Smoltz: Bob - Did you consider Charlie Morton an important piece to the Pirates' rotation? If so, who fills that void?
Bob Smizik: Last year Morton was important -- 10-10 on a team 18 games under .500 and with an ERA under 4.00. This year, less so. For the moment, his absence is not large. Jeff Karstens should be ready to rejoin the rotation by the end of the month and he could be a large upgrade over Morton. Until that time, Brad Lincoln, disappointing, or a minor-leaguer will fill in.
Ben in MS: Biggest difference between this year and last year is the presence of pitchers capable of stopping losing streaks before they grow too big. T/F?
Bob Smizik: The Pirates have significantly better pitching this year. That's the difference. McDonald and Burnett are vastly superior to whomever the top two were last year -- probably Karstens and either McDonald or Morton. Both McDonald and Burnett, as you suggest, have shown the ability to pitch a strong game almost every time.
WyattBurp: Afternoon, Bob. I'm a Detroit Tigers fan. The Pirates are chasing the Reds in an NL Central. Will they catch'em?
Bob Smizik: My belief is the Pirates, as constituted, are not good enough to catch the Reds, who have a vastly superior lineup. But I prefer to let the season play out.
James_Pittsburgh: If the Pirates make a trade, what position should they look first to upgrade?
Bob Smizik: They need a power bat and a corner outfielder would be their best option.
Smoltz: Bob - Did you catch Terry Bradshaw's comments on Jay Leno's show? Though I cannot stand his "hee-haw" brand of pre-game antics, I must say I completely agree with him. Do you think football will lose its popularity/attention as more is known about head injuries and talented athletes choose other sports?
Bob Smizik: There's no question the popularity of football as a participant sport is in some jeopardy. Considering the new information on concussions, many parents are likely to keep their sons away from football. I do not, however, think the future of football is as dire as Bradshaw predicts. I believe he said soccer would surpass football in the next decade. I do not believe that.
WyattBurp: Votto is the man for the Reds. Who is the best position player on the Pirates?
Bob Smizik: Tough one, WB. Let me hazard a guess and say Andrew McCutchen.
James_Pittsburgh: In is my belief that the Pirates need to end their 19 year losing streak this year or it might continue for another 5 years. James McDonald is the only dependable starter that will be with the Pirates for several years. If Pedro doesn't put it together things could get ugly due to the fact that there is no help other than Marte in the minors.
Bob Smizik: No question there, James. No question, the Pirates need a significant upgrade in position player talent if they are to be successful.
SLCSteelersfan: Bob, undrafted rookie CB Terry Carter has been making some noise with his showings in OTA's and minicamp, have you heard anything about him? seems like CB could be deeper than its been in many years
Bob Smizik: I think the Steelers have some potentially good young CBs, players who figure to be a significant upgrade over the likes of McFadden and Gay. However, they must first do it on the field.
Naterosboro: Something I was thinking about as the Pirates got swept in Baltimore...could it be that Huntington is using Interleague play as a bench mark for his team? They were 32-27 going into it, hardly a record that calls for moves to be made. With offenseive woes (overall), combined with Lincoln & Correia's poor starts, I think we'll see NH make some moves after the All-Star break. What do you think?
Bob Smizik: I would hope there's be some moves. Despite the fact the team is doing well offensively this month -- third in runs and OPS in the NL -- there are some large holes and this level of performance cannot be expected to continue. I don't think the Pirates record, then or now, tells the entire story. The team needs an upgrade offensively. It did before Baltimore and it does today.
Naterosboro: Bob, why don't you have a twitter account? I'd follow you!
Bob Smizik: I have considered Twitter but, for now, have rejected it. I'm retired, Nate. My blog takes up enough of my time.
Kenman: What are your impressions of Progressive Field in general and in comparison with PNC Park in particular?
Bob Smizik: I was at the ball park formerly known as The Jake yesterday and was disappointed. I remember doing a media tour before it opened and writing a rave piece about it. I also enjoyed it making visits with my sons in the 1990s. However, it pales next to PNC Park. Still a very nice stadium.
