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Morning Java: What an air ball

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

NEW YORK – Morning, Lunatics …

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>> The Wednesday column from the Garden covers Pitt’s hideously dull loss to Cincinnati through the broader issue of how these Panthers are prepared.

Here’s the game story, from beat man Kevin Gorman.

Here’s some of what Jamie Dixon had to say afterward …

And here are Cam Wright and Lamar Patterson

Random randomness from the scene: College kids have a distinct category when it comes to being criticized, in my mind. They choose to be in the spotlight, but they’re still playing for nothing more than a scholarship. In that context, I’ll share here that Patterson is a talented player who still needs to step up in the biggest situations. All Pitt needed from him last night was a couple free throws near the end. Or even one of two. At the same time, if you click the video above, you’ll see by his response to my question that he took it so much harder than anyone else could. … Easy to get the feel in press row that the New York/national guys were ready to pounce on Dixon’s light schedule if the Panthers lost. Presumably, some were voters. That’s fine. I can tell you I’d prepared to write that topic no matter the outcome of the game. It’s part of what makes this Pitt team such a tough read. … Don’t forget: Talib Zanna missed a couple big free throws late, too. … I cringe anytime it looks like James Robinson even thinks about shooting from the field. Sorry, but only he can change that script. … Durand Johnson was an infinitely better player through the first 10 games than the 11th. Only he and Wright are capable of the classic stop-and-pop, and Johnson seemed to get caught up in trying to go all Carmelo to the hoop with each possession. … Stop and picture how different the take would be on Pitt this morning had they, say, clubbed Cincinnati by 20. Just saying. … Man, the Garden looks great. I guess it should after a $1 billion facelift that pretty much gutted the interior, but it’s finally once again a venue befitting the market.

>> The Penguins are next on the Garden marquee to face the Rangers here tonight. And, as Chris Adamski reports, they’re expecting quality chemistry out of former minor-league partners Simon Despres and Philip Samuelsson.

I’ll be sticking around to write a column off this one, too.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Rangers news from the New York Post.

Here are official game highlights from NHL.com.

>> Stop the presses: LaMarr Woodley is on IR. So what happens as related to his long-term future? Alan Robinson examines.

Antonio Brown ranks among the NFL’s elite, by Robinson.

Here’s our full Steelers coverage., including compelling stuff from Mike Tomlin about bypassing Eddie Lacy in the draft. (Ahem.)

Here’s Packers news from the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Here are official game highlights from NFL.com.

>> The Pirates and Mets are discussing a trade involving Ike Davis. Travis Sawchik has that exclusive.

>> Duquesne had quite the struggle to overtake St. Francis. Chris Harlan reports from Loretto.

>> I’ll check in with TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.m. live from the Garden, in lieu of doing the full Wednesday show. Hope you can give us a listen. Click that link, and you’re right there.

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.

213 Comments

  1. The Bucs and Ike Davis — baseball news! Though I’m not sure how excited I should be if Davis comes to Pittsburgh. He’s a younger player with his better years presumably still in front of him. Aside from his 32 HR’s two years ago, TS points out that his OBP was stellar for last year’s second half. But as a lefty, so far his career splits against righties really aren’t much to write home about. Maybe the Pirates know something, but it’s not as if we have Ray Searage’s equivalent as a batting coach. I can’t even remember our new batting coach’s name.

    • Thanks for the perspective on indoor vs. outdoor training for baseball the other day, Ghost. You make a good point that I should not be comparing the preparation of my kids in Illinois to what your kids are able to do in Vegas. We only need to make sure we are shaping up well vs. the kids who face the same weather obstacles in our area.

      • Jim, I didn’t catch the conversation, busy moving and crap, but there seems to be a lot more indoor facilities these days than they were in my day. The weather here in Northern California has actually been pretty decent, so I haven’t had to use the indoor places as of yet. My freshman has been swinging off a tee and throwing in the backyard since football season was over. He’s trying to make a splash at his new school come tryouts.

        I am able to take him to the local HS fields on the weekends, so he can get some grounders, long toss, fly balls and live BP. Dude’s raking right now. Excellant shape, wants to make varsity as a freshman. Will be tough.

        The indoor facilities, at least around here are an excellant source to work on hitting and pitching. They usually have multiple lanes for soft toss, tee work, hitting machine and flip it around to work on pitching.

        This concept seems to be taking off. Depending on how much baseball is a part of your community, I’m sure there are indoor hitting lanes available.

        • Good luck to your son, Nor Cal! Making varsity as a freshman would be great for him.

          Yes, indoor facilities are growing here as well. My son’s club has its own excellent indoor facility, with 3 cages for hitting or pitching, and there is also other room for static work. So, all the teams in the club have access to the facility, and all of the players can use it when a team does not have it reserved. We have a team practice there once a week, and my son and I try to get there at least 1 other time each week.

          And, on Sundays we get a 1.5 hr practice session at a local HS gym. The only thing we really can’t do at either place is work much on OF. The ceilings just aren’t high enough. But, as training goes, we are fortunate to be in a better position than most clubs we compete against.

          • That’s awesome. Before football season my son was at a place similiar to that as well. Owned and operated by a guy that was in the Yankees system.

            There was also a player from the Pirates minor leagues. Knew Cutch, Pedro and the rest. Never made very high though, but good teacher.

            • Yeah, we are fortunate to be with this club and have these facilities that they acquired 2 years ago. The guy who heads up the club is not married, and has no kids. Doesn’t make a dime from it. He just eats, sleeps and breathes baseball. He’s probably at the facility most of the waking hours he is not at his job. If I am out of town on business, my wife can drop my son off and this guy will work on hitting mechanics with him.

              Ian Krol, the young lefty who just got traded to the Tigers from Washington, is a former player in our club. Plenty of kids are playing at various levels of college ball now, and there are a few in the minors.

