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Morning Java: One week to go

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Sochi Olympics are only a week away, so I’ll be spending most of the next few days preparing. Because of that and the extra Pitt-Duke game column Tuesday, there won’t be another until an Olympics preview piece Sunday.

Seems as good a time as any to share what to expect from the coverage:

>> Column every day, beginning to end.

>> Emphasis, as ever, on Pittsburgh. It’s kind of what I do. We’ve got seven Penguins, as well as Rochester’s Lauryn Williams in the bobsled and Robert Morris’ Brianne McLaughlin in women’s hockey. Where they go, I go. At the same time, I’ll also get around to some of the higher-profile events and look at broader issues.

>> Blog entries right here, including all the usual Morning Java fare, game threads for events over there and back home.

>> A daily video from the Olympic oval or the mountain snow venues, depending on the coverage that day. I have a new Trib Total Media jacket for this. It’s sporty.

>> Weekday reports for TribLIVE Radio that will air during our morning show with Ken Laird and Guy Junker, as well as being made available through podcast. If you’re mobile, try the TribLIVE Radio app.

>> One other thing. Can’t talk about it yet.

The best way to enjoy any Trib stuff is in print, and this won’t be an exception. Our staff will produce roughly a half-dozen pages a day that summarizes the Games as a whole in a terrific package.

There’s nothing like covering an Olympics, and that holds true even if there are no Starbucks in the entire region, even if black widows are threatening to blow things up. It’ll be my fourth Games, and I couldn’t be more proud to represent our company there.

>> Olli Maatta for the Calder? Josh Yohe examines the field.

The NHL’s top rookie almost always goes to the top scorer, and there’s no reason to envision that changing anytime soon. Maatta won’t have numbers, not even arcane stuff like plus-minus, so you’d have to count on voters watching a ton of games (not easy when traveling around on a beat) or word of mouth (conceivable, but not as powerful as numbers).

We’ll see. The kid absolutely merits consideration.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage, with Rob Rossi following the team on this two-game Western swing.

Here’s Kings news from the Los Angeles Times.

Here are official game highlights from

>> John Elway is making another Super Bowl splash, by Alan Robinson in New York.

Here’s our full Super Bowl coverage.

>> Penn State hoops rarely are all that great, but they do seem to come up with big upsets such as D.J. Newbill’s OT buzzer-beater to put down No. 24 Ohio State last night in Columbus.

>> Duquesne rallies on the road past NJIT, by Aaron Bracy in spectacular Newark. Another big night for Ovie Soko.

>> Problems for Pitt beyond the defense, laid bare by beat man Kevin Gorman.

>> I’ll check in with TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.m. The weekly chat will be tomorrow at noon.

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. “It’s kind of what I do…Lauryn Williams… Brianne McLaughlin…Where they go, I go.”
    That’s called stalking, back in the good ol’ US of A.
    Kidding, of course. I’m sure whatever pieces you send back on these young ladies will be cut out and framed by their parents and someday will be read by their grandchildren. You’ll send chills down those future grandkids backs like only you know how.

  2. *I wonder if the threat of attacks will raise the intensity of not only those outside of the games but for those while in them. Could the stakes be so high, the athletes take it to another level… thinking about hockey and figure skating and no, not talking about another Harding-Kerigan incident.

    *Pirates needed a 1B, SS and RF… they’ve basically decided to survive with Tabata and Snider until Polanco is up (don’t disagree with this) for RF and then let’s re-live those highlights at SS with Barmes and Mercer. Not sure Lambo inspires great confidence as a run producing bat but hey what do I know, the team has an upper level tv contract to be boasting about.

    *Quick if you have NHL Center Ice… get the Edmonton-San Jose game on… unreal goaltending performance by Oilers Ben Scrivens….

    • 59 save performance…. unreal.

      DK: Great for Scrivens. Watched the third period. But sorry, 59 shots should never, ever result in a shutout. Bigger nets now.

      • Also depends on the scorekeepers

      • Great for Scrivens, but as the seventeen-year-old said at breakfast: “Didn’t anybody play defense in front of the guy?”

        • Hence the reason why the Edmonton Oilers are desperate for defensive help. Scrivens is going to see more rubber than an Atlanta highway during a snowstorm backstopping that lineup. Still, it’s great to see Scrivens giving the team some hope.

          And, sorry Dejan, a 59 shot shutout is rare enough that everyone in the league (and outside the sport) is talking about it this morning. When these types of performances are the norm rather than the exception, we can have that discussion. Until then, please leave the nets alone. If you’d like to champion an automatic two-minute minor for any contact to an opponent’s head and stricter enforcement of charging penalties, I’ll gladly lend my support.

  3. Morning Dejan

    Like I’ve said many times

    Take care of yourself

    Terrorists cannot be allowed to rule the world

    Just sayin

  4. DK….the Duquesne hoops link (above) currently is inaccurate…. pointing to a Pitt story

    Let’s go DOOOO-QUESNE !!!

