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Morning Java: Do svidaniya

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

SOCHI, Russia — Доброе утро, Lunatiks …

>> The Monday sports column is about Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, their common gold, their much-maligned chemistry.

The Monday news column, meaning the one on the real-news front page, applauds Sochi’s effort but without apology to the hosts.

Here are all of the Sochi videos for Channel 11 News, including the final one about the scarcity of merchandise …

Here are all of the Sochi podcasts for TribLIVE Radio, including my post-gold interview with Kunitz.

Here’s the Trib’s Olympics page.

Here’s the official Sochi 2014 page, with all the final tallies.

Here’s the official U.S. Olympic team page.

Here’s the official NHL Olympics page.

And here’s NBC’s Olympics page with all the highlights.

>> Russia’s a strange place, man.

I’ll come away from this experience with that sentiment above all. The gap in the warmth you feel from the younger generation that’s not at least a couple decades of something less than completely autocratic rule, it’s so different than the squinted eyes, mistrust and other creepy things you get from those older. What you hope, whether it’s here or Ukraine or Georgia or anywhere this battle is still being fought in a sociopolitical realm, is that the brighter lights win out. I’m not so sure.

I’ll come away with a feeling of guilt and excess, walking down marble-lined back stairwells in the opulent venues and driving on roads so elaborate and futuristic it seemed a shame to put tires on them. All that for two-and-a-half weeks, then who knows what? The IOC must find a way, at the risk of invoking the salary-cap concept, to make sure no one ever approaches $51 billion on an Olympics. Among other reasons, it isn’t fair to smaller nations doing the bidding for what might be a fine Games in their own right.

I’ll come away, in the sporting sense, feeling more hollow than after any Olympics. There were no truly great, transcendent performances, not by any country and most certainly not by the U.S., which would have come home with two measly golds had it not been for the still-nascent X games events. The USOC needs to look hard in the mirror at its athlete pool and, as it relates to speedskating in particular, completely clean house after their epic embarrassment here of training at the wrong altitude, then wearing new suits without having tried them before. No one can survive that purge.

I’ll come away with a hockey tournament that was mostly a dud. Not just because scoring was way down — only 4.46 goals per game, or less than a full goal below the average NHL game — but also because the gold game was a no-touch, non-competitive affair between a powerful Canadian roster and a Swedish team missing four of its best forwards. The rest of the tournament, save for T.J. Oshie’s shootout and the wonderful Slovenes, wasn’t any better. The NHL must go to Korea, though, and it’s funny to me that this discussion even comes up. Go look at the TV ratings for U.S.-Canada. The NHL can’t get that kind of exposure or emotional investment from a broader audience with a Stanley Cup Game 7.

I’ll come away with countless images that resonate.

I’ll come away with the experience of having met so many terrific, fascinating new people, though the hurry-hurry of the Olympics doesn’t always allow you to catch a name. The really tall Danish reporter was a fountain of knowledge about Nordic sports, and he wanted to learn all he could about ‘ice hockey,’ so we traded. For hours. The young lady named Irina working in the McDonald’s who saw me come in one night after midnight dragging myself with the longest of faces. She didn’t know much English, but she used her fingers to push up her own face into a smile as a suggestion. The camaraderie of co-workers new and old, from NHL.com’s Corey Masisak sneaking out what ended up becoming my oh-so-controversial Starbucks cup, to Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times always offering a sturdy and inspiring presence in her 11th — yes, 11th — Olympics, from Bill Hancock of the USOC managing the toughest of jobs in deciding which writers get special accreditation for the biggest events and always remembering the nobody from Pittsburgh, to Gary Lawless, my good friend and constant companion from the Winnipeg Free Press. Gary’s good people. He helped this stay somewhat sane.

I’ll come away somehow even more grateful than ever for a diverse, dynamic readership that feels just as comfortable writing, blogging or tweeting me about bobsled rules as they do about Big Ben’s passing. Seriously, check last Friday’s chat. Got into it over curling and figure skating. I love that. It’s a big world with so much more to see and learn than what’s out our back windows.

Thank you for that, for reading and commenting, including when we disagree. Means most of all.

>> Flying out of Sochi tonight for Moscow, where I’ll have 12 hours, hopefully enough of a chance to ride into Red Square for some cheesy selfies and a Russian Starbucks. From there, it’s back to the good place.

I have been instructed in no uncertain terms to take a minimum 10 days off upon returning to the U.S., and that’s what I’ll do. The next column will be March 10, one of those smorgasbord things catching up on a ton of stuff I’ve missed. I’ll then spend a week in Bradenton, as always, covering the Pirates’ spring training. After that, it’ll only be another couple of weeks until the annual pilgrimage to Manitoba’s provincial capital April 3.

All the usual game posts will go up here, as well as daily vacation threads each morning to continue the discussion.

Do svidanja, as they say. Oh, and spasibo!

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.

325 Comments

  1. Great column and blog entry DK!

    Enjoy your well deserved time off.

  2. Have a safe trip DK. Enjoy your well deserved vacation.

  3. Oh this is priceless, from the link Dejan posted about “controversial Starbucks cups” ^^ there:

    For Pittsburgh Tribune-Review sports columnist Dejan Kovacevic, the Starbucks lockout has been tough.

