let’s see if Ray and our defense can work their lightning in a bottle magic again” kind of a move to me. It feels like he is going to be counted on to be the 5th starter.

      They are saying the right things in terms of still looking at AJ or another starting pitcher. But, I don’t have high hopes for that.

      • What is wrong with Volquez being counted on as the 5th starter?

        • What I meant was that if we signed AJ or another quality pitcher, we would have Volquez as a 6th or 7th starter. I think most fans would be more comfortable with his signing under that scenario, rather than having to look at it as Volquez replacing AJ in the rotation. I know I’d be more inclined to think it was a decent signing if I knew AJ was capably replaced outside of this move.

          I realize Locke is still in the mix, too. I just think the $5 million they committed here means we lose our projected #2 or #3 and replace him with a guy who I don’t see as necessarily better than Cumpton or Pimentel.

  21. Hyped QB wins the hyped award. Why am I not surprised. Freshman QB has handlers……give me a break.

  22. The Trib Pirate Blog mentioned the Pirates possibly getting/trading for Smoak from Seattle. That might be the move he needs, plus he probably wouldn’t cost much for a LH 1B. With PNC RF and only hitting against righties may help too. I might be OK with that – depending on who or what they would have to give up.

    • Damon:

      I also read that the Mariners say their plan is keep Smoak at 1b, while putting Logan Morrison and Corey Hart in the OF. Maybe they can sign Loney for catcher, and Kendrys Morales for the 3rd OF spot.

      Seattle is cornering the market on mediocre 1b.

      • The next time a GM acquires a guy at a position with an incumbent and immediately says said player is on the trading block will be te first.

        • Agreed.

        • True. They don’t want to hurt the “robust” trade market for Smoak.

          I get what you are saying, though. More than likely, trade Smoak and stick Hart on 1b and Morrison in the OF. Is that what you are thinking, NMR?

          • Haha, I won’t even bother trying to guess what Seattle is thinking.

            But it seems common courtesy to stick by your incumbent until a move actually happens.

          • FWIW, Smoak is pretty much equally … “hitting challenged” from either side of the plate. As a candidate for the Bucs, he would be hitting lefty vs RHP, of course. His career stats as a lefty hitter:

            1,145 AB (Roughly the equivalent of 2 full seasons as a full-time starter)
            .229 avg, 43 doubles, 50 HR, 145 RBI
            157 BB, 311 K

            I don’t know that there is a lot to be hopeful for about as far as a trade for Smoak to the Bucs goes. He has some HR pop as a lefty, but does not hit many doubles. He draws some walks. A lot of his at bats occurred in a tough hitter’s park. There’s that.

    • I want no part of Smoak…I watched him hit with the Rangers and now with Seattle…it’s always about living on the cheap with this ballclub…no more reclamation projects…

  23. Just saw the Cutch proposal. Where’d he get that jacket, a Michael Jackson estate sale ?

  24. No more light bulb jokes for me since his name is actually Edinson. Rats! That was the one redeeming thing about this signing to me.

    • I made a few above.
      Dont let that stop you. I appreciate the attempt at “bright” humor.

      Hi Frank.

    • I was apoplectic yesterday, but slept on it, and talked myself off the ledge.

      I take Volquez for what he is. Back end starter depth. Wandy/Locke insurance.

      Volquez is not AJ Burnett’s replacement. That was Josh Johnson. Once Dan Haren signed, there just wasn’t anybody who stuck out as frontline material. Honestly, how much worse is Volquez than any of these other options?

      Sure, I had other pitchers I would’ve rather signed to fill the Volquez rule. But I’m an engineer with high school baseball experience and FanGraphs bookmarked on my computer. What do I know?

      • Quoth the Milo, evermore.


        (Of course I said that about A.J., Lirano and J. Sanchez, too. 1 out of 3 ain’t bad).

      • The dangers of posting comments while a story is breaking. We’ve all been there. :)

        I commend you for your editorial review.

      • I’ll be curious to see what kind of leash they have on Volquez if things aren’t going well. That’s the key for me.

        • Could not agree more, 21.

          FWIW, I think he could turn into a usefull backend piece of the bullpen if he can’t get his control…controlled.

          • But, AJ and Liriano had at least 2 quality pitches. There seems to be agreement that this guy doesn’t right now.