Chris Saunders: Hi Bob...any second thoughts about leaving El Toro in the 6 hole permanently? I know you and I exchanged ideas on this not too long ago and I would be interested in seeing his numbers when he hits 4 and 6.
Bob Smizik: I am not a believer that position in the lineup affects performance. Pedro probably batted fourth all his life. He should be able to handle it. Last time I checked, his worst spots in the batting order this season were fourth and seventh. The proves, at least to me, that my theory on the unimportance of batting position is correct.
James_Pittsburgh: Is it just mean or is Terry Bradshaw an idiot way to often? Saying that soccer will become more popular than football is ridiculous.
Bob Smizik: I've found Bradshaw to be a world-class phony. He'll say anything for a reaction.
James_Pittsburgh: Bob, you said you were in Cleveland last weekend. How many ball parks do you plan to visit this summer? I have been to Cincinnati and hope to go to Secco Field as well. Of course I have been to PNC Park as well.
Bob Smizik: My stadium tour for the remainder of the 2012 MLB season looks like this:
Naterosboro: Any thoughts on the NBA Finals? Do you want to see LeBron James win a championship?
Bob Smizik: LeBron made a bad choice in announcing his new team (The Decision). Other than that, I think he has handled himself quite well as a superstar, especially one who came to that role so young. I have nothing against him and would be happy to see him win a title.
JamesinNYC: Walker has put up some prettty decent numbers the last few weeks. Are you a lot less concerned now? I admit I was a bit worried, I like to root for the hometown kid and all that. It is part of what makes being a fan fun. Now he is roughly say in the top dozen hitters for second base and his fielding top 6 or 7 which is somewhat amazing.
Bob Smizik: Yes. His decline was alarming. He has stopped that and improved. I doubt he'll ever be the hitter he was in 2010. He does not have to achieve that level to be a successful MLB player.
WyattBurp: When I looks at the Pirates roster, it says they have only three outfielders. Is that right?
Bob Smizik: Jones and Harrison can also play the OF, in addition to McCutchen, Presley and Tabata.
Naterosboro: In your blog this morning you said Charlie Morton will miss next season. Have you seen a report that says that? Usually TJ surgery is a 12 month recovery, so that would put his return back at June-July of next year, only half a season.
Bob Smizik: I've read 12 to 18 months. Even if he returns next season, he'll be of little value. My point was that the Pirates have a key decision to make on him still stands. Whether he does not play or begins his comeback does not alter that point.
Naterosboro: Have you been watching Euro 2012, Bob? I know you just LOVE soccer....
Bob Smizik: I actually stumbled across that snoozefest yesterday but quickly and wisely changed the station.
WyattBurp: Cubs. They're looking for someone to pick up Dempster in a trade. Are the Pirates interested, at all?
Bob Smizik: Huntington has not spoken to me on this matter. He's a quality pitcher. I doubt the Pirates have what the Cubs are looking for in exchange for him.
RJ: How is Tabata still in the starting lineup? As the old saying goes, "He must have the photographs and the negatives!"
Bob Smizik: Tabata is the Pirates fifth leading hitter. His batting average for June is .302. He is earning his playing time on merit.
Naterosboro: The baseball team from Western PA is having a better season than the one from the Eastern part. Has Hell frozen (considering they're spending about $125million more for their team)?
Bob Smizik: High payroll is no guarantee of success. It only guarantees a better chance of success.
James_Pittsburgh: Do the Pirates keep on running Clint Barmes out there for the rest of this season and in 2013? I do realize that there are no internal solutions. Well at least any that Clint Hurdle will allow on the field.
Bob Smizik: You said it best. There are no internal solutions. The Pirates were quick to give Hague a shot, even though his minor league numbers were worse than Mercers. That tells me the Pirates do not have much confidence in Mercer. Since Hurdle's job hinges on his W-L record, I can only assume he considers Barmes his best option. Considering his alternatives, as you suggest, that does not surprise me.
Bob Smizik: As always, thanks to all who participate and to those who read. I will be back next Monday at noon.
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