    • I like Ike. Citi field is supposed to be tough on lefty power hitters. If I remember his splits the year he hit 30, favored the road. Like to see what he could do with the Clemente wall. Just wondering about the price…i don’t get what the Mets are doing. Colon is gonna bat? Granderson going from Yankee Stadium to the NL and Citi field? Ballpark factor matters, ask RA Dickey.

      • Good points. I posted some career offensive numbers vs RHP for the guys supposedly available down below, bpn. Let me know what you think.

  2. That was a tough one to watch. Hate to use the word choke, but Talib and Patterson 0 for 4 down the stretch. First game with limited substitution. Don’t know why, but maybe no one worked hard enough to need a blow. They looked like they were playing in the Garden for the first time.

    Play like the did tonight against Duke, and they’ll lose by 30. Just one game but the kind that leaves a scar.

    Stuart

  3. “Morning Java: What an air ball”

    Better to air ball than to bare all. (Unless the latter is being done in Hippo’s Pond. In which case, do bare all. Then, let lots the air balls bubble up.)

  4. Standard loss in the Dixon era. They finally play a team with an actual pedigree and you see what they truly are. A team that couldn’t score when needed. A team that executed poorly down the stretch-on the final possession by Cincy-4 guys went for the next to last shot leaving three Cincy players uncovered for an offensive rebound and easy putback. A team that suddenly misses FTs over the final 2 min…this was just another in a long line of bad losses under Dixon. Unfortunately, this is his standard team full of pluggers with no real stars and no one to step up when a game is on the line and own it. This could be a very long season in the ACC.

    • The standard is the standard, unfortunately.

    • They finally played a team with actual pedigree? This is also the same Pitt team that beat a good Stanford team by 20. Lunardi actually has them above the Bearcats in his Bracketology. It was a terrible loss and I’m not defending the out of conference schedule, but to act like Cincinnati is the only actual competition Pitt has played so far just isn’t true. If you’re going to knock them for last night, which is absolutely fair, they deserve equal credit for dismantling Stanford. Way too early to tell about this Pitt team.

    • There’s a much longer line of good wins by Pitt under Dixon, Shawn. They may often under-achieve in the NCAA tournament, but not in the regular season.

  5. “Man, the Garden looks great. I guess it should after a $1 billion facelift that pretty much gutted the interior, but it’s finally once again a venue befitting the market.”

    My oldest son, a UF grad who lives and works walking distance from MSG, texted a picture from the Florida-Memphis MSG game last night. Two ranked teams, 77-75 Gators; musta been a heck of a game. From the pic, looked like he was sitting in the front of the second section, about 20-25 rows back.

    Rather than sending an action pic, the players are huddled around their coach during a time out. Why that shot? The Jumbotron was showing Gator fans doing the Gator Chomp.

    That’s my boy.

    And what a building.

    If Giant Steel Walls Could Talk.

  6. I am thrilled that Tampa will host the 2017 Football Championship Game.

    I’ll post PBP from the game.

    That’ll be, what, 11 in a row for the SEC?

    • Hopefully the Gators can make it back to a bowl by then…….too many flying the coup right now, or should I say, leaving the swamp?

      I had high hopes for Tyler Murphy.

  7. Dejan:
    I’m really beginning to appreciate your reporting. Keep up the good work.

  8. My pick to replace Mack Brown will never happen.

    Les Miles, LSU, a very good coach and recruiter and sound bite machine.

    Why:

    - Coaches and recruits well against the best competition in America.
    - Before LSU, Former, successful B12 head coach.
    - It’s not easy to be The Nan Who Follows The Man. He’s already DONE that.

    Why it’ll never happen:

    - Texas is fixated on swinging the pendulum the other way from Brown and getting a young, energetic guy. Miles is 61. (Watch one of his pressers and tell me HE’S not energetic, though.) But that’s what programs do. Go opposite. Fixate. Have to be (fill in the blank…young, one of our guys, old, purple, whatever) rather than good. Or great.
    - Miles truly doesn’t seem to even want his name in speculation. I think he’s done moving and eventually wants to go out on top from LSU.

    • The Nan Who Replaces The Man?

    • I thought Miles would leave for Michigan a couple years ago. Now, I think he’ll stay at LSU until they fire him.

    • My dark horse in this is Charley Strong of Louisville, Drew. I haven’t put a lot of thought into it, but his name popped up for me right away. Him or Dana Holgorsen. Ok, I was kidding about the last part.

      • Charlie Strong is getting lots of mention so he might be a light horse.

        Considering Texas will have trouble getting some of their first-round choices, Charlie might be one to watch.

        He’s good. He’s getable.

        My long shot is HE WHOSE NAME SHALL NOT BE MENTIONED.

        A guy who coached pitt. For 11 months.

        • Ok, if Charley Strong is getting lots of attention in this process, then maybe I have to go with someone else. :-)

          • Not sure if TEXAS can compete for the SEC recruits…they surely do not pay their recruits the same $$$.

            Remember Cam Newton….the standard IS the standard! :-)

          • Mark D’Antonio of MSU? Not a “splash” hiring, but he seems to go about it the right way. He has slowly built MSU into a top team.

        • Drewmeister,

          I would LOVE it if High Octane left Arizona State high and dry for Austin. He probably has “family” around there.

          Texas and ALL MOUTH/NO GAME deserve each other. I still hold it against selfish Texas for the breakup of the Southwest Conference.

          It takes a special kind of coach to survive the media intensity of venues like Texas, LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Florida, Southern Cal, Notre Dame. Todd Graham couldn’t cut it. But I doubt he gets the chance.

          • ASU’s AD did just take over at Texas, Groat. There’s that.