            I actually would like to see Volquez in the pen. Maybe swap spots with Jeanmar. I still think Wilson could be converted back to starter also.

            • Agreement from who?

              Volquez has a 93 mph sinker and one of the better changeups in the National League.

              Both plus pitches.

              • And yet he still got hammered in a pitchers park…just not excited about this signing.

              • I have read that the sinker has not been effective for him. Maybe it has no movement. Maybe he tips it off. Maybe it finds the heart of the plate too often. Maybe there is not enough deception to it.

                I read over and over yesterday that he has a great arm still, but just one quality pitch. Of course, trusting talking heads is a dangerous proposition. Could be a million dollar arm and a 5 cent head. Something is missing, for sure. I know they have cracked the code before, and did so with Liriano. But, Liriano had a better pedigree than Volquez by far. And, Liriano was a lefty. Lefties that make mistakes can still get a lot of outs in PNC.

                I just don’t want to assume that because Liriano was tweaked and great success followed, that means we can fix anyone.

              • Strawman again, Jim.

                Nobody is expecting Volquez to be Liriano, and if you are, you’re going to be disappointed.

              • I don’t expect Volquez to be Liriano by any means. I don’t expect much of him at all. That is why I don’t understand the acquisition. I’m as comfortable with sorting through the Locke, Cumpton, Pimentel, Gomez bin and coming up with a 5th starter as I am with Volquez. And, I would say that if Volquez came for the same money as any of those guys. That’s how much I don’t like the guy.

                It is pretty apparent now that Wandy absolutely has to be healthy.

              • Ah, I see. Completely fair, if that is your thinking.

                I personally think it’s rather optomistic considering none of those guys you list have any more success than Volquez, as prospects or big leaguers, but we’re both talking opinions.

      • Speaking of fangraphs, I took a look at Justin Smoak’s advanced defensive stats. Let’s just say he’s not very advanced.

      • I feel a little better after sleeping on it as well. But, just a little. His career WHIP is 1.5, and he did not improve upon going to SD – a great pitcher’s park. That’s pretty scary.

        I think we are getting conditioned to put a lot of faith in Ray Searage, Miracle Man. This one will tax all of his considerable powers, I think. My fingers are crossed.

        • But he wasn’t awful, IMO, with Dodgers which gives me a little hope. 1.179 WHIP in 5 starts with a 4.18 ERA.

        • My issue is that if they signed Volquez to be the 5th starter, then why not save that money to use elsewhere and stay in-house to fill that spot? Just tired of the Buccos always dumpster diving…

          • That’s what I was thinking, Steel. I think they have in-house guys that can give them what Volquez will until Taillon is ready. And, if this now means we don’t get Loney (hypothetically) or something else because we have $4.5 million less to play with, then I really don’t get it. I’m not saying a Loney type is the final piece for this team, by any means. Just saying that if our offer to Loney now falls $4.5 million short, for example, I would have preferred Loney and an in-house solution in the rotation to Edison Volquez alone.

            I am a Huntington supporter, and he knows more than I do obviously. But, I don’t think that can always be the answer. If I don’t like one of his moves, I need to point it out. They can say that Volquez doesn’t preclude other moves. But, my sense is they are starting to bump against Nutting’s budget limit. We’ll see.

            • I agree with you 100% Jim…NH proved himself to me last year, but this move just didn’t make sense. It just seems as though that $5 million could have been better allocated. I think NH still believes that Loney’s demands will drop, but not guaranteed with the shrinking first base pool…

            • If a $5m pitcher, as the only expenditure of the off season, precludes the team form signing a mediocre first basemen, the anger should be squarely on Bob Nutting. Not Neal Huntington.

              Seriously. No GM can be reasonably expected to deal with those ridiculous constraints.

              • Good point, NMR. I think Huntington was far and away the best overall GM in baseball last year, and maybe for a few years now on the draft side.

                My fear on the Loney thing is that the Brewers will simply outbid us at the end. We’ll offer 2/$14-ish, and they will either add a 3rd year or make it 2/$18 – something like that. I would not add the 3rd year, and I realize the metrics probably say he is a 2/$14 guy. But, if it is down to us vs. Milw and all they have to do is overpay by a few million $$ on a 2 year deal, I would hate if that money had already been allocated to a pitcher I don’t see as a better option than we already have.