    As a newspaper journalist, Mr. Kovacevic can’t get past the invisible velvet rope that bars his access to the Starbucks. Withdrawal pangs have set in for the three venti-iced-chai lattes he normally sucks down in a single day.

    “I have something of an obsessive personality,” says Mr. Kovacevic.

    So instead, he goes to McDonald’s. A lot. The chain’s branch in the media center basement includes a McCafé that serves sweet cold drinks like strawberry-banana smoothies. Mr. Kovacevic says his wife, seeing his credit-card activity, asked with some wonderment recently: “You went to McDonald’s eight times in a day?”

    • Then add this:
      At one point, Mr. Kovacevic had a connection who could hook him up with Starbucks drinks. But that friend is now working on the other side of the Olympic Park, leaving Mr. Kovacevic to walk around with an empty green and white cup. He pours vending machine coffee into it. “It’s a status symbol,” he explains. “It shows I’m not some kind of lowlife.”

      LOL!

  4. Dejan, again, THANK YOU SO MUCH for all the information you poured out to us Lunatics from Sochi. it’s deeply appreciated! Enjoy your well deserved time off.

  5. Mike Babcock is a great coach. And a winner.
    That is all.

    • Dan Bylsma is a great coach.

      What can a coach do about missed break-aways and botched penalty shots?

      Only one team had Sidney Crosby.

      That is all.

    • Totally agree, Jands.

      And what a stark contrast between him and Bylsma. Babcock is confident and totally comfortable in his own skin. Dan struggles mightily. Go back and watch the press conference after the US-Canada game. Sure, Canada won so Babcock had reason to be self-assured. Bylsma, however, seemed to melt on the podium, every question regarding tactics and strategies seemingly a Rubik’s Cube for him to solve in a 30-second sound bite.

      It will be interesting to see how this year plays out. I mentioned the other day that if we go out like lambs, as the USA squad did, I think Shero and Mario need to reevaluate.

      • DJ, I love DB a lot, but …
        His track record isn’t that great. People look at results.

        I hope for his sake and the Penguins’ sake, that he does well this playoffs and gets to the final.

        • I’m at a loss, Jandster….dunno what to hope for.
          I think (as PLan has mentioned) that as currently coached and configured, they cannot win a Cup.

          So….unless DB undergoes a large transformation, I think we need to hope for a new coach before we can realistically compete for a Cup.

          And I don’t think DB will change.

          • +++++++++++++++++++++

          • It’s worrisome, I agree. :sigh:

          • I think Team USA’s performance in the Olympics exemplifies Dan Bylsma’s limitations as a coach at the professional level. While he excels in allowing his players room to maximize their individual potential, he fails in providing any structure or discipline. At a certain point, no matter how talented your players are, you’ll eventually run across an opponent that can neutralize your talent advantage. Then, once the all-star game turns into a chess match, Bylsma finds himself quickly out of his depth.

      • Remember that presser at the end of the BOS series? I couldn’t even understand some of the stuff Disco was saying.

        But I honestly dont think Disco is going anywhere.

        Shero chose him. He’s Ray Shero’s guy. Therrian (by way of contrast) was not.

        I feel like the only way DB’s gone is if RS’s also gone.

        And that’s up to Mario.

        • Now remember, the loss to Canada wasn’t all on DB. Patrick Kane had 2 PENALTY SHOTS and failed to score on either one. Where was Kessel? USA needed a hero…no one stepped up.
          When Canada needed a hero, someone stepped up. Carey Price stole that game for Canada. Sid and Kuney stepped up in the gold medal game.

        • +++++++++

          Not saying Bylsma is bad, but he is overmatched at times.

          Square pegs, round holes.
          Stick to a system, even when it isn’t working.
          Baffling personnel decisions.
          Precious few adjustments.

          How much different could the past few seasons been with a few tweaks here and there? I think last year’s boston series exposed all the problems with Duck’s coaching style, and I also think it was a big reason Martin was brought in. All that being said, I don’t think Mario is going to do anything with Bylsma or Shero. They have made many good moves, and the team is profitable.

          Hopefully Ducky has learned something from this Olympic experience. We shall see.

        • Not so sure anymore, Sarah. Ray’s a smart guy. I said the other day it may be more about how they play than how far they go, particularly if they don’t make the SC Finals.

          If Ray and Mario conclude this year we are frittering away prime years of our best players, I can actually see a change being made at year end. Certainly, I don’t think his Olympic showing did Dan any favors.

          We’ll see.

      • Babcock hasn’t coached a cup winner since 2008! None of his teams have reached Conference Finals since then as his team’s have exited early! Teams have failed to make adjustments in playoffs! Great regular season coach but can’t win the cup every year and loses to teams he shouldn’t

        Fire Mike Bylsma…err I mean Babcock!

        • That may be true, Oshie, but he sure made DB look bad…

        • . . . and so your response is that it’s always on the players, right?