            Penny Graham is probably on ancestry.com right now, searching for relatives at the Alamo. Alas, I believe the only relatives she will find connected with the Alamo will be the ones asking if you remembered to fill the tank up on the way to the airport.

    • Agree with your points, especally on Miles. He sure doesn’t act/seem like he’s 61.

      For awhile there, Wil Muschamp was the “coach in waiting” at UT. At this point, they can have him back.

  9. JAL’s A Winter’s Tale Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6Ik-elE6oU

    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: The Only Thing About TV Revenue That Matters
    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/first-pitch-the-only-thing-about-tv-revenue-that-matters.html

    Winter Leagues: Sam Kennelly Gains Valuable Experience

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/winter-leagues-sam-kennelly-gains-valuable-experience.html

    5 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates interested in Ike Davis

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/12/17/5221524/pirates-interested-in-ike-davis

    6 Rumbunter

    2014 Pittsburgh Pirates: How They Do It Again

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/12/17/2014-pittsburgh-pirates/

    7 City of Champions

    Report: Pittsburgh Pirates discussing Ike Davis and Mitch Moreland as potential trade targets

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/2013/12/17/report-pittsburgh-pirates-looking-trading-new-york-mets-first-baseman-ike-davis/?utm_source=FanSided&utm_medium=Network&utm_campaign=Around%20the%20Network

    8 SB Nation

    The Daily Win: Reviewing the biggest baseball stories of 2013

    http://www.sbnation.com/2013/12/17/5221280/reviewing-the-biggest-baseball-stories-of-2013

    9 Baseball Nation

    So who wins the A’s/O’s closer trade?

    http://www.baseballnation.com/2013/12/17/5221532/oakland-athletics-jim-johnson-baltimore-orioles-grant-balfour-signs-trade

    10 Pirates Site

    Pipeline Perspectives: Pirates’ Draft best of 2013

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/pit/pipeline-perspectives-pirates-first-year-player-draft-best-of-2013?ymd=20131217&content_id=66033778&vkey=news_pit

  10. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Bradenton Herald

    Pittsburgh Pirates pitch in $75,000 for new Palmetto Little League fields

    http://www.bradenton.com/2013/12/17/4893716/pittsburgh-pirates-pitch-in-75000.html

    12 Business Insider

    A Former Major League Pitcher Is Now The Chef At One Of L.A.’s Hottest Restaurants

    http://www.businessinsider.com/the-wallace-restaurant-los-angeles-2013-12

    13 Allentown Morning Call

    You don’t have Mini-Mart to kick around anymore

    http://blogs.mcall.com/ironpigs/2013/12/you-dont-have-mini-mart-to-kick-around-anymore-.html

    14 Forbes

    Major League Baseball Sees Record Revenues Exceed $8 Billion For 2013

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2013/12/17/major-league-baseball-sees-record-revenues-exceed-8-billion-for-2013/

    15 New York Times

    Japan Star in Demand but Also in Limbo

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/sports/baseball/tanaka-wants-to-play-in-mlb-but-club-balks-at-the-idea.html?_r=0

    16 San Francisco Chronicle

    2013 Final Baseball Payrolls

    http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/2013-Final-Baseball-Payrolls-5072623.php

    17 St Louis Post Dispatch

    Strauss: Mozeliak satisfied with new Cardinals

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/joe-strauss/strauss-mozeliak-satisfied-with-new-cardinals/article_e79c19b1-400a-598c-bf9c-683364a3b442.html

    18 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Brewers look to fill hole at first base with Corey Hart’s departure

    http://www.jsonline.com/sports/brewers/brewers-look-to-fill-hole-at-first-base-with-corey-harts-departure-b99162566z1-235674811.html

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Sweetspot

    How often do LOOGYs get matchup edge?

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/43004/how-often-do-loogys-get-matchup-edge

    20 Fangraphs

    Keeping or Losing a Star-Level Player

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/keeping-or-losing-a-star-level-player/

  11. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says choosing Le’Veon Bell over Eddie Lacy was an ‘easy choice

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/17/5221638/steelers-coach-mike-tomlin-comments-2013-nfl-draft-eddie-lacy-leveon-bell

    Tomlin Press Conference: Injuries and Game Notes

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/17/5220296/tomlin-press-conference-injuries-and-game-notes

    22 Steelers Gab

    Playoffs?! Don’t Talk About Playoffs – Steelers Odds Are Not Good

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2013/12/17/playoffs-dont-talk-about-playoffs-steelers-odds-are-not-good/

    Soccer(football)

    23 Stars and Stripes

    From Dooley to Jones, bases in Germany feed US soccer team’s multicultural success

    http://www.stripes.com/news/from-dooley-to-jones-bases-in-germany-feed-us-soccer-team-s-multicultural-success-1.257375

    24 World Soccer Daily

    Gennaro Gatusso under investigation for match-fixing – World Soccer Daily

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/247/gattuso-match-fixing

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Cheers and Jeers

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/12/17/5221386/dan-byslma-pens-winning-streak-penguins-injuries

    Song: Winter A Winter’s Tale Moody Blues

  12. NHL.com wrote a piece on Olli Maatta today!
    http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=696389&navid=DL|NHL|home

    “Rivalry night face-off” analyzes which rookie does the most for his team, Maata for the Pens or Chris Krieder for the Rangers. Guess which rookie won that face-off? :)

    If being the subject of an article on NHL.com doesn’t force the powers that be in the Pens organization to hang on to Maatta this year, then I’m a fill-in-the-blank.

    • Thanks for the link, Joni….love it! Maatta is something special.

    • The amazing thing about the Pens and Maata is that in the 2012 draft, Maata was rated as a top 10 pick easy. Even after the Pens took Pouliot, Maata was still there at #22 for their second-1st round pick. People recognized he had talent (other than all those who passed on him), and now the Pens are reaping the rewards. Just think, he probably will represent Finland in the Olympics at age 19, and he still will get better….