              • I’ve heard Frank say a couple of different times that he would have spent more than what Huntington has spent. I’m referring back to some of their earlier years. I just wouldn’t assume that because Bob might say you have X to spend that Huntington spends it. I think Huntington sometimes likes to squirrel it away.

              • A man after my own heart.

      • The Pirates also asked for Johan Santana’s medical records and may be interested. They must really believe in the Searage magic to recoup these former aces.

        • There’s probably an Affordable Healthcare Act joke in the asking for Santana’s medical records, Damon. But, I won’t go there.

      • You certainly know where your bookmark for FanGraphs is.

      • Nice NMR…great post

  25. Just read on about the emerging Twitter dust up between Jay Bilas and Mark Emmert, aka “the king of the press conference”. I liked Bilas a lot before; now my esteem for him is HUGE.

  26. The Rangers selected Russell Wilson in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft.

  27. “To translate for Pirates bloggers: These moves, when duly appreciated as a whole, are brilliant. Beyond brilliant, really. What we’re witnessing here is the very essence of take-charge, smart, innovative management. A triumph of mind over matter. An affirmation of the intellectual and objective over the old and staid ways of the other 29 franchises.”

    Love this…

    Why is it so hard for so many to see that Nutting is nothing but cheap. Always was, always will be. Its all about his money (or lack thereof…). The man has NO business owning a MLB team, and until he sells, the Pirates will be consistently mired in a talent poor situation. Aberrations like 2013 will occur- like once every 20 years or so….

    No Byrd. No Morneau (a comparative bargain at what he signed for). No AJ. I like Morton (note the back loading)but this other guy is an embarrasment.

    Nice piece on Aaron Donald. Great kid. Humble and hard working. Overachiever and winner. Justly deserving of all he is receiving. The occupants of the other side of the duplex could take a few lessons.

  28. Jon Heyman retweeted a writer who tweeted that he was worried about one of his followers who wanted to know if the Rule 5 draft was going to be televised.

    Somehow, I thought of some of us. :)

  29. Born this day 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey – Francis Albert Sinatra.

  30. Crawling out of my cave to say that I am so NOT impressed with the Pirates’ off-season thus far. Really, really disappointed. That is all…

  31. Pirates had 1 player taken in the MLB portion of the rule 5 draft and it was surprise, Brewers took Wei-Chung Wang who pitched in the Gulf Coast League last season. Pirates took no one. They also lost and took a couple of players in minor league part of the draft- Lost Charles Cutler, who went to the Chicago Cubs, and right-hander Roberto Espinosa, who went to Toronto.

    Took right-handers Tyler Sample from the Royals, A.J. Morris from the Cubs and Felipe Gonzalez from the Yankees.

  32. The Mets and Brewers are meeting to try and hammer out a deal for Ike Davis. Let’s hope they’re successful.

  33. Wade Phillips when asked what this season has been like, “Well, it’s obviously a nightmare.”

    Look, any season where Wade Phillips is your coach is obviously a nightmare.

    • He’s football’s version of a closer. He doesn’t often start seasons as a Head Coach, but he often ends up one at some point.

  34. With credit to NMR, the Phils have signed the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona.

  35. Brace yourself for Clint Barmes.

  36. Ike Davis vs. RHP for his career:

    1087 AB (similar to Smoak, approximately the equivalent of 2 full-time starter seasons)
    67 doubles, 1 triple, 55 HR, 172 RBI
    173 BB, 285 K

    Good pop, draws a ton of BB. I keep hearing his swing is a nightmare. I don’t profess to know what sort of fielder he is. Turns 27 in the spring.

    But, the Mets initially asked for Thornburg from Milwaukee, and the Brewers are very high on him after his great finish in 2013. They won’t get Thornburg, but they could get a nice prospect.

  37. Question – did Volquez give up his runs via HRs or via being singled and doubled to death? If the latter is true, wouldn’t a smaller park than Petco help in this case – especially with the speed of the Pirates outfield?