          • No, my response is that Bylsma is one of the top three coaches in the league. Along with Babcock. That Pittsburgh is lucky to have him. That winning SC championships are one of the hardest things in sports (sorry, 21, but that’s how I feel). That Pittsburgh’s personnel isn’t so superior to everyone else that they are guaranteed long runs in the playoffs and championships every year. That there is a worth to a franchise financially and structurally to having terrific regular seasons year in and year out. That, there isn’t anyone else out there as a coach who is both available and better. That people should be careful what they wish for.

            • Oshkosh, i dont disagree with anything you said. HOWEVER, i’ll just add this:

              Sure would be nice if disco can overachieve instead of underachieving with the rosters he’s had. I know that winning cups 3 our 4 years is next to impossible these days but IMO the sign of a great coach is one who can get his teams to overachieve every now and then. Even with great talent in detroit they had a goalie in Osgood who was not considered elite but the system they had along with talented players led detroit to cups while limiting pressure osgood was under.

              Other than season when sid n geno were out when we pushed tampa to 7 games when did disco overachieve for a full season? Releasing the hounds post therrien doesn’t count.

            • All good points, Oshie.
              As I said, I really do like DB. But this winter Olympics is gonna sting for a long while :/

              • Appreciate your points, Jandy and HM. I’m through commenting about Bylsma. Obviously, two camps about him have developed here on the blog through the years. I’ll just let Camp Bowser have their say and quietly hang out in Camp Groat.

            • Just to be clear, I was not calling for Dan’s job last year or before that.

              That said, he is starting to look and sound like a coach who would be relieved if he were fired. He doesn’t have to answer to the media/public for everything, but his explanations — often non-answers — are revealing on his coaching mind, particularly on strategies.

              If this team goes out like lambs this year, I think it will be time for a change. And we shouldn’t be afraid to make one.

              • I also agree that winning the Cup is the hardest thing to do in sports.

                Now if we could only get to one more I’d be happy.

            • “That winning SC championships are one of the hardest things in sports (sorry, 21, but that’s how I feel). ”

              :-)

              No need to be sorry.

        • Babcock, that guy, had one of the greatest defensemen ever playing 25 minutes a night, best two way forward in the game, won five division titles, seven >100 point seasons and only two Stanley Cup trips. Not sure how he has a job, he rode a career performance by Osgood to a Stanley Cup, but did not do much before or since.

          • 2 gold medals?

          • He coached Canada, a country that supplies 50% of the players for the top league in the world, and won one on home ice.

            I wish this blog had a sarcasm font. I think success in the playoffs is a little more ephemeral than most fans want to believe. I keep reading how Claude Julien and Boston are so much better built for the playoffs, the same coach and team that blew a 3-0 lead to the once ascendant Flyers.

            I mainly agree with Oshkosh, I think the goal should be Stanley Cup finals, but if that is the expectation every year you are going to spend a lot of time looking for someone or thing to blame.

            • Actually Andrew, the Boston team that lost to Philly was back in 2010. The Bruins have won a Cup since then, and been to another Finals.

              And, in the playoffs, you need defense, grit, and a superb goalie to win a Cup most times. The Pens D is still a work in progress………. not many Pens are gritty, and we have Fleury. Now granted the Pens have Sid and Geno, but they alone can’t get the job done. So, IMHO, Boston is definitely built better for the playoffs than the Pens.

              • I’m not sure how arguing Babcock is or isn’t good has anything to do with discussing Dan Bylsma’s limitations.

                Whether he’s the top 3 or top 2 or top 9 in someone’s opinion, is meaningless.

                He doesn’t get near optimal results with the group of players he has. He got a group of all stars and the same thing happened, in the same way.

                THAT is the problem.

              • Cannot really argue with that, the game certainly changes in the playoffs, but I think you can go too far on the grit with Tortella being an example. I really do not want skill players going to ice to block shots.

              • I wasn’t talking about Bylsma or comparing him and Babcock. I was talking about Babcock.

            • “He coached Canada, a country that supplies 50% of the players for the top league in the world, and won one on home ice. ”

              50%? really? You have back up for that? Just curious :)

            • That is the goal, not the expectation.

              The expectation is to play up to the team’s potential which requires schemes, adjustments, strategy, match-ups, motivation.

              Nobody is saying DB should be gone cos he didn’t win us a Cup every year.

              The problem is not that he loses.

              IT’S THE WAY HE LOSES.

            • Don’t agree with me, Andrew. My comments are meaningless strawmen.

            • I’m tired of hearing how much “pressure” Canada has on them. They have the best players, to barely beat Norway, Austria and Latvia. Then a one-off to beat USA in the semifinals.
              They were 1-1 late against Latvia, and they could have been eliminated. They played like garbage all tournament up until then. They always do this. Then they play they US and suddenly they are the best again. Meanwhile, USA dominates the first four games, then runs into Canada. This is the pattern now. If Canada played the same way against Slovakia, Slovenia (who played well) and Russia, then the Czechs, they might not have survived in a short tournament.
              But Canada, and Crosby, equate this with the Cup?
              It’s NOT the Cup. Believe me, come back in June, when you see the same DD fizzle by the Penguins and Crosby, by the same tactics the USA used: it’s NOT the Cup. You can’t barely beat Norway, Austria and Latvia and win a Cup.
              You have to maintain your speed, forecheck, balanced lines, aggressiveness (hello DD and USA, and Penguins) to win a championship. That’s not what the USA did vs. Canada, which opened things up for their 1-0 win. And that’s not what the Penguins do in the playoffs.
              Canada won their gold medal again. hooray. After all their line mismatches and missed chances in the first four games against an easy schedule, then running into a passive USA team, and an injured Sweden team,
              How hard is it to mesh the best players against weak competition? The USA did it with their players in a short time (5 goals per game)? They almost psyched themselves out of the tournament.
              Ohhh, the pressure. I consider them lucky once again.