  13. That was an absolutely brutal game to watch last night. I thought rules were changed to prevent so much of the close guarding and contact that many felt resulted in low scoring games. Cincinatti defenders were in the face of every Pitt player when they had the ball last night and they turned the game into a hack fest. Pitt’s defense looked very good at times but they gave up baskets as the shot clock expired too many times. Until last night, this Pitt team was making free throws at a higher % than any I can remember. Zanna and Patterson couldn’t execute when it mattered most.

    Still, it’s December which is a long way from March. Check back in late January/early February and we’ll have a much better idea of what this Pitt team is capable of. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

    • I agree on the lack of free throw shooting down the stretch, Steve. Patterson just did not come through. Simple as that. And, unfortunately, Zanna was getting the ball too much at the end. Cincinnati seemed to intentionally foul him as a strategy to get him to the line. Robinson should have the ball in his hands more at the end. He is money from the line. I was surprised that Patterson missed both of those, though.

      Pitt did not respond well to a team that got in their faces and turned the game into a playground brawl. Cincinnati barely runs an offense. I said yesterday that they only use outside shots as a means to getting layups on offensive rebounds. They basically kill 30 seconds, then whichever guy has the ball with 5 seconds left throws it at the hoop and they all go hard after it. Pitt did not match that intensity all night. The team that wanted it more got the win.

      But, I am not so sure this spells doom and gloom in the ACC. Teams don’t generally play rugged, in your face, man on ball defense so much in the ACC. I don’t know of any teams that look like UC in the ACC. I think Pitt basically left that behind in the Big East. UC last night brought an attitude that was an awful lot like the lunch pail mentality of Wichita St. in March. Pitt did not respond well on either occasion, and that is an issue. But, I’m not so sure most of the teams in the ACC wouldn’t also have that issue with a UC or Wichita St.

      It takes all sorts of ways to win games in all sorts of conditions. The teams that are able to adapt the best to multiple styles do the best in the Big Dance. Right now, Pitt is still transitioning and they have a long way to go. But, I don’t think this signals a bad season ahead. The year is still young. Let’s see how they grow from it.

      • What frustrates me about Pitt is it seems they never have that one guy that can take over in a game like this. I kept expecting them to get the ball to Lamar and giving him the opportunity to drive to the basket but they just didn’t seem to be able to set that up. No one stepped up on a night that baskets were at a premium.

        I don’t think this game spells doom and gloom for the ACC either. There is nothing to be gained by playing your best basketball in December.

        • Good point about still searching for a “go to” guy late in games. Patterson is the likely guy. He didn’t do it last night. Dejan said he took his performance particularly hard. If that makes him work even harder, it could be a good thing.

  14. Pens recall Gibbons (Hobbitt #2) so I guess Megna is out…
    http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=696390

  15. Pitt will have a difficult time against teams in the ACC that can put together 10-0 runs in the blink of an eye…I think some fans need to realize only a handful of guys in the Big East were pure sharpshooters from all over the floor. In the ACC, those guys are everywhere. Plus your gonna run into talented 7 footers more frequently…ACC teams aren’t gonna play half court streetfights. They are gonna run and shoot right past the Panthers.

    • So Pitt, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Louisville (next year) have no shot in the ACC. From my perspective the current ACC is Duke and North Carolina followed by a bunch of average to bad teams. The Big East transplants, including Pitt, will compete and do just fine.

      • I could have posted this word for word, Steve. If Pitt competed well vs. the Big East all these years, they should hang with the ACC teams. There is a transition period, but it is not to get acclimated with the stifling defense of the ACC, because that doesn’t exist. Pitt needs to continue to transition to the running and athleticism of the ACC. Cincy is designed nothing like a good ACC team.

      • Thought we were talking about Pitt? Cuse and Louisville have been able to recruit the guards and small forwards that could score off the dribble. They have the hardware to prove it…its why I don’t comment on these things as much….Blog posters twist things like my wife. I get enough of that at home.

  16. Vinnie and Cook are breaking up on the FAN? What happened?

  17. So, the Bucs are said to be interested in Ike (and Tina) Davis of the Mets as the lefty half of a platoon with Gaby at 1b. The other options most frequently mentioned have been Justin “Blowing” Smoak, Mitch Moreland and Eric Chavez (Ravine). I have posted each of their numbers vs. RHP here in the past couple of weeks, but not together. Without further adieu:

    Ike Davis, who will turn 27 in March, vs RHP

    2013 – 248 AB, 13 doubles, 0 triples, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 53 BB, 79 K, slash: .222/.356/.371
    Career slash: .256/.356/.471

    Mitch Moreland, who is 28, vs. RHP:

    2013 – 321 AB, 10 doubles, 1 triple, 20 HR, 46 RBI, 34 BB, 81 K, slash: .227/.300/.452
    Career slash: .258/.325/.463

    Justin Smoak, who is 27 (and a switch hitter) vs. RHP:

    2013 – 308 AB, 13 doubles, 0 HR, 18 HR, 39 RBI, 47 BB, 82 K, slash: .260/.361/.477
    Career slash: .229/.323/.397

    Eric Chavez, who is 36, vs. RHP:

    2013 – 228 AB, 14 doubles, 2 triples, 9 HR, 44 RBI, 19 BB, 45 K, slash: .281/.332/.478
    Career slash: .279/.357/.510

    Obviously, it is not easy to definitively say who is the best option. FWIW, Davis and Smoak played in pitcher’s parks last year, while Moreland and Chavez had the luxury of playing in hitters’ parks. That definitely skews numbers one way or the other.

    The Mets were said to be asking for starting pitcher Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers for Davis. I’m not sure who the equivalent is from the Bucs. Maybe Locke?