    • Volquez gives up 1 HR per 9 innings for his career and it 1 per 9 last season. Walks a bigger problem as it 4.8 per 9

    • All of the above, plus a ton of BB, Damon. Here’s what I found for Volquez for SD vs. other teams:

      As a Padre -

      324 IP, 328 hits, 28 HR, 174 BB, 290 K

      As something other than a Padre –

      526 IP, 502 hits, 64 HR, 275 BB, 505 K

      Total –

      850 IP, 830 hits, 92 HR, 449 BB, 795 K

      He seems to give up a lot of HR when he is not pitching for the Padres, and he has always walked a lot of guys. Strikes out a lot of guys also.

    • Thanks JAL & Jim!

  38. “’s Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates and Clint Barmes have agreed to terms on a new contract. The deal is presently being finalized.”

    Oh joy, Barmes is back as a Pirate. Morton, Volquez and Barmes. Yep, this is why it’s so hard to be a Buccos fan.

  39. Something that I had forgotten about regarding Orpik being taken out on a stretcher Saturday night. A classy gesture in a classless situation.

    • Joni, I had noticed that as soon as it happened. I was impressed…

    • Any word on Bergeron’s condition?

      He must have been pummeled by Thornton in the locker room after the game.

    • Tukka Raask also helped the medics down the ice to Orpik.

    • Missed the game, but in watching replays it was one of first things I noticed. Thought the same thing…..respectful & classy

    • Meanwhile, the Penguins just tweeted that Orpik has not undergone testing for his concussion at this point in time. That seems ominous.

      • That also seems….negligent…

        • He’s been diagnosed with a concussion so he’s been “tested” for a concussion. He’s being treated for a concussion.

          He has not undergone the ‘baseline’ cognitive test to see where he is at. That’s what the neurologist said they would wait a few days to administer. I think waiting on administering this test is on the cautious side not the negligent side.

          What doesn’t make sense to me is why the first test after the concussion is called baseline. Wouldn’t the baseline be the results of the test administered before the concussion occurred? I would think all tests after the concussion would be compared the the pre-concussion baseline.

          • My understanding was a cognitive baseline test is administered to all players at the start of the season.

            After a concussion, when symptom free, they re-take the test and compare to baseline.

            When deemed “returned to baseline” they can be cleared for participation.

            • Thanks Sarah, that makes a lot more sense.

              I think it’s often misreported (or I’m misinterpreting) because I often hear football and hockey reporters refer to the first test as ‘player X will have the baseline test administered ‘.

              I guess they mean this will be compared to the baseline to get an idea of where the player is in relation to their norm.

      • Maybe, but I heard or read of some neurologist who specializes in concussions say that although he knew nothing confidential about the situation, the right course would be to wait 3 or 4 days before testing.

        • Actually, it’s my understanding that he has to be symptom free before under going testing.

          • I believe you are correct.

          • This is all good info on a confusing subject. The way I took what the neurologist said is that even if he were symptom free the next day they should wait. Just in case. But what do I know? The main point is we can’t really draw too many conclusions from them not doing it yet. Yes, that does not mean things are peachy.

  40. Barmes deal is 1 year at $2 million. Considering that price, would say well worth it to bring Clint and his defense back to the team


    Barry Melrose’s take on the Pens-Bruins. I had to agree with most of what he said.

  42. When looking at the what the Bucs are doing or not doing one thing to consider is how their moves in totality measure versus their division competitors. The Cards and Reds probably being the top two teams the Pirates will most likely compete with. So far the NL Central has seen more subtraction than addition:

    Reds – Most likely lose Choo and Arroyo, swapped Hannigan for Pena and added Shumaker…not seeing much improvement to their club.

    Cardinals – they have probably been the quickest to address needs and make moves. Lose Freese, Beltran, Axford and add Bourjos and Peralta.

    Brewers – Lose Hart, and Aoki add Smith.

    Cubs- they are just a mess.

    So far the Pirates lock up their #3 starter at a very fair under market rate, get Barmes back on the cheap, find a defensive catcher to supplant the Fort and give Sanchez one more year to develop before becoming the. guy and add an innings eater who has a great ground ball rate and still solid K/9 number to ensure they are prepared for the potential of AJ not returning. Appropriate risk and gamble to secure a back of the rotation arm.