  6. I’m glad now that the Olympics are over and that they went off without a hitch and that Dejan and everyone else came back here safe and sound, and that it’ll be 2 to 4 years before we have to worry about this again. Russia won 33 medals and the US came in second with 28 and both were humiliated in hockey. And now, it’ll be all back to normal. It was fun while it lasted anyhow. Too bad Pitt lost to Florida State in basketball. At least the Daytona 500 was raced to completion last night and there won’t be another major race in Daytona until the July 4th 400.

  7. Fine work on the columns, blogs, and video entries. Have fun eating and sleeping, reading and sleeping, and catching up with your family and sleeping.

  8. Did anyone else start to get a little freaked out by the bear, hare and leopard in the closing ceremonies?

    A little Disney-esque portrayal for the kids is great fun. But they were on screen so long — particularly the bear — that I started getting a little uneasy. Then the fake tear came down the bear’s face and I just had to switch to Sports Center . . . eerie.

  9. Traveling so no morning links until Friday

  10. Absolutely loved Babcock’s “mic drop” moment. Not about the goals, all about the gold.

    For us, it’s apparently about the bronze . . . or not.

  11. Dejan,

    Thanks for your coverage and recap entry today. I like your McDonald’s story. I was in China about 10 years ago, and was paying for for my purchases in a department store. (The digital cash register is a great invention; no need to communicate the total.) When I was done, I said “Thank you” in Chinese, one of about six phrases I know. The cashier thinks for a moment, and says “It is my pleasure” in English. Folks really do try to be welcoming.

  12. Not to pile on but wanted to paste my post from yesterday in the midst of sarah and i breaking things down regarding disco’s mindset and why he may need an outside perspective regarding high end offense much like he needed an outside perspective regarding defense.

    Re: gladams

    I’ve also come to the conclusion that disco may need an outside perspective when it comes to knowing what the likes of sid and geno are thinking. Disco has a GREAT feel for what the muckers are thinking but his feel for the high-end guys is lacking.

    Maybe i wasn’t a 1st rounder but i do know what skill players look for when it comes to breakouts and having passing options available in certain spots. Disco’s inability to read the defensive structure his guys are facing and adjust to give them an advantage is getting to be a little ridiculous. Having a mindset where you wanna give your guys a road map then stick to it doesn’t work when the other team is willing to adjust on the fly, match lines obsessively, and frustrate our ringers knowing that the pens wont adjust and get agitated enough to take stupid penalties. Easy to say stay disciplined but when you’re not put in situations to succeed, especially in the playoffs, keeping your cool is easier said than done.

  13. Nice to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. win the Daytona 500 yesterday, even if it took 12 hours. Dale Jr. has endured some rough patches in his sport, but he has persevered over the years. He has changed teams, crew chiefs, sponsors, anything to win again.

    A few coaches in other sports could learn a lesson from him.

    • I’m just glad that they got in the entire race since after a six and a half hour rain delay, the longest such in NASCAR history, there was the threat of yet another storm hitting Daytona that stalled only 20 miles from town.

  14. New road map:

    “We had to work for this,” he said. “We had to come here and make real adjustments, to the bigger ice, to what other teams were doing. I think our work ethic, our desperation, our defense and our goaltending made the difference. Everyone was committed as a group.”

    “real adjustments” “other teams were doing” “desperation”

    Sweeter words have never been spoken…

  15. I don’t comment much, but I surely read everything. Thanks a lot for your coverage, Dejan. Your reporting and insight is greatly appreciated (*especially* when we don’t agree).

    Have a safe trip back home.

  16. This article about the 49ers and “Harbaugh the GREAT” is amusing…..; his ego grows, and Grows and GROWS !!!

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/writer/jason-la-canfora/24455137/jim-harbaughs-relationship-with-49ers-brass-is-getting-worse

    • I commented on this on Saturday afternoon as well, Joey. Harbaugh is apparently one of those guys who is so abrasive to work with that, at some point, no matter how good the results are, the team will decide enough is enough. You can probably only take that for so long.

      He supposedly demanded to be made the highest paid coach in the NFL with 2 years left on his deal. The 49ers told him he needed to win a Super Bowl first. A lot of guys would probably step back, think for a minute, and agree that winning a championship is a fair requirement to be the highest paid coach. But, when you have this guy’s ego, apparently everyone else is just supposed to take his word for it that he’s the best coach in the league.