    • Jim Bowden said yesterday that he liked Smoak for us over Moreland or Davis. So I’m leaning towards Moreland or Davis.

      • I don’t like Moreland so much. I think he gets a big boost from the warm weather and offensive atmosphere in TX.

        I don’t like Bowden much, and it amazes me that he was a GM so long.

        So, I’ll go with Smoak. He was good last year, although career-wise he struggles batting lefty. I believe they brought the fences in somewhat last year in Seattle, right? I think I read that. It may have had something to do with his power surge.

        • I’m leaning towards Smoak. I don’t like Moreland’s K rate or his K/BB rate. I remember watching Davis a bit last year and he let his frustration show a lot at the plate and walking back to the dugout. Swearing, walking with his head down, looked like a hot head at times. That just bothered me. Maybe that’s silly but it made an impression on me. Smoak’s K/BB rate was pretty good in relation to the MLB average last year – 1.86 to 2.36.

          • I would also think Seattle needs to dump one of these 1b they suddenly have. Morrison and Hart both have iffy knees, and Smoak can’t play the OF. I would think Smoak is the odd man out. Maybe we could get him for less than what it would take to get Davis.

            I don’t like Moreland, either.

            • I think I don’t like Moreland because you weren’t able to come up with a nickname for him like you did the others.

              How about Mitch “This Land is” Moreland?

              • I love that, 26.2! Mitch “This Land is” Moreland is the best of the bunch. I actually put a bit of thought into it, but nothing jumped to mind.

    • Great analysis, Jim, but isn’t this baseball talk?

      Good thing the boss is in NYC. We can get away with a few posts of the dreaded summer sport while he naps.

      ;)

    • I got a novice idea for the first base issue with the Pirates. How about an open try out? Bring people into PNC Park and see what they can do. I’ll put the cleats on and flash the leather at first for this. Big deal if I’m a little past my “prime”. They can sign the winner of this open try out to the league minimum. Couldnt be worse then whats available out there! I’ll even swing at balls way outside like the guy on third does when he can’t recognize a breaking pitch. And if I get lucky with some connection of the ball and bat, it could go a llllllloooooooonggggggggg way too :) Issue resolved :)

  18. 56 DAYS UNTIL PITCHERS & CATCHERS REPORT TO PIRATE CITY IN BRADENTON FOR SPRING TRAINING

  19. Bob Smizak opines that Eric Chavez is the best option at first for the Pirates. He mentions Eric’s 6 gold gloves at third as evidence that he could transition to first better than others. He hits lefty, and has good numbers against right handed pitching.

    I think I would agree that Chavez might be better than Davis or Moreland.

    Stuart

    • Good thought. Versatility on either side of the infield could come in handy, Stuart. I don’t like Gaby at 3b defensively at this point.

      Pedro can use the occasional break vs tough LHP, and that would get Chavez and Gaby both in the lineup on those days.

      • It would give some additional bench versatility, but I would want Chavez to make the move to first to platoon with Gaby.

        Stuart

        • I think if they get Chavez, or any of these guys, it would definitely be as the lefty half of a platoon with Gaby. But, you mentioned a good point that Chavez can also still play 3rd.

          • Gaby Sanchez is the poster boy for all that is wrong with a large amount of the statistics we now see every day in baseball.
            The guy “pops up or K’s” more than a rooster crows in the morning….Especially with men on base.
            I can’t figure out why (perhaps it’s direct orders from GM Huntington) but a certain faction of Pirate fans love this guys supposed talents more than a kid likes candy on Halloween.

            Sanchez seems like a nice enough guy….But so was Brandon Inge.
            Note to the Nutting Regime….Spend a few bucks and get a real first baseman.
            Although….It might already be too late.

            • Maybe it is because Sanchez actually is a very good hitter when asked only to perform in situations where he excels – against LHP. He is the textbook definition of a platoon player. We don’t currently have a full-time 1b. Until we get that guy, Sanchez makes perfect sense as the right-handed half of a 1b platoon. That means he should get 30% of the ABs, or roughly 175-200 this season. I don’t know of anyone here advocating for him to play full-time. That did not work out well for the short time Hurdle tried it last year. I also don’t know of anyone “loving this guy more than a kid likes candy on Halloween.” But, here are his 2013 and career slash lines vs. LHP (batting avg./OBP/Slugging):

              2013 – .333/.448/.539
              Career – .300/.399/.496

              Here is what he did with 2 outs and runners in scoring position vs. LHP this year:

              .295/.426/.489

              Tell me again how he always pops up and K’s. Not vs. LHP. He got on base at a .448 clip vs. LHP last year, and it is .399 for his career. His slugging % against LHP is very high as well. And, he hits .300+. His hitting should be confined to facing LHP as much as possible.

              • more wisdom!

              • It’s called watching a baseball game.
                I saw 95% of the Pirate games this past season.
                Myself….(And a host of others I was watching the game with) continually sank in our seats when Sanchez came up with men on base (especially against a RH pitcher).
                Stats are stats….But those stats were padded when the Pirates were ahead by many, many runs.

                As for wisdom….This is baseball, not ancient philosophy.

              • Oh, well as long as Daq and his buddies say so then we may as well not even keep stats!

                WISDOM!

              • I agree that some stats go too far, and I don’t buy into all of the SABR stuff. But, batting average, on base % and slugging % don’t work for you? Those stats have been tracked since Babe Ruth’s time and earlier.

                How, exactly, are you going to prove that Sanchez only got hits when padding a lead or when the game was out of hand? Neither of us have any idea if that is the case.

                I get the MLB Extra Innings Pkg, and I watched nearly every Pirates game as well. Sanchez has a career track record of hitting very well vs. LHP. As long as he starts at 1b vs. only LHP, we should be fine for those ABs. The problem is, they need to find a lefty hitter who hits RHP equally well so that Sanchez is not exposed to RHP very often.