    …..still above .500 (barely) this late in the season……nice job by Jim Ferry and the troops trying to claw their way to some degree of credibility for the program. Keep up the good work guys.

  5. Finally had a chance to read and listen to the AJ stuff.

    My thoughts about AJ? I’m tired of thinking about it. At least until something happens.

    I had hopes for AJ, expressed here in freaking November. Those haven’t changed but I’m not gonna rehash.

    If something actually, you know, HAPPENS that I don’t like, I’ll react. But it’s been a looooong episode of nothing happening, and I’m not gonna react to that.

    My thoughts about Pittsburghers (geographic or virtual) believing that Pirates leadership is not trying to build a winner? I think it’s an incorrect perception, but I think the perception widely exists and I sort of understand why.

    EYE think that Frank and Neal (more so than Cartoon Nutting or Hurdle) have a we-know-best demeanor. In different ways but I think that comes across from the two of them. (At least those times when you can even understand what Neal is saying.)

    Whether fair or not, that we-know-best demeanor comes across as arrogance. And generally people line up to dislike leaders who project arrogance, especially when those leaders cannot laugh at themselves a little bit. Or acknowledge even the viability of another point of view.

    So do I think Frank and Neal are not trying to win? Nope. Do i think they put money in front as the PRIMARY objective? Nope, though I do think they clearly try to live – and win – within their financial realities.

    What i DO think is that THEY are responsible – not us – for almost all the negative and incorrect perceptions.

    Because trying to make money at the expense of winning isn’t the only way to be, um, jerks.

    And we don’t like jerks.

    • Unless the jerks, you know, win. Consistently.

      Most fans – anywhere – will justify jerks if they are WINNING.

      - Milwaukee cheering Braun
      - San Fran cheering Bonds
      - In their better days, Raiders fans dressed in skull-n-bones, cheering whatever the Raiders could get away with.

      Often defiantly.

      Not because their heroes were bad. But because in a sports sense, because their heroes were good.

      So. If the Pirates make the playoffs the next three years? Watch for Neal and Frank masks for Halloween.

      • thanks for good perspective Drew on the AJ (lack of) news…. I don’t tend to put 100% faith in anything that is publicly stated in the midst of ‘negotiations’…and yes, since AJ became a free agent everything he says has to be taken in that context… so the ” I don’t wanna pitch anywhere but Pittsburgh” was a negotiation angle just like the release this week from the ‘sources close to situation” that AJ “will definitely pitch and it may be someplace other than Pittsburgh”… translation of all this? AJ wants to be “wanted”.. was pretty clear Pittsburgh wasn’t going to pay his true market value for 2014 (some places have that as high as $22M).. so he dangled out there the “I wanna be a Pirate” to see how much the Pirates would offer him. Now, we read how many other teams (Phillies, Orioles, Blue Jays (Really??), Nationals) are ready to offer AJ market value for 2014… and if that is between $17M and $22M, prepare to wish AJ well as he tries to see replicate his 2012/2013 PNC success in bandboxes du jour.

        Not sure Pirates aren’t better off waiting for the prices to continue to come down on Jimenez, Arroyo et al. We are going to need a starter in 2015 even more than we do in 2014… it may make much more sense to offer Arroyo 2 years at $10-12M per year than AJ at $17M just for 2014.

        I know a lot see this as “AJ or bust” but I prefer to withhold harsh judgment until after the trading deadline… what the Pirates do with the obviously available $10-$14M they have for this year’s payroll will determine my reaction. Not signing AJ will not.

        • +++ to just about everything you touched on, cmat.

        • I’ve seen speculation by other commentators and on other sites that the Pirates just didn’t want AJ back, regardless on cost. I’m beginning to think that might have some merit. If they had made the QO, I could see AJ taking it at $14M, which would still have cost the Pirates less than market value. Maybe they didn’t make the QO not out of some gentleman’s agreement with AJ. Maybe they didn’t make it because they weren’t interested in resigning him, period. Whether that’s a smart move or not remains to be seen.

          • I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that QO are almost always turned down, and given the reports I’ve heard about AJ’s market value being $17M-$22M, I think it’s a good bet that AJ would have turned down the QO. That said, the more I think about it, the more the Pirates erred in not issuing the QO…. they really were in a no-lose situation… if he accepted it, they have AJ back at below market value, if he turned it down it makes him harder for other teams to sign to forfeit the pick.

            All of this said, the choice isn’t really “AJ or no one” for the Pirates in 2014… there are other avenues to add a starter (Arroyo anyone?) or use the $$ to pick up a 1B (likely a trade vs. FA) or even go get Stephen Drew. Will NH do that? No idea, but hard for me to believe that (1) the $10-14M that should be available for 2014 isn’t there (2) NH would spend it all to make the team better (why wouldn’t he?).