      I also believe this brings in to focus some of the seemingly bizarre decisions Cleveland made regarding their coaching situation. First, they hastily ran off Chudzinski after one year. Then, we were all perplexed that they waited so long after that to hire a replacement, and ended up with the DC of the Bills. Certainly looks now that what they were doing was making a strong play for Harbaugh in trade. I know it is fashionable to rip the Browns because … well, they have deserved it for the last 30 years or so. You could say this move blew up in their face, and that is a sign of their continued futility. But, what I take from it is that they are no longer the same old Cleveland Browns. They are going to aggressively attempt to do whatever it takes to put a winning team on the field. They are stockpiling draft picks, and part of the Harbaugh play was to use picks in trade for him. It didn’t work, but it was a bold move. I think it will be interesting to see how the Browns’ fortunes play out 3-4 years from now vs. those of the Steelers. One of the teams, to me, has an owner who is focused on winning above all. The other, well, the owners are interested in other things right now IMO.

  17. In other news, pitchforks are apparently unavailable within 90 miles of Pittsburgh.

  18. DK – Thank you for your wonderful, diverse and always informative coverage. Those of us lucky enough to be your readers probably don’t realize how much you spoil us. Please have a safe trip back home and enjoy those ten days.

  19. DK, thank you for the columns and coverage from Sochi.

    Please travel safely, find a StarYucks, and enjoy the time off with your family.

  20. DK, dont forget to catch up on PSU hockey as well :)

  21. Dejan enjoyed your front page article and all of your articles from Sochi.

    I also feel like I learned something from the blog regarding pitchforks and area coaches. I carried mine avidly for Mclendon and the Snoozer,but have put it away for now. I now view most coaches like I do local school board members; who in the world needs that kind of grief!

    Welcome back

    Stuart

  22. DK,

    Thanks for being our eyes & ears. Sounds like you could use a hug from your wife and kids. Hopefully we’ll be in Bradenton at the same time. I’ll buy you a Starbucks.

  23. Observations from Bradenton:

    ——Arrived late at practice after attending Church on Longboat Key. Sometimes it’s just great to sing to God.
    ——Only got to see tail end. Got to see sliding practice, the first they have had. Funny to see every player take off his shoes and run/slide in their stocking feet into this big puffy tarp. Marte of course went head first. (Just kidding) Pedro didn’t slide: he just jogged around the tarp.

    ——Forgot to mention yesterday: Neal Huntington usually comes out to practice around Noon, and stand off 3rd base line on a couple fields. For effect? For visibility? For evaluation? I think the latter. {I still can’t get out of my mind him hugging Lambo a couple days ago!} Saturday he is out an hour early. Surprise. Shortly thereafter he is joined by ESPN’s Buster Olney and they stand behind the 3rd Base Coach’s box talking for almost 2 hours. Pay attention to Buster’s love for Neal this week.

    ——I have little respect for Country Club Frank. I stood beside a Lexus Club member Saturday who was singing his praises to me. I bit my lip and smiled at all the right times. Of course those are Frank’s kind of fans.
    ——Coonelly arrived on Wednesday, very late in practice. I heard him tell about how much snow he had been shoveling and how that made him late at 3 different venues. Every time I would change fields he would follow me. Clint Hurdle always stands behind the backstop at every field, so he can evaluate the pitcher and the batter at the same time. Coonelly comes to the field where Hurdle is, while Hurdle has turned to answer some question one of the field crew has posed to him. Hurdle turns back to his spot to find that Coonelly has slipped into his spot, right in front of him; Hurdle looks him up and down, then quietly moves to the end of the backstop. Intentional by Frank or just awkward? Hurdle’s reaction was smilingly appropriate. No words, no handshake, no obvious reaction: just move away.

    ——Since I saw so little Pirate practice yesterday, I stuck around a half hour to watch the Minor Leaguers. Lots, lots, lots of them . . . . all with no names or numbers on their backs. It was easy to pick out Stetson Allie———I just looked for a big stocky kid with a bad haircut who looked like he was from Cleveland! Josh Bell is a big kid! I wished I could have seen him hit, but after exercises the coaching staff took the Minor Leaguers into the hitting cages for about 45 minutes. I finally left. Hey, it’s a warm day and I’m at Dejan’s favorite place other than Winnepeg: The Beach!!

    ——Before I left I found Luis Heredia near the fence and got to talk to him for a little while. While I was talking to him a kid came over with a bat to sign and Luis signed it lefthanded. I asked him about that——he’s a hard throwing right handed pitcher——and he told me he eats and writes and does everything lefty except pitch. Amazing, because he throws so hard. He is a mountain of a man——has the build of Levon Kirkland. Yet he is smaller than last year. I told him he looked smaller than last year, and he said he had lost close to 40 pounds. I said, “Did you just cut down on Mama’s cooking?” He said, “Oh no. I lost it through hard work!” —pause . —pause . —pause . Then he smiled because I kept looking at him . . . “and I had to cut down on Mama’s cooking.” Nice guy. When he first signed he could not speak English, but he speaks well now. I left him with, “Throw it hard.” He responded, “I’m going to have a big year this year.” I like the confidence. I hope he does.

    Off to Pirate City for the last practice there this Spring. Tomorrow the team moves to McKechnie . . . .