              • He just told you his proof, Jim.

                WATCH THE GAMES!

                Infallible, right?

              • Well said, Jim. I watched a helluva lotta Pirates’ games this past season, and I saw Gabby hit more than just with a padded lead…like how many times did the Buccos have a padded lead anyway?????

              • Good point, Jandy. We weren’t exactly blowing teams out. Scoring runs was probably our biggest weakness.

              • I hope Huntington is happy with me for following his orders and fighting the good fight on Gaby Sanchez.

                Maybe that will get me off the hook for criticizing him for signing Volquez and not trying harder to sign Loney.

              • Checks in the mail, Jim. :)

              • I know it will be a small check again this year … Local TV deal and all.

              • Well, you MIGHT get tickets for all-you-can-eat seats :D

              • But look at the bright side Jim. It will be in the top half of checks NMR sends out this year. But he can’t tell you how much, of course.

              • Listen, if Jim wants market rate, he’s gotta know that he’ll be getting it from another regional newspaper sports blog.

              • The irony of this little Gaby sh*tfest is that the Pirates are DAMN lucky to have him.

                Think about the situation if Gaby was not on the team. NONE of the available 1B options, James Loney included, are even average evryday players.

                The fact that Gaby Sanchez allows these guys the opportunity to only face opposite handed pitching is the only thing that makes them even the slightest bit palatable.

              • That is so true, NMR. There are plenty of lefty hitting 1b options around, but none of these guys could cut it if they were forced to take all of the ABs.

              • I was just offered more money on Smizik’s site, but they insisted I provide Facebook info. So, I’ll stick with below market rate and anonymity provided here. :-)

    • Shows why Smizik hasn’t been hired by the Trib yet.

      ;)

    • Other than the fact that Eric Chavez has played 100 games a grand total of once since 2006, it sounds like a swell idea.

  20. I guess I’m just old school, but I really don’t see a problem with this hit.

    http://deadspin.com/flyers-brayden-schenn-blindsided-injured-by-vicious-h-1485426983/@samer

    Can someone explain charging to me? I thought it was something about 3 strides…

    What was Wilson supposed to do? Brian Engblom (in the commentary) said Wilson needs to slow down. Was he supposed to let Schenn just skate away from him? Lightly coast with him into the boards in the event that he caught up with Schenn?

    Schenn has the puck, clearly sees Wilson (whether its at the “last second” or not), as he tries to change directions to avoid the check or protect the puck, he gets pummeled on the shoulder (a bit on the back side of the shoulder), and flies into the boards smashing his head (at least that’s what I saw; if someone sees if differently, please let me know).

    This seems like they punished the result of the play. Had Schenn flown into the boards and didn’t hit his head, and he got up fine, would they have even called a penalty (seems like the refs hands go up after they see Schenn laid out, not when Wilson makes the hit (or maybe the game is just too fast))?

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can talk about player safety (and trying to get these types of hits out of the game) when the rules allow for fist-fighting….

  21. Based on Tomlin’s comments about how “easy” the selection of Bell was in last year’s draft (JAL link #21), it seems apparent to me that Mike Tomlin has a huge say in draft picks. We often wonder whether Colbert or Tomlin has the final say, and I don’t know for sure but I would say from all the comments I’ve heard from Tomlin since Bell was drafted that his biggest proponent was Tomlin. Maybe Colbert felt the same way?

    This just in: Eddie Lacey is pretty good, too.

  22. The Pirates ought th have signed James Loney, even if it took a three year contract. Every winter we are talking about first base. I look at it this way: if an organization like Tampa Bay wanted to keep Loney, then he should be pursued; conversely, if a team like the Mets has given up on Ike Davis, then intuition tells you to avoid him. After all, he can’t play daily in that line-up in Queens ?

    To quote the Velvet Fog: “Although it has been said, many times, many ways,” Ike Davis stinks.

    • Wisdom from the hinterland and Mel Torme.

      Hard to argue with that!

    • Loney was my first choice as well, Osh. That would not have cost any talent in return. I know they were hung up on Loney asking for 3 years, and I did not like that part, either. I guess we may never know, but I wonder if they thought of offering better than Tampa’s avg $ per year on a 2 year deal. Did the Bucs offer 2/$16, for instance? I wonder if Loney would have taken that? My guess is we did not offer it. We probably determined he was not worth it.

      The problem with never stretching beyond a pre-determined value, though, is you might end up Lambo as your left-handed hitting 1b getting 70% of the ABs this year. I am not down on Lambo. I am ok with him getting a shot. But, at present, there is no one else if he struggles, as young guys often do. In a year where you are expecting to contend, that is risky.

      NYM are said to be asking a lot for Ike. I don’t know what is being asked for the others.

    • Spoken like a true Milonian blog person. Most of which concur.

    • I think getting Loney would’ve been short sighted. A product of an awful market.

      James Loney is just not that good. He’s not that bad, either. And that is a dangerous combination.

      Considering the Pirates would’ve had to beat Tampa’s offer, can we really look three or four years down the road and be comfortable with James Loney taking up 10% of the teams payroll?

      • No. I only wanted him for 2 years. And, you are right. He is just adequate. But, I felt better about him than Lambo or Ishikawa.

        • Absolutely better than those two.

          But my point is that is only a decision that matters RIGHT NOW. The options will be different by the trade deadline in July. And different next winter and the one after that.

        • Watching Ishikawa play for the Giants, I wasn’t impressed and his offensive numbers match that. But he does bring a good glove and was a late inning substitution for Brandon Belt when he was a rookie.

          That said, I would love for the Pirates to go after Brandon Belt, though I’m pretty sure he’s not on the block. His defense has improved remarkably over the last couple of years and he is on the verge of a serious power break out.