            • Completely agree with all that. Guess part of my point was, if the Pirates made the QO, and AJ took it, they’d be stuck with him, under market value or not. Maybe they just didn’t want to be stuck with him, even at a “bargain” price.

            • According to FC, Neal hasn’t spent all that was available in the past.

              • I’ve heard that as well, Arriba. All I can say is “wow!” That just seems so hard to believe. I wonder if it is just Neal being the good corporate citizen & protecting the boss?

    • Wisdom from Drew early in the morning…

    • I think it can be both “we know best” and arrogance, obviously, and that’s the ultimate downfall of sports execs, and execs and leaders of all stripes for that matter. You have to know your business and be confident in your abilities, but you can’t stop learning or trying to find new solutions or innovations, and you can’t not have honest evaluations or self-evaluations. I think this year will tell us a lot more about Pirates management than past years perhaps have done.

  6. JAL’s An Architect’s Dream Morning Links–Sew


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 MLB Important Dates

    4 Pirates Prospects Spring Training Tracker

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: Pirates Could Soon be the Best Team in Baseball

    Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Top Prospects: #3 – Tyler Glasnow

    Winter Leagues: Season Ends For Gregory Polanco

    Pirates Have Seven in Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects

    6 Pirates Site

    Schlereth, Dickerson among Bucs’ non-roster invitees

    7 Rant Sports

    Projecting the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Depth at Second Base

    8 Saber Bucs

    The Pirates Intriguing Interest in Kendrys Morales

    9 Green Weenie

    1/29: Billy Swift, Honus Wagnr, Murry Dickson, Max Carey, Branch Rickey, Little Poison, Vic Davalillo, Nellie Briles, Jason Schmidt, Jose Mesa…

    10 Bucs Dugout

    Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto threatens Pirates, vaguely

    11 Pirates 101

    Pittsburgh Pirates’ Prospect Profile: Austin Meadows

  7. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    12 Bloomberg Sports Stats

    “Expected Hitting”: Motivation Plus A Refinement On HR Weighting

    A.J. Burnett and Desperation in Free Agency

    13 Comcast Sports Net

    2014 outlook: Pittsburgh Pirates

    14 Bradenton Herald

    Spring training | Tickets for Pittsburgh Pirates spring games selling fast

    15 The Collegian

    Richmond alumni to enter hall of fame in baseball and football

    16 Fangraphs

    The Rising Price and Length of Free Agent Contracts

    17 USA Today

    MLB 2014: Questions for Each Division a Few Weeks Away from Spring Training

    18 St. Louis Post Dispatch

    Bird Bytes: Gibby, Ozzie featured on MLB Network

    19 Baseball Nation

    Pitchers, protective hats, and the end of an argument

    20 Baseball Prospectus

    Eight Moves that Teams Still Need to Make

  8. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    NFL Nation Poll: Ben Roethlisberger fifth among quarterbacks players want leading final drive

    Steelers Heroes of the Past: Levon Kirkland

    22 Steelers Depot

    Steelers DE Brett Keisel Feels Good: Thinks He Can Play a Couple More years


    23 Bloomberg Stats Insight

    They need to win so they’re more likely to………or are they?

    24 Evening Standard

    Tim Sherwood disagrees with spot-kick call but accepts Tottenham were outplayed


    25 Pensburgh

    Pens Points Wednesday: LA-Bound

  9. The IOC is confident that the Olympic games in Sochi will go off without a hitch, since 30,000 Russian troops and security police are in evidence and security in the areas where the athletes will live in and compete is tight, and athletes have been urged to behave in a low key mode, and, hopefully, such will discourage actions by the Islamic groups that have lately threatened to disrupt the events.