    Still believe there are a couple of areas the Bucs would be wise to address between now and spring training but nothing done or not done by them or anybody else in the NL Central leads me to think the Pirates are not in a position to once again be extremely competitive in ’14.

    • I have heard “innings eater” for Volquez a lot since yesterday. And there is value to that. My issue, though, is I don’t really think he eats innings. He generally stays healthy, but that’s different. He’s a 5 or 6 inning guy. Never pitched 200 innings.

      • Jim – And I would be ok if he is a six inning guy as the #5 starter… of the strengths of this team is the bullpen and with the arms back there I feel confident any time turning a game over to them in the 7th. The thing I like with Volquez is he still has swing and miss stuff, now the control is a concern but maybe there is something Searage and et all see they think they can work on, time will tell.

        Volquez has still won 9-11 games in each of the past three seasons, if he can earn double digit victories and hold down the back of the rotation, at 5 million, really good bargain.

        • If he gives 6 innings and not 5.

          I agree that it could work out. I just don’t like him much. 1.5 WHIPs in SD are not good.

          NH/CH/RS have proven me wrong before, and I hope they do again.

        • I would disagree about the strength of the bullpen. Neither Melancon nor Grille finished the season well. Grille lost 3-5 mph off of his fastball, which I think pretty critical, given his game….we’ll see if it comes back. Don’t know what happened to Melacon, but cringed when he came in against the Cards and unfortunately he got rocked.

          Maybe you think one of the young lefties might supplant them, if so – it could work…but far from a given.

      • History shows that he’s not an innings eater.

        2008 was his best statisical season of his career and he hit 196 innings. Since then, he’s averaged 114 innings.

        Doesn’t sound like an innings eater to me.

        In contrast, Paul Maholm has averaged 180+ innings since 2006, though only topping 200 innngs once.

        I’m not saying I wished the Pirates would’ve signed Paul, to me he is an innings eater type of guy so if they were looking that route, I would’ve been OK with that signing.

        Heck, I still might be OK if they signed him.

    • Hey, the Cubs acquired Justin Ruggiano from the Marlins.

      Plan the parade down State Street now!

  43. Hey-la, Day-la, BARMES is back!!
    Hey-la, Day-la, BARMES is back!!

    Has Mr. Hasis checked in yet?

  44. And, because I like comparing LH-hitting 27 & 28 year old first basemen, I humbly submit one Mitch Moreland:

    Career –

    1209 AB (Again, roughly the equivalent of 2 seasons as a full-time starter)
    49 doubles, 2 triples, 56 HR, 150 RBI
    109 BB, 236 K

    2013 stats –
    321 AB
    10 doubles, 1 triple, 20 HR, 46 RBI
    34 BB, 81 K

    Gotta say, Ike Davis puts up much better stats in a much tougher park in which to hit.

  45. I honestly never thought Clint Barmes would play three years as a Bucco.

    Wonder if he will lobby AJB to come back ? :)

  46. In Brian Burke’s world, this is considered patience & restraint.

  47. Anyone else think the PBC may be done, addition wise, till February or so?

    • I think if they can get Loney, they might do that fairly quick. But, if he is sticking on $9-10M per season and/or 3 years, then I think nothing will happen with him and the Bucs.

      If they have to go the trade route for 1b, I guess it is hard to pinpoint a time frame.

      I would like to think there is still an outside chance at AJ.

  48. The only thing I like about Barmes coming back is his old school walk up music. My wife says we are going to Piratesfest this weekend. I still liked it better in January. I am really disappointed that they did not get James Loney at the winter meetings.
    Anyone see the cell phone video of the two agents have a fight in the hotel parking lot at the winter meetings? Would love to know who they were, and what players they were representing.

  49. Tigers strengthen their bullpen, picked up JChamberlain

    (As I duck ;-) )


    {What town in Florida will A.J. Burnett report to? Apparently he has been squeezed out of Bradenton.}

  51. Too bad Ebenezer Nutting isn’t on the Piratefest schedule this weekend. Just would have liked to ask him where all that extra money is going since it isn’t going into payroll. Very disappointing. But unfortunately, not surprising.

  52. Heard on The Fan that if AJ comes back he wants to be paid what he was paid last year (full boat). If true, that’s definitely over.

    • Beautiful strategy.

      Now he can walk away as the guy who wanted to stay in Pittsburgh and it is the owner’s fault that he didn’t.