          • Felt like Bochy jerked him around for two years. I bet the Giants would’ve given him up rather easily this time last winter.

            After that monster second half, unlikely.

            • It’s very unlikely, but the Giants always think pitching first and have money to throw around. I really thought they’d be in on Cano.

              I don’t think Bochy trusted him for the full time duties just yet and they had the experience of Aubrey Huff around who had a huge season in 2010, to turn around and suck it up after a huge pay raise.

  23. Dejan,

    Very, very good column.

    Thanks for asking Dixon the pertinent question about the schedule. He did not appear to like it. Guilty?

    I know it’s always 15 feet when at the foul line, but I think that orange circle with the net hanging down actually gets smaller when there is pressure on sinking a late foul shot. A good team should not wait until their 11th game to play an opponent who might bring that kind of pressure to bear. Not if they want to get better through being challenged.

    I can beat my daughter in foul shooting all day, any day. Much easier to shoot with her than some of the guys at the Y.

  24. Travis Ishikawa and Daniel Schlereth among 7 getting invites to Pirates spring training.

  25. I agree with Naterosboro regarding the Schenn – Wilson hit; watched it several times and Schenn put himself in a position to get hit with an active look at Wilson. In the context of the play, he had to know there were forecheckers on the way – no hockey person would advise Wilson to slow down and not actively go after the puck as he did.

    This is a good article on the subject of NHL fighting and picks up on several of the points that Dejan has made regarding Betman and the NHL brass – plus it is from the Winnipeg newspaper which has to carry additional weight:
    http://www.winnipegsun.com/2013/12/17/its-time-to-make-a-stand-against-fighting-in-the-nhl

    • Brandon, thanks for the link…it’s excellent reading.

    • Brandon, thanks for this link. It was a great article, very persuasive. Banning fighting makes so much sense that the NHL will probably never do it.

    • Hit looked bad but you guys are right about schenn turning at the worst possible time. Didn’t see the game but knowing how schenn plays wilson and caps were probably looking for a time to run him. Much like neals knee on marchand its really really hard to slow down and let up on players like that.

    • Good read brandon. Thanks. Very convincing and moving stuff. Had the same thoughts on Parros. Dude just got back and was ready to fight right away. Hearing about Parker and seeing the names of Belak and boogaard in ink as players i vividly remember playing and fighting made it a tough read. I hope more writers north of the border get on board cuz otherwise i dont think there will be enough traction to change much of anything, let alone eliminate fighting.

      Overall i cant believe how much on the fence i am about removing fighting all together. If someone takes a run at 87 and 71 or takes a cheap shot, I like having the option to challenge a willing combatant so they know what they did wrong. The fights off face offs that are totally staged are a joke but unfortunately exactly the reason why so many enforcers had jobs and are suffering cuz of it. A

      According to that writer, the NHL believes that fighting and violence is good for business. Clear proof that the KDUU is out in full force, north of the border anyway. But if they polled their fans and close followers of the game they’ll probably discover that business will be even better if skill, speed and clean hits are the focus. Won’t happen overnight and not without some questionable calls and suspensions, but disciplining in a way that forces the players to evolve would be a good start.

      • Monster – good points on the fighting and defense of the Stars…having played competitive contact sports for most of my life, I believe that good, legit hits can be made in lieu of bad hits. In the NHL, this would only work if the brass changed the rules allowing fighting AND provided real penalties for actions that are outside the bounds of realistic, safe play. The borderline NHL’ers relying only on physical intimidation would exit the sport quickly. An “honest player” such as Shawn Thorton would be suspended for the balance of the season for his actions and the knee to the head by Neal would be a far greater suspension than 5 games. Most importantly, the punishment and rules would be clear upfront rather than all parties involved having to guess what the league interpretation would be – these athletes will adapt very quickly if their livelihood was in jeopardy; the sport can certainly maintain the fundamental physical element without the dangerous and lifelong tragedies.

  26. 12 days until the Nor Cal clan is heading east………….things are coming together, 4 kids, 3 cars (one shipped) 2 boats………..should be quite interesting.

    • Beautiful time of year for that move.

    • “4 kids”

      Can any of them play first base and hit a little?

      • My 6 year old.

        #4 power hitting type.

        And he can hit LHP because his pitcher is a lefty.

        He’ll be well rounded, non platoon type player

        • Please expedite his development. There is no one on the horizon for the Bucs.

          • He loves it. Lives for baseball.

            • That’s great. A throwback. Mine is the same way. Gave up hockey a few years ago to concentrate on baseball. As much as I love hockey, his decision saved me a bunch of money.

              • No kidding……Just when you think all the fancy bats and gloves cost a lot, hockey is ridiculous.

              • The ice time is just brutal. And, around here, unlike dad’s coaching in baseball, you have to pay full-time pros to coach hockey. I went through that with my daughter in soccer forever. Really drives up the cost – although that one did pay off.

              • I looked into it when I lived in Alaska for my son. He wanted to and was young enough to get started in it, but the price was ridiculous, at 4-5 years old.

              • I think if your kid is an obvious phenom, or you have enough money that 5 digits per year means nothing to you, then go for it. Or, if you are from Canada and ice time just means waiting for the local ponds to freeze over. Otherwise, that is a tough one. My son was a couple of years late getting started for me to commit.

  27. Pirates also signed Kyle McPherson to a minor league contract. Shows how fragile pro careers can be- He went from the early favorite for the 5th spot in the rotation last spring to DFA and then a minor league contract in less than year.

    • You’re right, JAL. That was a very unfortunate injury for him that derailed his chances. Hopefully, he can come back 100% and latch on somewhere.

    • I’m far less dramatic on this one.

      All we can say for sure is that he lost a year of development, and that is it.