  10. Overheard a recent conversation in an office on Federal Street…
    Bob Nutting (BN), Frank Coonelly(FC), Neal Huntington(NH) and Clint Hurdle(CH):
    FC: “I’d like to call this meeting to order.”
    BN: “What meeting? Frank, I just wanted to ask you how your AA progress is coming along?”
    CH: “Do we have a big teevee contract or what?”
    FC: “We sure do Clint. We’re in the top tier of the market.”
    BN: “What market?”
    FC: “The local market.”
    CH: “Hang on a sec. Are you saying that we’re in the top tier of the local teevee market?”
    FC: “That’s spot on Clint. We’re making big money now.”
    CH: “uhhh Mr. Coonelly… who is our competition in the local teevee market?”
    FC: “Let’s celebrate with a toast to the success of the Pittsburgh Pirates. I happen to have a nice, chilled bottle of Dom right here–”
    BN: “Changing subjects here Frank; Neal, where are we with the Burnett situation?”
    NH: “Well Mr. Nutting–”
    CH: “AJ NEEDS to be a Pittsburgh Pirate!”
    NH: “As I was saying, we determined that putting forth a qualifying offer to AJ fell below our statistical gradient for his demographic bracket–”
    –A loud, prolonged ripping sound interrupts the proceedings–
    CH: “C’mon Neal, that’s crap!”
    NH: “Indeed. Did you soil yourself Clint?”
    BN: “So Neal, are you saying that AJ is not worth the MLB qualifying offer of $14 million for a one-year contract?”
    NH: “Not quite sir. My determination is based on the decreasing downward plane of his arm slot. Our graphical analysis revealed that AJ’s arm slot flattened out over the course of the season. This is likely due to fatigue and his age. And there’s the fact that Clint did NOT pitch AJ in that pivotal game against St. Louis last season. Deteriorating performance like that does not warrant $14 million, in my opinion.”
    FC: “uhhh, I don’t think fans are gonna like that, Neal. Especially after I told them that we are making huge amounts of money due to our teevee deal.”
    BN: “That’s enough Frank. Neal has a limited budget and if he thinks Burnett is too expensive, well that’s good enough for me.”
    FC: “Yeah, but we’re pulling in another $26.2 million this year due to the national ESPN/MLB deal. Fans are gonna grouse about us being the ‘Same Old Cheapo Pirates’.”
    BN: “I don’t think so Frankie. I think fans are going to be upset with MLB in general because there’s no salary cap. Not that I really NEED a salary cap…”
    CH: “Damned Mickey Mouse operation! How much do we have to spend?”
    NH: “Now Clint, you know the scope of our operation here. You focus on the product on the field and I’ll focus on getting you the product to put on the field.”
    CH: “From where Neal? Maybe you can snag some high-school players on the cheap! Seriously? And speaking of talent, how are those Indian pitchers working out? Unbelievable!”
    BN: “Now Clint, I understand you’re upset. How about a nice weekend away from the team where you and the missus can get some A-1 massages and facials?”
    FC: “Facial? That reminds me…”

    Since this is a family blog, I find it best to step away from the meeting at this point. Hope you enjoyed the insight.

  11. Now, Incognito’s PR firm and legal team are apparently releasing texts that were sent to him by Jonathan Martin that don’t portray Martin as much of a victim, but more like a willing participant in the derogatory comments. It might all flare up again after the Super Bowl. Incognito wants to play again next year.

    • I stated yesterday, when this first broke, The NFL was all over it. GODell promised it would be investigated!! But, for the longest time, things were as quiet as a church mouse in a sanctuary full of cats. What a mess.

      • It is curious. But, what I think has happened, and I am just surmising from all that I’ve read, is that both of these guys said and did some horrible stuff to each other. And, in many cases, they laughed it off and condoned it. There were other guys in the locker room also doing and saying some things that are totally unacceptable in normal society, but are accepted as normal in that atmosphere.

        Then, Martin decided it had gone too far. At first, it seemed so obvious to conclude that Incognito was 100% at fault. And, as the evidence was gathered, maybe that did not seem so obvious any more to the investigators. And, maybe also as they talked to other players, they found that not everyone was in agreement with Martin. That could be a case of “circling the wagons” by the players. It is hard to tell.

        If what I read in a story today was accurate as far as what both guys said to each other in texts, then it is hard to conclude Incognito was the only one at fault. From what I read, Martin was able to give as good as he got. And, it also appears that Martin may have drug issues. That doesn’t paint him in a great light.

        I’m just going by a couple of reports I read. I am not claiming to know all of the facts. But, I think it is now hard to sort out what happened as easily as it first appeared.

        • Right on Jim. I think Hartline was trying to say that when the story first broke.

          Its why a lot of normal businesses take such a harsh line on comments and bullying in the workplace anymore. I think a lot of NFL players are upset at both because the laid back culture in there is going to change. Which I think it should in some ways.

  12. So that’s what Sochi looks like eh? Beautiful.

  13. All this joyous BMTIB talk has reminded me of one of their more shining features — the tenure of John Russell. Was watching the YouTube video clip of Nolan Ryan pummeling Robin Ventura (quick joke — Q: Who was the only player to ever get seven hits off Nolan Ryan? A: Robin Ventura). In there was footage of a younger Russell “in” the melee. But not seriously. Somebody was ‘holding him back,’ keeping the fiesty one from going ker-ra~~zy! The expression on his face was that of quite the tough guy. But had the guy restraining him from behind loosened whatever marginal grip he had, Russell would have panicked. Or taken a nap.

  14. I do not understand why the NFL should require that its athletes be available to reporters and that they have to answer reporters’ questions or be fined. Also, why should the coaches have to give press conferences as often as the league currently requires?

  15. “I’ll also get around to some of the higher-profile events and look at broader issues.”

    I certainly hope that you examine the broader issues. I’ll be disappointed if the Western free media doesn’t examine Russian civil rights struggles, Russia’s policies toward minorities and their treatment of conflict in their states.

    I’m not holding my breath though. I thought the Beijing games amounted to nothing more than a tourism advertisement for the Chinese. Yes, the games are sport. But they have always been political events as well. If countries are going to accept the notoriety and attention the games afford by hosting them, then those countries should expect scrutiny and review.

