Bob Smizik: The lineup is just awful. They're asking Walker and McGehee to be power guys and that's not their strong suit. I imagine Tabata, Barajas and Barmes will begin to hit better. But it's still a very weak lineup with little or no bench strength behind it. Off the top of my head, yes, it's the worst offense I can remember the Pirates having in the past 19 years.
GolfDoc: Good afternoon Bob. This is a dark week for Pittsburgh sports. The Penguins are 60 minutes away from elimination, the Pirates are worse than ever, and the Steelers have made no noise (again) in free agency. Can you give me a reason to smile?
Bob Smizik: Uh, Pitt had a top 15 recruiting class. Duquesne hired a new coach who has a recent history of success. I know that doesn't help with the Penguins and Pirates situations. They are what they are. The best news is the Steelers remain a Super Bowl contender.
steiny: Does a first-round exit cost Bylsma his job?
Bob Smizik: It could. The Penguins are in the middle of a grand window of opportunity. They don't last forever. If management feels a different coach can get more out of this team in the post-season, it will make a change. My guess is he will not be fired. But he'd better not get off to a bad start next season.
genelamont: Are you still in favor of playing Pedro Alvarez?
Bob Smizik: That's my stance and Alvarez isn't making me look very good with it. If they had a decent option, I would not be so strong in my opinion. But they do not. Just as I wrote earlier that Barmes, Tabata and Barajas will start to hit better, the same can be said for Alvarez. He's their only power hope. They have to give him a good shot.
Smoltz: Bob - if the Pens can't right the ship, will they be considered the Miami Heat of the NHL? (all the talent but not the title) And if so, who is to blame?
Bob Smizik: They were not put together the way the Heat was so I don't think that's an apt comparison. However, they were picked by many to win the Cup so a first-round exit would be massively disappointing. Who's to blame? My stance is always the players. For what ever reason, their performance, particularly defensively, has been abysmal at the most important time of the year.
Kenman: It's appears that the Bucs will soon be forced to send Alvarez to Indy, but he is so messed up that I fear and predict he won't hit a lick down there either. If that happens, what do they do with him then?
Bob Smizik: If he is sent back to Indy, and I have not given up on him succeeding in Pittsburgh, he will have to continue to work to get better. That can happen. If he continues to falter, eventually they will have to give up on him but that is a long way down the road.
Sonny D: Are the Bucs gonna have this pathetic lineup the rest of the season or will they do something like make some trades?
Bob Smizik: They have very little to offer in the way of talent to lure back better players. An obvious candidate is closer Joel Hanrahan but I anticipate him being dealt later in the season when other teams know where they stand and better know their needs. Trading is really not a great option for the Pirates. They do not have any surpluses so any trade they make will only weaken them in another area.
BlueSinSav: Hey Bob...
BlueSinSav: Hey Bob...I don't live in the area, so I don't get a feel for what the region thinks, but all the comments on your blog about firing Bylsma, trading Malkin...are those just a small sampling of fans going over board or do you get a feel that a majority of the average fans as well as media members think drastic changes are needed. I for one don't think that's the case.
Bob Smizik: I think firing Bylsma is a very real possibility. As well as he has done in the regular season, since winning the Cup -- with a team that was the runnerup the year before under another coach -- he has lost two of three playoff series and is close to making that three of four. As stated above, there's a winder of opportunity for the team that won't last forever. Ownership may feel a different coach gives the organization the best chance to maximize that window.
Malkin is going to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. I cannot imagine the circumstances in which the team would trade him -- particularly with Crosby's health issues.
Ken: Bob, suddenly looks like Tabata's team friendly contract isn't so team friendly--what a terrible start. The guy can't get the ball into the outfield. Would he be a candidate for a return to AAA?
Bob Smizik: Returning Tabata to the minors is always a possibility but not at this date or, I would think, any time soon. If he's still struggling in June, then that might be an option.
Kevin: You knew Clemente--had he lived would he have been a Pirate manager instead of Chuck Tanner or Latin American statesman, or both?
Bob Smizik: That's really hard to speculate about. I never saw Clemente as a manager. I don't think he could have tolerated some aspects of the job. In my opinion, he would have retired to Puerto Rico and continue his work to build the sports complex that was his dream.
Immediate: The Pgh media seemed to say the Pens "stooped to the Flyers level" in game 3 with the thuggery. Stooped to when? 1970s?