      Tommy John on younger pitchers has great success rates today. If the team would’ve made him get surgery right away instead of wasting months of rehab, McPherson could’ve easily been a second half bullpen options.

  28. You’re kidding. A column about Pitt’s non conference schedule ? Another one. I guess the definition of the same old tired topic is in the eyes of the beholder.

  29. Lost in all the moaning of Pitt’s non-conference schedule………….

    last nights game was simply Pitt getting outworked, IMO.
    They were beaten on the offensive boards by 9!! in a single game. Pitt was sloppy with the ball, resulting in turnovers. Pitt was outworked by Cincy getting loose balls. That all points to effort.

    Yes Cincy had a good D last night, but Pitts sloppiness certainly didnt help. And, unfortunately, Pitt reverted to honorary status in the bricklayers union from the line last night. Truly a bizarre game to watch.

    • UC wanted it more, plan. That was so painful to watch.

      • We are correct.
        I dont see how being outworked relates to the OOC schedule.

        Coach Dixon needs to get through to his players……… fast.

        • Teachable moment. I think this will be a valuable lesson that we may point to later.

          • Or is it possible that UC is just a better team than the usually overhyped Pitt basketball squad?

            Their record means nothing at this point, except they can beat lower level teams.

            • I don’t know. It was a 1 pt loss in a game that was close the whole way. UC didn’t look very good to me. But, they crashed the offensive boards with a vengeance.

  30. Thought vinny was gone from 93.7? He’s on today. If jandstar and brandicita cant have their own show than we should push to get dejan on the air. :)

  31. Overheard at the water cooler at Pirates HQ on Federal Street this morning between NH and FC:

    NH: Thanks for hanging me out to dry on this revenue thing, boss.

    FC: What are you talking about?

    NH: Did you forget our little organizational chit-chat right before the MLB Winter Meetings? You said I should continue to cry poor about our payroll situation, that I should say we can’t pay AJ or anyone else market value, that the national TV deal money was blown out of proportion. Do you not remember any of that?

    FC: Yeah … so … What’s your point?

    NH: Last weekend, at Pirates Fest, you told everyone that our local TV deal is in the top 1/2 of all MLB teams. So, now people want to know if I was lying about the amount of money we have for payroll. In case you hadn’t noticed, their questions make a good bit of sense. And, I am looking bad.

    FC: Neal, Neal. When are you going to learn this isn’t about you?

  32. Casey “Chemistry” McGehee back in the Majors. $1.1M for one year with the Marlins.

  33. Eric Chavez has signed with the Diamondbacks.

    Please disperse, there’s nothing to see here.

  34. Was watching that “NHL Rivals” show on NBCSN last night. I forgot David Shaw got 12 games for slashing Mario back in ’88.

    Jump ahead 25 years and Thornton gets just 3 more games for punching an unconscious player during play stoppage.

    Progress, NHL style.

  35. Looking forward to this Pens Rangers game. Rangers are only 1-3-1 on this nine game homestand. Hank has been weak in goal since signing the new contract. Despite injuries, Pens keep it going strong. Should be interesting.

  36. Engelland gone for 5 games for his hit the other night.

  37. There were 112 icings last night in 12 games. That’s an average of 9.33. Probably an additional half 4.67 were icings washed off. So an average of 14 per game. A season with 1230 games. That is a total of 17,220 icing plays per year. Conservatively. For that I can name 4 guys in many yeras who were injured and one was Pat Peake in 1996! Tom Gilbert, Nick Schultz, Joni Pitkanen. For that we have calls for no touch icings. Nevermind the 50 dump-ins per game that result in the same rush for the puck. Maybe a few dozen injuries on a total of conservatively 597,120 rushes to the wall since the 2005 lockout. There is no injury plague on that play. It is a myth. Hybrid icing should be removed.

    Last night there were 520 hits in 12 games. That’s an average of 43.3. 1230 games per year for a total of 53,300 hits. Maybe a few dozen suspendable hits per year. Do the math… I’ll even give you 100 suspensions a year just to make you happy. 100 suspensions on 53,300 hits is 0.19% There is no plague in the NHL. Stop being so damn fixated on the topic. And be the only topic you can talk hockey about.

  38. So the talk on the FAN this afternoon was Ike for one of our outstanding left handed relievers?

    No thanks, see what Lambo can do and then trade if it doesn’t work out

    • I say no thanks too Biz.

      Coming home tonight I was listening to MLB XM. Casey Stern is the cohost and big Mets fan. He said that he thinks Ike Davis could definitely use a change of scenery and he may eventually get back to where he was 2 years ago.
      But he said last year he was totally lost at the plate. Every at bat was 3 swing & missed. Cannot hit the curveball.

      If we got him for a mid level prospect, fine. But no way do I part with Watson or Wilson.

      I actually am starting to believe they should keep the bullpen in place as is and rely on it being a strength again this season. Risky yes. But less risky than trading Watson or Wilson for Ike Davis.

      • Tough call. If Ike is ready to regain his past lines, then it would be well worth a relief pitcher. I’m a fan of both Watson and Wilson, but to get some offensive production from a semi-young, years of control guy as much better upside than a relief pitcher.

        But the big question is, could Davis turn things around? And that, I dont know about.

        • Keep your strength, unless “You got an AW offer too hard to refuse”

          If you catch the Godfather drift

          Good chips with the lefties, NH, under control and all that stuff

    • Maybe for a minor league reliever.

  39. Lineup changes on the FAN. Starting 1/6, Josh Miller moves to morning show Filliponi teams with Ron Cook and Colin Dunlap moves to 6-10pm.
    Posted above as a reply to Biz. Don’t know if anyone saw it.

  40. Somebody who tweets, please tweet the blogfather to remember to put up the game thread. :)

  41. No blog post, I’m dead, sent Dejan an e-mail

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