    I know Richard Engel will throw himself into the issues. But, will anybody else?

    • You are right not to hold your breath about the national level and world media coverage of the event, Osh. If China and its human rights record received no scrutiny from them, I don’t see it changing this time.

      As for DK, he’s a local guy and I think he should stick mainly to the local angles. JMO.

    • Looks like a great place to play hockey and ski and warm oneself before a roaring fire with snow-bunnies ‘n schmallows ‘n ‘at. And if one wants to play Call of Duty, all one has to do is step outside…

      Be careful over there DK. But more importantly, have fun!

  16. Congrats to the Penn State BBall team. (No offense, Lucky)

    • OSU has been trending down the last few games. But this loss will have them out of the top 25, when they were once third!

      Happy for the Lions playing their butts off on the road.

      • Seems justified, Bill and AW. They were over-rated early and I thought it, but I never thought I’d see PSU beat them at Columbus. Or Nebraska beat them anywhere.

        That’s what I get for belittling the PSU basketball program. (You reap what you sow)


  17. If you say only a % of players have to be there, then the only ones there will be the 4th TE, the 3rd QB and the long snapper.

    Lynch is just another seattle ahole. Between him, his buddy sherman and the whiny seattle fans…even tho I am not a Bronco fan, I will be wearing blue and orange on Sunday.

    • “and the whiny seattle fans”

      That’s so true. They are still whining about losing that Super Bowl to the Steelers. You’d think a few more of them would show up for this one than is being reported.

    • +1

      And I’m not going to cry about “forcing” the players or coaches to help promote the product that puts some pretty good dollars in their pocket.

    • ” If you say only a % of players have to be there, then the only ones there will be the 4th TE, the 3rd QB and the long snapper. ”

      Couldn’t disagree more. I am sure the NFL would “designate” certain players that would have to show up. I would have no problem with the Broncos having to trot out Manning, Welker, and a few others. Same with Seattle, with Sherman, Wilson, etc.

      That wouldn’t cause a fuss, and would still spare us from the long-snapper talking about the quality of his latest car wash experience……..

      • Well, you are changing the script from your orginal comment. You suggested a %, without any further definition – hence my reply.

        Do you think that the NFL wouldn’t designate lynch, he appears to be causing a bit of a fuss – although, particularly since I really don’t give a rat’s butt, it’s more of a tempest in a teapot.

        Haven’t watch one second of this crappola, even when the Steelers were in it, so no chance I will watch when they aren’t.

  18. Arriba:

    I saw that you posted last night that the Fan was suggesting AJ’s asking price was in the $14M range. Did they say where they got that figure?

    If that is what it takes, then the Pirates need to pony up. This is a 1-year thing. The lowest figure I heard for what they have already offered him is essentially the portion of his salarly that they contributed last year – $8.5 million. If it takes $5.5 million more to add a few wins, I really don’t see how they don’t do that. Of course, I am also highly skeptical that they would do that.

    • I had heard – on the Fan – that Ken Rosenthal was reporting that AJ was looking for $14 million.

    • Jim, logical post.
      But, Neal has said that he won’t give that great of a % of team payroll to one player. That is how I read the tea leaves on this.

      If AJ wanted/wants 14 million, all the Pirates had to do was do the QO.
      I think AJ is already good as gone.

      • At the time of the QO, the Pirates may have not known that AJ wanted $14 million.

        Even though with hindsight it looks like that is what they should have done.

      • Yes, he has said that plan. I actually agree with that philosophy in this sport of 25 rostered players – especially in a small market. But, if a one year deviation to that policy could increase the chances of a playoff berth I hope they would consider it. In fact, I’ll be very disappointed if we find out that some other team gets him for that amount.

        Then, I think we’ll know the corner office made the call. I find it hard to believe the owner would endorse the extra expenditure and the GM refused it on principle.

        • Jim, I always wonder about “the corner office”.

          Nutting: Yes, yes, we can increase payroll.
          Frank: Our TV contract is in the top half, we can increase payroll.
          Neal: We have the ability to increase payroll. Every time I have asked for increased payroll, the request has been granted.

          ^^^ Sounds like a slam dunk, right?

          The “hometown discounts” statement.
          The % of payroll statement.
          The gamesmanship that seems to go on.

          Look, I am not saying to spend unlimited dollars on payroll. It just seems odd that the Pirates wouldn’t even bother with the QO. I still say they were afraid AJ WOULD accept it. When they realized he wouldn’t, they tried that “hometown discount”, and that wasn’t going to work either.

          I think AJ is as good as gone, either because of the “% principle”, or they just weren’t going to make a serious offer. They got 2 good years out of AJ, so they are turning the page.

          I just think this entire situation was very poorly handled from the beginning.

          • Let’s do a bit of math…

            The Pirates payroll currently sits around $73m. Assuming a backup shortstop and catcher were mandatory acquisitions, the only questionable money spent this offseason is Edinson Volqez’s $5m.