      • Exactly.

        AJ is no different than any other athlete in sports. Their respect measurement is the size of the contract. He would want the price tag that he is “deserving” of. With his season he had last year, at a few years younger, he’d be the top pitching free agent on the market….IMHO. Unless I forgot someone else out there.

      • Why would AJ want to take a huge cut in pay? It isnt his fault that the Pirates got NY to pay 60% of the contract. He was one of the 2 best pitchers the Pirates had in ’13. He should be paid accordingly. Actually, the past 2 years were some of the best of AJ’s career.

        I think his strategy is fine. And “respect” is a 2 way street. Both athletes and clubs abuse it all the time, so that isnt relavent.

        I would be interested to see what AJ could get if he truly hit FA status.

    • I honestly don’t think the FO thinks the club can produce in the same way in 14.

      The bullpen was lights out for the most part, Liriano was pretty darn good, and Locke kicked tail the first half of the season.

      For that reason, they are not really interested in bringing AJ back.

      Thats the thoughts from here in this seat in the peanut gallery

      • I would agree with you, except that I don’t doubt for a second Frankie Liriano would be on the trading block if that were actually the case. And frankly, that may be the best move at this point.

        If you’re gonna punt, may as well send a boomer.

        • Trading Frankie would be akin to “punting” the season in December, folks would go nuts, and when are tickets sold? Now.

          Frankie will be a good chip if we fall behind in the race, come trade deadline.

          I honestly think the FO has been basically surprised by the success last year.

          And with NH, and I understand this to an extent, its always tomorrow, the plan, he mentioned that word today.

          • I’m willing to give NH a flyer after last year, but I don’t think he knows right now whether to “cry or wind his watch”

            But like JHadar says below, its still early

          • Then this would mark the first time Huntington has made a move simply to apease the fans, correct?

            I think he’s more than confident enough to pull the trigger. None of these guys can possibly think anythng they’ve done so far this off season has people streaming to the gates.

            I got a 20 game plan for my little lady and I (right field box), but I certainly didn’t do it expecting anything this winter.

            • Where in RF? I have the Saturday plan, 20 game.

              What with the beefed up security due to Mrs Latos, maybe we could meet sometime ;-)

              • Ha, nice! Sec 144, I believe (still new). We did the weekday plan, but still worth running into each other some day.

              • When I walked into the park for the wild card game, and sat there in awe of the sights and the love of the fans for that club, I had 4 thoughts

                Wow, I lived to see this

                I wish my son and his family were here to feel this

                I want a win

                This is what the folks that built this place dreamed of.

                So, I want it again, and I’m disappointed so far with the babble and the lack of splash

                But its still early as JH noted

                NH still sits with the kids at the Holiday table.

                But this year, I did it, and I liked it

    • I wonder if when AJ told them that. Because if it was right after the season then the FO just wasted a lot of time.

      • Don’t know, but look at the numbers, player wise

        Locke and Stolmy are out of options.

        Stolmy could pitch relief, don’t think Locke could.

        Wandy is either DL or in the rotation

        Cole had better not be sent down.

        Morton is a lock, same with Liriano

        Edison will make the team

        Thats 7 starters now and little flexibility

        Just saying

        • Biz
          I found out today that Locke does have an option left. He didn’t burn his last one when he was sent down last year.

      • Forget the Pirates, if he told them that and HASN’T said he wants to pitch elsewhere, he also killed his own market.

  53. Late to the party here, what with my non-baseball interests lying in Iowa’s comeback football season and the upcoming Hawkeye-Cyclone basketball game — first time the two have met as rated teams in a quarter century.

    But since the topic today is baseball: If Mr. Searage can fix Volquez I would venture that the Pirates will find a way to contend until another clubs makes Searage an offer he can’t refuse.

    Otherwise it remains to be seen if they will fix the other holes in the line-up. Still they got into the playoffs without much at 1B and SS. I think the Bucs are better off than they were at this time last year, but the expectations (at least mine) are much higher too. The season is still a way off. Anything can happen, and it usually does.

    • I’m anxious to see what Jordy can do with the full time gig. Love the fact that they brought Barmes back for back up and a late innings defensive sub.

      • The price is decent and he wants to be here.