  24. Enjoyed your work in Sochi, DK. I hope you got to Reds Square. That reference has nothing to do with baseball, btw.

  25. I am not a big fan of 40 yard dash times for evaluating a player, but……..

    Aaron Donald, who weighed in at 285 pounds, just ran a 4.65 40 time.

    Wow.

  26. Thanks for the update Mr Groat

    Open Blog Fantasy Leagues
    All on Yahoo
    Lunatics
    12 teams currently two open
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    Dejans Lunatics
    12 teams currently 4 open
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    The PBC Blog Inmates
    12 teams, currently 7 open
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    PBC Inmates
    16 teams, currently 6 open
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    If we can get a league filled and folks choose to change the draft type to live or live auction, we can do it, trouble is scheduling a time where everyone can do it. Autodraft is you simply rank the players and when everyone has done that, the draft is held.

    Any questions, please e-mail me at bisbee1203@verizon.net. Thanks, and Beat Em Bucs

  27. DK – GREAT coverage! Enjoyed it all the way. By my cout the US won at least three “traditional” golds (Davis/White, Shiffrin and Ligety), but the point still holds — we need to do a lot better in that are, especially speed skating. Where have you gone, Eric Heiden?

  28. We just had a 5 post string about speed skating. I guess it could be 6, including this one.

    • Now let’s move to cross country skiing! That 50 km race yesterday was spectactular!

      No sarcasm. Seriously.

      • I think you may be on your own for this one, 21. I got nothing.

        Well, was it dominated by Norwegians and Swedes? That’s all I got.

        It is a grueling sport, though.

        • The Russians swept the medals in the 50K. Race went right to the end. It was pretty exciting actually.

          • USA’s Noah Hoffman made a brave showing early, I saw him in second at a lot of the middle of the race, but…he fell behind.

            I think everyone who finishes that 50K should get a medal of some sort….grueling indeed.

            • I thought his interview after that race was fantastic. Very humble and gracious.

              • Yes, it was. Hubby and I were both watching it, and man, we both just couldn’t believe the pace those guys set. Amazing!

            • 5 posts on cross-country, counting this one.

              Ok, moving right along to that one where they cross-country ski, stop, shoot at things, then keep skiing … anyone have a comment on that one? Personally, I would like the things they shoot at to be moving. I think they should also have to duck shots at them. That would make it really exciting. Kind of like cross-country paint ball skiing.

              • I think Jim’s finally lost it! ;)

              • Jerry Seinfeld had something to say about the biathlon:

                Some of the events in the Olympics don’t make sense to me.
                I don’t understand the connection to any reality…
                Like in the Winter Olympics they have that biathlon.
                That combines cross-country skiing with shooting a gun.
                How many alpine snipers are into this?
                Ski, shoot a gun… ski, bang, bang, bang…
                It’s like combining swimming and strangle a guy.
                Why don’t we have that?
                That makes absolutely as much sense to me.
                Just put people in the pool at the end of each lane for the swimmers…

              • They shot at people? ;)

                It’s the Biathalon, Jim.
                Must be rough to do that.

              • Classic stuff on Ukraine from seinfeld too…

              • Finally, Jandy? Assuming I ever had it, I lost it a long time ago. :-(

              • There was the episode where Kramer and Neuman were playing Risk, and Kramer called the Ukraine a “road apple.” That was highly upsetting to a Ukranian guy.

              • Scroll down…wow jim you’re just an encyclopedia of knowledge :)

          • Waiting for Dejan to dismiss all the medals awarded for cross country and biathlon because the Russians and Scandinavians had unfair advantage with head start in those sports by farmers hunting for centuries in that manner.

      • Completely agree! Was mesmerized by this race. Made me long for the days of Wide World of Sports.

    • Careful, Jim.

      People may call it “pathetic” that you talk about topics that are’t liked.
      Wouldn’t want that, would you?

      Personally, what do you think about those figure-skating judges? ;)

      • Totally lost me on this one.

      • I think figure skating remains the most rigged sport in the Olympics, plan. In fact, any Olympic sport that requires someone to “interpret” performance opens itself up to corruption IMO. Figure skating has a long history of that. And, maybe I just don’t have the Olympic spirit when it comes to international judges. But, when it comes to judges having the ability to brazenly determine the fate of some kid who devoted every day of her life to a sport, I don’t like it.

        • Very good analysis, Jim.

          The IOC has a long, storied history of corruption in many areas.
          The old joke in the Cold War-era was ……….. “and the Russian judge gives her a (insert low score here)”…………..

          Wish there was a more objective way to do the judging.
          Maybe after I sell all out of torches, I can apply???

          • I’m sure you would be fair, plan. Don’t they throw out a score that is way out of the range of the others? I thought I heard that once. But, even that doesn’t stop a judge from making a very small mark down to kill a kid’s chances.

            • The thing I don’t get, is that one judges will value loops, but another judges will value jumps, and yet another judge will value a skaters follow-thru. They seem to be looking at different things. That is where I feel the wide range of scores comes in.

              A similar sport that is judged better is gymnastics. A lot of different things go into a gymnastics routine, but the judging is much more uniform. Certain things get judged on their own merit, but every technical thing is judged evenly.