            That takes us down to $68m.

            Using the $14m qualifying offer as a point of reference, AJ could’ve been signed for that amount while only pushing payroll to $82m and still only accounting for 17% of the budget.

            Two options: Nutting refuses to raise payroll what so ever, or the team simply did not want AJ.

            • Can I pick both ?

            • It is looking more and more like the second.

              I won’t play the “cheap” card, but I will play the “strange” card.
              Like I said earlier, mishandled from the beginning.

              Guess we have to wait and see what Tomas Edinson Volquez, and Taillon bring. And hope Wandy recovers, and Locke doesn’t have JMac disease.

              Hi Frank!

            • They don’t want him back. And by “they”, I mean Clint Hurdle. I think it’s pretty obvious.

              Without getting into the whole “who’s right or wrong” argument, there’s no way to justify, or even attempt to understand their handling of this without drawing that conclusion. At least not in my simple little mind.

    • I think AJ’s going to get something around 2 years/ between 32-36. With the second year being a player option.

      He’s perfect for a lot of these clubs that dont want to sacrifice a pick and dont want a long term commitment. Although I agree, some of these AL teams (and Citizens Bank BandBox) ought to be careful.

      He’s gonna get paid something the Pirates couldnt reach. The question is, should they have offered the QO to get the pick. And further, would the market have still been what its rumored to be, if these teams did have to give up a pick.

      • Burnett wouldn’t get more than $10m if he had a draft pick attached to him, unless the team that signed him had their pick protected.

        Nobody is giving up a pick and ;arge percentage of payroll for one season.

        • No, I agree.

          Ill be honest with you, I think the Pirates are better off moving on. I think PNC was pretty forgiving when AJ hung a curveball to RH. Philly, anything in the AL East, good luck with that.

          • Yeah, I’ll preface this by saying I have no ill feelings toward AJ and believe the right move would’ve been to bring him back, but…

            I honestly wonder what the reaction would’ve been if the Pirates spent $15m on a generic 37 yo free agent with 2000 IP wracked up since his last Tommy John surgery.

            My guess is there would be a lot more people looking at the risk involved in that kind of a move, which is clearly high.

      • Sounds like if they had made the $14.1 QO, he would have taken it.

    • AJ was as good as gone when Volquez put his signature on a contract.
      This FO had no intention in getting into million dollar double figures.
      I can live without AJ, but what burns me up is failing to use but a small percentage of that money to add to the team.
      And that small percentage was Edinson Volquez.
      Even if they add a 1B by the end of ST, it will probably come at the cost of deleting someone off of the team via trade.
      Addition by deletion…..The Nutting Regime lives by it ninety-some percent of the time.

  19. had speculation out the wazoo yesterday that the Phils will go after A.J. Now that it is known he wants to pitch. The Bucs would never survive a bidding war with Team Geritol.

  20. is there a pro football game this weekend? I’m probably gonna miss it as I’ve committed to throwing a Philippine national Badminton Tournament party Sunday. Me Lil Wifelett and I are even taking a “Shuttlecock Crafting” class together.

    Nuttin sez LOVE like hand-crafting a shuttlecock with yer significant udder.

  21. My question is, if AJ goes somewhere else will he take Locke with him?

  22. NMR,

    Im not gonna argue the financial aspect, but when you look at what Burnett did at Yankee Stadium and the AL East to what he did at PNC Park and the NL Central, dont you think that a baseball decision did have something to do with not resigning him? That maybe they could get some decent numbers out of someone else (example Liriano) without the locker room headaches?

    Part of me is with all of you saying, wow they are being cheap for not resigning this guy. Then the other part wonders is giving a supposed one year deal to a 37 year old pitcher in the best interests of this team, longterm? Maybe they do have this chunk of money and its going to get allocated elsewhere.

    I think PNC Park had a lot to do with Burnett success. And I cant blame the Pirates for thinking that as well.

    • Not following your logic, bpn. If the Pirates have him in tow, half his games WILL be pitched in PNC Park. And, if he is signed for $14 mil for 1 year that is below the market numbers that have been tossed around. And a one year deal is a one year deal. How does that impact ” long term.”

    • Also, it’s that they haven’t spent any money to upgrade obvious holes – depending on what “backroom deal’ they have with Matt Hague.

      AJ is just the bell cow for our angst.

    • I understand what you’re saying, bpn.

      And if the team would’ve signed Josh Johnson and landed a first basemen with the money that would’ve gone to AJ, I honestly think you’d have a great argument that the decision was all about baseball.

    • I also think the fact that AJ now relies on his 2-seam fastball far more than he did with the Yankees played a part as well, bpn. I think he gave up a lot of HR to RF in Yankee Stadium on 4-seamers. The Pirates 2-seam philosophy really helped get him back on track.

      But, it definitely is true that RF in Yankee Stadium is a launching pad.