        Being happy where you are, if you are smart, is worth far more than max $$

        • Not for everybody though.

          • I know, Ryan,

            I know what you are saying.

            But I think I can relate more to Barmes and Charlie Morton than those that chase the $$

            And oh, yeah, Cutch ;-)

            • I think we all appreciate those guys over the others.

              It’s like normal people, taking a new job for 10K more a year with a different location because A.) They want more money and B.) Get to go to a new place.

              I know the new place thing far too well.

              19 days……….

            • Barmes as starter at $5 million a year, not good.
              Barmes as backup at $2 million a year, good.

              I have no problem using the platoon of Mercer/Barmes like last year.

        • While I agree with your post, he may also be considering how many other offers are out there for him and for how much. Bird in hand you know.

          Good move for all concerned.

  54. I think we’ve seen the last of AJ as a Pirate. I also think Clint made that decision before last season was over.

    I’ve been wrong about almost every pitcher this team’s signed the last few years so I’ll withhold Volquez judgment.

  55. Does anyone think the Pirates current roster is good enough to contend for a wild card or division roster?

    Rotation (5) Liriano – Cole – Morton – Rodriguez/Locke – Volquez
    Bullpen (7) Grilli – Melancon – Watson – Wilson – Gomez – Mazzaro – Morris
    Lineup (8) Marte – Walker – McCutchen – Alvarez – Sanchez – Snider – Martin – Mercer
    Bench (5) Stewart – Barmes – Tabata – Harrison – Lambo

    - No power on the bench as Lambo
    - 1 lefty bat on the bench
    - What happens to Locke if Rodriguez is actually healthy?
    - Can they go into season with same 7-man bullpen and get same results?
    - Can Marte improve his walk rate as the leadoff man, really struggled after wrist injury
    - very weak 5-8 in the lineup
    - has much does Martin have left in him
    - desperate need for a run producing 1B

    • At this time last year did you think they had the roster to contend last year?

      • The technical answer to your question is no.

        However, last offseason, they targeted, and acquired Martin…… a significant upgrade. This offseason, they havent done much.
        There is no disputing the roster today, as opposed to during the playoffs, is significantly weaker.

        Losses of Byrd, Morneau, AJ………. that isnt improvement.
        Although the AJ thing isnt set in stone.

        • The Pirates were 21 games over .500 the day before Byrd played his first game. They ended up 26 games over .500. Were Byrd and Morneau crucial to that final push? Absolutely. But the only really significant loss from the team that got us to 21 games over .500 at this point is Burnett.

          • AW, we both know that the team that was 21 games over .500, was fading. Byrd and Morneau were acquired to help the team. The pitching was faltering badly in August, so they got some bats to counter that. Locke was a mess. AJ ws pitching well, but not getting W’s

            With Wandy’;s injury, Locke’s becoming the next JMac, losing Byrd and Morneau, it just is a lesser team.

            Now, if Locke regains his form, Wandy is ok, and not badly( Tommy John) injured, and the Pirates get a bat (1B or RF), then the tram wont be significantly lesser.

            • ‘The pitching was faltering badly in August, so they got some bats to counter that.’

              I thought they got the bats to counter them not scoring enough runs

            • I’m not forgetting that AJ was plain awful against the Cardinals in that playoff loss and then he got mad when they wouldn’t start him in game 5. And so, one suspects that the Pirates and Clint Hurdle didn’t want him back because of that.

          • I was impressed when the team went 16-9 when both AJ and Wandy were out at the same time from early June until early July. That’s 103 win pace although a small sample size.

            Team era in August 3.66 wasn’t great but not faltering badly, IMO.

      • Not at this time, AW

        But I liked the chatter on signing Liriano

    • You’re projecting lunch box as the third OF?


      I’d go for Tabloid over him and I’m not a Tabby guy.

      Too early to answer your actual Q.

  56. Just saw video from Brian Burke’s press conference. No barbers in Calgary ?

  57. Aaron Donald wins Outland Trophy.

  58. In addition to Outland trophy win, Aaron Donald wins Bednarik, Nagurski, and Lombardi trophies.

    Not a bad night for him.

  59. Aaron Donald wasn’t invited to the Heisman dinner because of snobbery, pure and simple.

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