Bob Smizik: The Flyers have a reputation dating back to the Broad Street Bullies that won't go away. They're a pretty skilled team but no one in Pittsburgh will ever be able to look at them in that light.
Snooze: The NFL network and ESPN have devoted 3 hours of special programming to the release of the NFL schedule tonight. How much will the Smizik TV take in?
Bob Smizik: I will check out the schedule on the Internet and post it on my blog with a possible opinion or two. I doubt I will tune in the TV for this non-event.
Guest: When NH and Connelly came in, the key was to build with pitching, pitching, pitching. Are we seeing the effects of the lack of real focus on bringing in offense or we in like Year 3 of a five-year plan. It just doesn't seem like there's a real hitter arriving in the next two years to make this start not feel like it will be the norm for the whole season. If they give up 3 runs, they essentially are done.
Bob Smizik: Not sure where you got Year 3 from. This is the fifth year of the Coonelly-Huntington regime. They have put an emphasis on pitching but not to the complete ignoring of hitting. Two of their four No. 1 picks have been hitters -- Alvarez and Tony Sanchez. They took a hitter with the No. 2 pick last year, Josh Bell. It's not that they've been ignoring hitters, it that's they've drafted ones have have yet to reach the majors. The fact there is very little at Indianapolis from the 2008 draft speaks alarmingly to the team's lack of success.
Dynasty: Could this be the worst Pittsburgh baseball team of the 19-year stretch of ineptitude?
Bob Smizik: They'd be hard pressed to lose more than the 105 games the 2010 team did. But it could happen. I think this team has better pitching than in 2010 and that will be the difference.
roger_jolly: Bob, how about we see how the new guy at PSU does when staring across from Brady Hoke and 100k at the big house before we call this hire "brilliant"
Bob Smizik: What ever you say. I like the hire -- very much -- so far. But he has to prove he can win games.
Will6: The FAN's all Penguins all the time discussion is lazy programming. There's a NFL draft coming up and the Pirates are fascinating in their own way. A national NFL or NBA story or two wouldn't hurt either once in awhile. I think the FAN disappoints. Agree?
Bob Smizik: In total honesty, I don't listen all that much. I heard a segment on the morning show about the Pirates. The Penguins are deservedly the No. 1 topic in down. I've found an excellent remedy for programming I don't like is to change the station or turn off the radio.
James_Pittsburgh: Do you think Casey McGhee can become part of the team's plans for the next 3-5 years? He is 29, so I would say he could give the Pirates five decent seasons.
Bob Smizik: I'm not sure of his contractual situation. I think he has one or two more years of team control before he become eligible for free agency. I imagine he'll be back next year. How long he stays depends on how well he plays.
PleaseNutt: Most have been saying this for 19 years, but why don't the Pirates just play all young guys and let them grow together in MLB? How could it be any worse? Hague-Walker-D'Arnaud-Alvarez-Marte-Cole-Taillon-Allie-Heredia. The past has shown (Brad Lincoln, etc.) that they don't get better in the minors anyway???
Bob Smizik: I don't think it's a good idea to rush players to the majors. They need to develop at their own rate. Bringing them up too soon can be detrimental to their development.
RJ: If James Robinson is the 59th best prospect, do you see him getting the start at point guard next season considering Dixon's past decisions of this kind?
Bob Smizik: With Woodall returning at point guard, I see almost no chance of Robinson starting. I see him as Woodall's backup. That's the way Dixon does things.
Hottix: Bob, I have free tickets to giveaway for the following events, which would like to attend: Game 4 Big Screen front row outside of CONSOL, Pittsburgh Power, Pittsburgh Passion, or Serra-East Allegheny softball.
Bob Smizik: Thanks, but I'll pass on all.
Guest: Bob, do you think Martin and Michalek deserve the huge amount of criticism they get from media and fans?
Bob Smizik: Absolutely.
Fannedout: What is more important for obtaining a host job on the fan: actually knowing sports or being able to babble for 5 minutes without breathin?
Bob Smizik: From what I heard on the Fan, their hosts are very knowledgeable. Sometimes, when there are no callers, you gotta babble.
Bob Smizik: Thanks to all today for the questions. The chat will return to its normal Monday at noon slot next week. That's April. 23. See you then.
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