              • I agree about gymnastics. It seems more uniform. The commentators usually are pretty close to the final scores because there are some accepted objective measures it seems. But there is always a subjective aspect to scoring by judges, just like officials in baseball, football, basketball and hockey calling penalties. Not sure how you get around it.

          • Agreed, I assume international sports organizations are corrupt until proven otherwise. FIFA is attempting to hold a World Cup in desert country in the middle of summer without any domestic soccer league.

            Not sure if it was mentioned here http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/feb/21/sochi-2014-south-korea-russia-figure-skating-gold-sotnikova-kim-yuna.

            Apparently one of the figure skating judges was suspend previously for attempting to fix ice dancing in the 1998 games.

  29. And now, in case you’re all interested, it’s been proposed by the NFL that a 15 yard penalty be imposed on a team during a game for racial slurs. It will be interesting to see how that ends up.

    • So, in the Miami case, Miami could be penalized 15 yards if one of its players used a racial slur against one of its other players during a game?

    • I’m thinking they will be adding other kinds of slurs as well, based on recent developments.

      • For some players in the league, get a muzzle, or else they will be penalized 24/7.

        • Hate this notion.

          Impossible to enforce and you cannot control what comes out of your mouth in the heat of extremely physical exertion.

          People that say “well it’s just like any other job where you can’t call somebody a ” have not grasped the direct connection that occurs between brain and mouth in violent confrontation.

  30. News update and analysis regarding the country of my birth:

  31. (Central Standard Time) MORNING, Y’ALL!

  32. Can’t wait until tomorrow. Buccos back to competition, and I THINK we’re still undefeated in Black & Gold play!

  33. It’s too early for baseball!….It’s a week till even March.
    Apparently it’s been too early for baseball with the FO too.

  34. Ok, nice goals to wrap it up, Sid and Kuni! And, nice photo ops afterward. Very nice. Babcock is wonderful – even though he seemed to dislike both of you for awhile. Now, let’s get back to work over here.

    I am so ready for the NHL to be back. I wonder if this layoff will affect some teams more than others. Will key players that went over there be worn down as the playoffs near? Will it be better for guys who competed over there because they kept facing good competition, while everyone else stayed here and basically shut down?

    I’d say there will be a lot of guys who did not play in the Olympics who will have an extra pep in their steps now down the stretch.

  35. Harold Ramis died today. He was 69.
    Big loss in the entertainment industry.

  36. Gotta go get some plans made, catch yinz loonies in a bit :)
    be good!

  37. Well, anyhow, the Grapefruit League will begin play on Wednesday, weather permitting.

  38. I have often wondered why the Olympics couldn’t be held in area with at least of the most of the facilities already in place. There are plenty of stadiums, ice rinks, ski runs, swimming pools, hotels and motels, gymnasiums and most of the rest of what’s required available within a reasonable distance of each other in many locations for both the summer and winter games.

    Just a thought.

  39. Just got around to reading the blog and column. DK’s is spot-on about how NHL participation gives the league max exposure.

    And therein lies Reason #213 why I am against NHL participation in the Olympics. What if the NHL fanbase does increase?

    How can a larger fanbase be good for current, devoted hockey fans? More fans means increased viewership, which means more money coming into the league, which means higher salary caps, which mean higher salaries, which means that money has to come from somewhere…which means, I would assume, even higher ticket prices and a higher rate for the Center Ice package. My initial question is not rhetorical. Please school me on how this benefits those of us who are already spending fans.

    And I wonder if the league is right about fans watching Olympic hockey and it translating into some kind of crossover effect to the NHL. I never watch soccer…until it’s World Cup time. Then for some reason I watch game after game. I love it. But when the World Cup ends, I don’t even think about watching soccer for four more years. But that’s just one idiot’s take on things.

    • I just look at it from perspective that i want to see elite talent play elite talent. I think i can live with scrapping plans for olympics if they replace it with World cup of hockey.

      But regarding this olympics i was saying the other day that the format we just had doesn’t lend to meaningful pre-lim games. All 12 teams moved on to round post pre-lims and with the coaches knowing that they played possum in pre-lim games by sitting back and just playing vanilla defense and offense.

      2 groups of 6 with 5 pre-lim games then top 4 teams from each group moving on would’ve been better format for entertainment and on ice results. As is every team only had 3 pre-lim games with 2 of those games being against the likes austria and latvia. For example it would be more interesting if USA had to play Russia and sweden or finland in pre-lims on top of slovakia and slovenia. Or if sweden was in canada’s group along with finland.

      Then the pre-lim games have meaning cuz bottom 2 teams from each group get eliminated based on pre-lim performance. This IMO would’ve increased entertainment value and forced coaches to play more aggressive from the start.

      And it would’ve entertained milo more.

  40. Here’s something that should be even more embarrassing to USA hockey than finland game:

    http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/sochi-olympics/miracle-ice-player-rebounds-despair-n36646

    They need to fix it…yesterday!

    • Yes the story of Mark Wells is just heartbreaking.
      Great telling of it in the book Boys of Winter.
      Read it Peeps!