  23. We might all want to grab a nap later so we can see the Pens vs. Kings game. Should be a good one, and there’s some former Flyers on the Kings team to be beaten once again.

  24. I wonder how much a “no trade” provision in his contract would cost AJ?

  25. Just some thoughts on some thoughts…

    * I agree with the sentiment of some posters (not the cardboard kind) above that the Pirates don’t want AJ back. If they did, he’d already be signed. Now, if AJ is still without contract over the next 2 weeks, and the Pirates still have not signed another SP, then perhaps the sides get back together.

    * Bronson Arroyo is still on the market. I think the Pirates could kick the tires on him. He came up in this organization, and has pitched in the NL Central (for Cincy) for the past few seasons and has plenty of big league pedigree. Will he give you the numbers AJ did last season (would AJ repeat this season? Certainly a question the FO is pondering)? No way. But can he be a reliable, back-end-of-the-rotation innings eater? I think so…

    * I think it’s certainly possible we see the Pirates have a hiccup year. 86 wins is my prediction as of now. They’ll still have to pitch extremely well (which I think they’re capable of), but might be tougher due to no AJ and Locke never rediscovering his 1st half of last season.

    * Oli Maatta might not win an award, but his play this season has been a revelation. For a 19 year old (in his first NHL season) to look like a seasoned veteran is unreal.

    * Didn’t catch the Pitt/Duke game the other night, but did see Arizona survive Stanford & Kansas outlast a good Iowa State team. Syracuse also hung on against Wake Forest to preserve their unbeaten record. 3 teams still undefeated in NCAA Div I basketball (Wichita State Shockers being the 3rd). My guess is none of these teams makes the final 4 (actually think Arizona may win it all with the way they defend, and their size & playmaking ability), but should be an awesome tournament that looks open for anyone to steal it.

    * Is it just me, or are some tired of the Sochi Olympics commercials on NBC & NBCSN? I know they’re just trying to generate interest so that people will watch, but the over-the-top hype of some of these events (my favorite was the 1 that explained the new “TEAM FIGURESKATING” event) is too much. Also, I’ve never been so annoyed at speed-skating in my life. ever.

    * That brings me to a question for Dejan…Being a seasoned sports journalist, do you find that the Olympics have lost a considerable amount of its luster over the years? When I was younger, I enjoyed watching these niche events, but, through time, have found now I can’t care at all about them. Is it just me, or have you found an overall drop in interest with the Olympics?

    * I do, however, look forward to your articles from Sochi. I love to read your writing. You’ll be writing about topics that I’ve just admitted I couldn’t care less about, yet I know I’ll enjoy them. And I know they’ll facilitate some sort of discussion. Thanks for the excellent coverage and the forum you (and the Trib) provide to us. */wipes brown-nose clean/* ;-)

    * Enjoy Mother Russia. Stay Warm. And Stay Safe.

    Naterosboro…over and out.

  26. Increases to Alvarez, Walker, Tabata, Francisco, Martin, and relievers eat up the savings from Burnett and Barmas contracts. If they trade for a first baseman, then that is certainly doable. Polanco, possibly Tallion look to be here by June so the Bucs will be fine. The key is lack of a LH starter is Francisco and Wandy leave. Locke is OK as a fifth stsrter perhaps, but Wilson looks like the pitcher who will be developed to be a LH starter.

  27. About the “we can’t pay anyone 18% of our total payroll” thing. If the payroll was $90 million like it should be then paying AJ $14 million wouldn’t be 18%, now would it.

    • Quit using logic and numbers.

    • Come on, Milo……… haven’t you gotten the memo that the Pirates can’t sustain a $90MM payroll in a small market? Or do we believe Frankie and his “top half” comment.
      It is sooooo difficult to follow what they say……

  28. It was great to hear the new Pittsburgh mayor getting on board the Nutting is fleecing the city train with his interview on WDVE this morning. Cut the city, county, and taxpayers funding until Nutting holds up his end of the deal……

    • BFD LIVES !!!!!!!!!!!!!

      How have you been?

      • trying to stay warm. and waiting for Nutting to back up his claims and sign some players to fill all of the holes created by departures this offseason…… how about you?

        • Doing well.
          I am waiting also, but, DK did point out that the end of ST yields “great bargains”. We’ll see. I do not like the Lambo getting a scholarship at 1st, and I do not like the downgrade of AJ to Volquez.

          This whole offseason has been one head-scratcher to be sure.

    • BFD – Glad to see an appearance!
      Things are tightening up over at PNC Park….Iced up funds.

  29. Per Travis:

    Peter Gammons (@pgammo) tweeted: Orioles “all in” on AJ Burnett, Rays also in.

    I noticed that Gammons also tweeted shortly thereafter: Several folks suggest AJ could still go back to the Bucs.

    So, the only thing particularly noteworthy there is that the Rays are interested. I think they smell a serious WS run this year.

