James_Pittsburgh: Do you see any chance of A.J. Burnett sticking around to provide veteran leadership alongside Garrett Cole, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, and Brad Lincoln/Charlie Morton? Lets say that this is the starting rotation sometime 2013-2014.
Bob Smizik: I cannot envision the scenario in which Burnett is with the Pirates in 2014. That would involve him signing a new deal with them. That's is highly, highly unlikely. Since he is under contract to them in 2013, at $8 million, he might be hear for part of that season. I seriously doubt he would spend much time as a teammate of Cole or Taillon. Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton did OK last year without ''veteran leadership,'' which can be helpful but which is wildly overrated.
genelamont: Doesn't the batting coach bear some of the responsibility for the Pirates offense?
Bob Smizik: Yes. About one percent. The responsibility to hit is with the hitters. Most of the Pirates players are poor hitters. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken feathers. Blaming the batting coach also is wildly overrated.
Smoltz: Bob - Starting to see more advertisements, interviews, etc. with Olympians. Do you get caught up in the Olympic marketing machine?
Bob Smizik: I'm a bit jaded on that matter. Michael Phelps is not going to be able to sell me any products.
Golf Doctor: When is Gerry Dulac getting a blog? The world of golf is so much more exciting than the awful Buccos or the offseason irrelevance of the Steelers. Don't you agree?
Bob Smizik: I fully agree that Gerry should have a golf blog.
Smoltz: Bob - I know your answer to this question would include the Pirates, but leave them out of it for a minute and give us your early season prediction for the World Series
Bob Smizik: In the American League, I'm going to go out on a limb and pick the Texas Rangers. In the NL, since I can't take the resurgent Pirates, I will take the Atlanta Braves.
Ryan: Bob thanks for your time, who do you see winning the #2 CB spot in camp this year out of Lewis, Brown and Allen? I got my money on Brown I know Lewis has more experience and Allen saw the field more last year but I think Brown is the most talented of the 3 and with a full off season and (hopefully) injury issues behind him he can win the job.
Bob Smizik: I would tend to agree with your choice of Curtis Brown. But it should be a good competition in training camp.
Smoltz: MLB would like us to believe that they have cleaned up the sport and most everyone is steroid free. First, do you believe that and if so, how exciting is it to see some great young talent emerging all over the league?
Bill: If the Pirates hit the big 20 for consecutive losing seasons, does Huntington get canned? He can't be excused for the offense he expected to get through this season. After the first 5 batters in our lineup, the last 4 are automatic outs. It's just pathetic. I'm ready for a new young GM that will try restocking the minor league system with some hitting as they're harder come by.
Bob Smizik: I think MLB is as clean as any sport. I don't know that cheating can ever be eliminated. The cheaters are often ahead of those trying to catch them. So, yes, I think the sport is mostly drug-free and it is nice to know the many outstanding young players are doing it on their own. However, the specter of Ryan Braun hangs over all of this.
Bob Smizik: Since Huntington signed an extension last year, I doubt he'll be fired if there is another losing season. Most certainly, some of his off-season moves deserve criticism, especially the signing of Nate McLouth, who had done nothing for more than two years to merit a $1.75 million contract. The Pirates were bidding against themselves. If Huntington wasn't fired after 2010, I doubt he'll be fired after 2012.
Ken: Bob, would you say that that this is the most likeable Pirates team in years from a lockeroom/personality standpoint? We've had some bad apples here and I give NH and Hurdle for changing the environment.
Bob Smizik: I have not found many Pirates team unlikeable in the recent past. I'm not quite sure from where you are coming. Many fans, for example, didn't like Jason Kendall. I'd take 25 guys with his attitude every day. I'm not in the habit of ranking teams on their likeability, so I'm probably the wrong guy to come to with this question.
William: I think this Bryce Harper kid is something MLB needs--a guy you love to hate. Agree?
Bob Smizik: Harper is not warm and cuddly for sure. And, yes, there's something to be said for disliking your opponent. However, fans seem to have a way of not liking (hating) opposing players without much help.
eric: Bob, every time hurdle inserts McLouth in for a key pinch hit i want to throw my remote through the tv. After the pathetic 3 pitch strikeout yesterday is it time to say enough is enough for this guy, or is he is contract the issue?
Bob Smizik: He never should have been signed. And, yes, he could easily be released without hurting the team. I think management will be slow to do that. Cutting a guy in May who you signed in December has a way of making management look exceedingly foolish. I doubt, though, he'll last the season.
Vern: During a feature about the Vikings stadium situation the NFL Network exclusively showed all the Christian Ponder highlights they could find. I get the sense that the league to its deriment is de-emphasizing defense for any # of possible (wrong) reasons. Do you think this is possible, given the anti-concussion, anti-bounty culture we're in?
Bob Smizik: People like to see scoring. Fans of teams with good defenses don't like to see rules that hurt defenses. But I don't blame sports leagues for aiding offenses. That's what most fans want to see. And if changes benefit player safety, so much the better.
Ryphia: I've seen some like to point out (accurately) that Pedro has not hit well in the cleanup spot and use it as a reason. Personally I do not buy into it. I don't think those guys really care where they hit in the middle of the order. Only time it has effect is if they are moved to bottom or top. Where do you fall in this debate?
Bob Smizik: I'm with you. Spot in the lineup is wildly overrated. I'm sure Pedro has batted third or fourth almost all of his life.Why would he not be comfortable in that rule? Fans love to tinker with lineup but in reality the composition of the lineup is not as important as they think.
JamesinNYC: True or false Washington should limit Strausburg's innings if they are in contention?
Bob Smizik: That's a tough decision for the Nationals with no easy answer. They could have him start skipping starts now, but they could throw off his rhythm. The smart answer is to shut him down when he reaches his limit. If they can do that, and I think they can, that's admirable.
Bill: In today's baeball do you think it's possible that Walker and Tabata can "learn" over time and become .320-.330 hitters? A couple of guys in the 70s come to mind as guys who increased their averages to this level over time--Rennie Stennett and Larry Bowa.
Bob Smizik: Neither Presley nor Tabata have the upside of Stennett. Their problem is not so much hitting for average but, as corner outfielders, hitting for power. I doubt either will ever be an established corner outfielder. I see both as reserves, at best, in the future.
Bob Smizik: Thanks to everyone today for the questions. I will back for another chat next Monday at noon.
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