      • I dont get it…USA hockey couldn’t hire him as a rep or consultant and give him a group insurance policy? Not to get political but if he was a canadian citizen his quality of life would’ve been better even if he never played hockey, let alone if he won a gold medal with them. For USA hockey to bury their heads in the sand and let one their 1980 guys have these kind of problems that could’ve been alleviated with a simple health insurance policy is asinine and shameful.

        Goes to show how easily any of us can be used as pawns. For all this talk about 1980 this and 1980 that, it should be a total embarrassment to all of us that USA hockey didn’t do something, anything to help this guy not have to sell his 1980 gold medal!!!

        • Wells is a tragic story. He had a back injury that basically crippled him.

          And really watching him totter around on skates didn’t make me feel a whole lot better! But God bless him he seems to have a good attitude considering all that he has been through.

          There;s a bunch of interesting and sad stories in that book. Mark Pavelick amongst them. Took a friend’s life inadvertantly in a hunting accident when he was younger. Never could speak about it.

          We hear all about Jim Craig or Mark Johnson or Eruzione making a career out of the rubber chicken circuit….but it was those other guys down the depth chart that always interested me.

          • Well it just seems like those cases are problems that fall into a different category. Wells issue could’ve been resolved just by USA hockey having some perspective.

            • Yeah. I guess back then they did not have that kind of perspective. Certainly not much money. I think he was alcoholic too, and/or addicted to pain meds. Quite understandable.

              Very sad story.

  41. DK—you in Moscow? Enjoy the java, and the sights.

  42. And now, an NY Times article says that the Russians don’t know what they’re going to do with Sochi now that the Olympics are over, which seems to be the common fate anymore of these overly expensive, over hyped international and national prestige affairs.

  43. Pirates claim Brent Morel, 40 man move pending

  44. I’m going with Andy Oliver to be DFA’d.

    • LOL! Hey, Milo! I did not even KNOW Andy Oliver was still in our system! I see we’ve had him pretty much since the Russell days. Where have they been hiding him?

      • Hey Bay !

        He spent last year in Indy walking everyone in sight. I don’t think they’d miss him.

        • Players, ball boys, trainers, coaches … man, he was walking them ALL! EVERYONE IN SIGHT! LOL! Morel has a little pedigree. I see he was rated the Sox 2nd best prospect going into 2011, when he got a full season and hit 10 home runs. Who knows …

  45. Great reporting as always Dejan! Made us feel like we were there with you. Have a safe trip back to the USA and enjoy your time off.

  46. Mark Madden is having a hissy fit.
    It;s really too funny.
    Him, ROssi, Rorabaugh.

    Savran eviscerated them today.

  47. The Yankees sign Brett Gardner to a 4 year/$52M extension.

    Brett Gardner.

    • I had just about the same reaction pattonbb. The only thing I could find was that he was in the top 30 in runs scored – in the American League – last year.

      He’s going to be 31 years old this season.

  48. Did anyone have trouble logging onto the blog this afternoon or is it my device ?

  49. Great summary blog, Dejan and great coverage these past 2 weeks. Enjoy the time off, and that first iced chai back at home!

  50. Mike Trout’s soon-to-be-signed extension is believed to be worth $25-30 million PER YEAR.

    • And, he is eligible to become a FA when he is only 28, in his prime.

      YIKES !!

    • You know, these contracts don’t even phase me anymore. It’s just the state of baseball today. Apparently, there is a ton of money out there coming from somewhere. It is the market now. And teams from Seattle to Cincinnati to Minnesota to Philly are willing to pay it.

      Pirates will either have to pay or perish. Because, I’ve never heard of contracts going down as time goes by.

      • Yeah, agreed, sadly.

        But to give a contract when a player can be a FA so young?
        I call insanity on this.

        • They’re probably doing everyone else a favor by not letting him set 3 (or 4) arbitration records. Of course, $35 million for 2020 & $38 million for 2021 doesn’t do anybody any favors. Trout wants over $40 million a year for those years.

          • Yeah. I agree.
            I just can’t help but wonder if he suffers a major injury?

            I just can’t wrap my head around stuff like this.
            Pirates couldn’t do this type of contract even if they wanted to.

        • The Angels will have Trout for a lot of his prime. He started young.

          I actually like the length of the contract for the Angels.

      • When it came time to pay Garrett Jones, they let him go.
        When it came time to pay A. J. Burnett, they let him go.

        Publish or perish . . . I mean, pay or perish?
        BMTIB chooses perish.

        How could BMTIB have allowed this once in a lifetime team——or at least once in 21 years——to enter the season worse than last year?!?

        • “How could BMTIB have allowed this once in a lifetime team——or at least once in 21 years——to enter the season worse than last year?!?”

          I am glad I am not the only one who thinks this is true.

        • Kinda depends whether you’re talking about the end of year team or the team that started the season methinks. Hard to say it’s worse than the team that left Spring Training last year. Am I happy about the offseason “moves,” no. But most thought they sucked at this time last year.

  51. Chase D’Arnaud DFA’d. Stinks.

  52. Hahahahahahahahaha!

    10 minutes to go in the NBA’s version of “embrace the suck” bowl…….

    Milwaukee 108
    Philadelphia 76.

    Hahahahahahahahaha!

  53. I’m starting to inch my way out on the ledge about this upcoming Pirates season.

    Help!

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