    Would AJ just be using the Rays to drive up his offer from Bucs/Birds/Phils? Didn’t he say he doesn’t want to venture too far from home?

  30. AJ wants to pitch for the Bucs. Plan and simple. All the Bucs have to do is not insult him with thier offer. Plan and simple. So just get the deal done and be done with it. Plan and simple. He has a proven track record of success. And he wants to pitch here. When the hell has that happened before? Lets not get to cocky Mr. Pirates management. Get the deal done!

    I am thrilled to see the Bucs having a top minor league system and a certain outfielder having all the tools to be great! The skeptic in me worries because I remember a guy that could walk on water but then we found out that he couldn’t even walk on (fill in the blank). I would love to hear why this is different and is there any chance this guy could be a bust?

    • Polanco? Of course there’s a chance he could be a bust, Petro. There’s a chance anyone will be a bust. But, 6 or 7 in the MLB Top 100 list, and some other very highly regarded guys coming along behind them, tells me that several of them will be good MLB players.

      I do think evaluations by various publications are getting a bit more accurate each succeeding year now. I also think teams, overall, are getting better at picking guys at the top of the draft. More of the 1st rounders are making it than in the past is my perception. I could be wrong, but that is my sense over the last several years.

      I want a deal done for AJ as well.

    • Hopefully not a bust, but at the same time, how many rookie position players – with essentially no AAA experience – make the leap to MLB and have an impact the first year? I would like to see that list. Methinks it’s rather short. Unfortunately, if you read many blogs, lots of folks have that expectation, which is not fair to that certain outfielder.

      • Agree.

        Thinking about all this, its funny. We lost Byrd, Morneau, Jones. Marte and Walker went 1-40 in the playoffs. And we arguing over the merits of keeping a pitcher whos biggest issue last year was run support.

        Couple more weeks to go. :)

      • Tough transition, for sure tpb. I think the plan will be to get him at least Apr/May/June experience in Indy. That should be 300 plate appearances. And, he will defnitely need to be doing well to come up, I think. They have said they don’t think he’s quite ready, but he’s close. That sort of follows the Marte template.

        • Sure Jim, but what are the expectations when/if he does come up?

          That’s my point. Is he gonna move into the 4 or 5 slot in the batting order? On a team that, hopefully, is in the WC hunt?

          I’m struggling with that mindset vs reality.

          • No, I don’t think they project he’ll ever be a #4 guy, tpb. I think, if all goes well, and he achieves everything they want him to be, his stat line could look a lot like Cutch’s. So, maybe a left-hand version of Cutch is the best case scenario for Polanco. He doesn’t look like Cutch at all, physically. I think he’s about 6’4″. The physical comparisons I hear most often are to Strawberry.

            But, as for the stat line, I think they hope for something like Cutch: .300, good plate discipline, 20-25 HR, eventually. Should steal some bases. I’ve read that he may actually be a better CF in time than Cutch. He has a chance to be a really good one.

            I assume he would replace Marte as the leadoff hitter immediately, due to his OBP.

            Again, these are best case scenarios. Not everyone fulfills their potential. But, he has a growing list of industry observers that like him a lot. It’s fun to dream.

          • And, truthfully, if he can hit .280/.350/.450 in half a season this year, and play very good defense, I think he helps a lot immediately. He’d be my leadoff hitter.

            • Ok, who hits 4 and 5?

              I know that auto reaction is Pedro in one of them…but he HAS to raise his BA for that to be successful. I guess Marte in the other one? It COULD be a heckova lineup in a year or two.

              What of 2014?

            • Whoa, that’s pretty high. He’d have to post his best power numbers since low A in order to be a .450 SLG guy right out of the gate.

              • Since I can’t reply directly to your 3:24 comment -

                Given the offensive talent projected currently to be on the field and that I am referencing both the #4 and #5 slots (which are kinda important), I respectfully disagree.

  31. Seattle is favored to win Sunday’s Superbowl.

  32. Although no snow has fallen in Zimbabwe in 50 years, that southern African nation is sending its first athlete: Luke Steyn, 20, a former University of Colorado student, to Sochi to participate in the slalom and the giant slalom races, mainly for the experience, if not a gold metal.

  33. so is anyone else staying up late tonight for the pens game?

  34. I’m pulling for the Pens, big-time, tonight, as always. Should be a good litmus test of how ready we are for Western Conference hockey on the road – which I’m hoping we will get a best of 7 taste of in the final series of the season!

    But, I’m a little concerned about how we stack up vs. the Western Conf elite.

  35. Just went through all these posts looking for some more Russian women’s curling info. Hope DK can spend a little time at that venue with his camera.

  36. It was good to see Robert Morris best Bryant tonight on ESPNU in a nail biter 79-76 so the Colonials can continue to lead their conference 7-0 and are now 8-1 at home. The Colonials scored when they had to and led the whole time although Bryant made a game of it during the second half.

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