Chris Saunders: Great game yesterday! I was glued to the tube for the entire thing. But, one thing that really bothers me is how unproductive Gabby Sanchez has been. Do you think we should just roll the dice and let G.I. Jones play fulltime? I mean, he is having his best season since his rookie year and he's really been a major contributor this season.
Bob Smizik: There was no great reason to expect Sanchez to pick up his game, other than the standard change of scenary. He had been a large disappointment with Miami and was even sent to the minors. Based strictly on the numbers, I think the team is better platooning Jones and Sanchez. Jones has not shown much ability vs. LHP. Sanders at 1B against LHP and batting fourth is definitely a weakness.
The Lie was exposed: Bob, you have made some subtle comments that can be interpreted that the NCAA was heavy handed against PSU (I think at one point you used the term hanging judge). Most national pundits feel the punishment was actually on the lighter side; why do you and the rest of the PG feel that the punsihment for covering up child rape was too harsh?
Bob Smizik: Nothing subtle about it. I thought the NCAA vastly overstepped its bounds. It has rarely, if ever, acted on criminal matters. It opened Pandora's Box with this ruling and I will be interested to see if it remains consistent on such matters. I found no need to virtually kill the Penn State football program. Certainly, sanctions were in order, but I don't think they should have been near-death penalty.
steiny: I've not been impressed with the Haley offense. What's your take?
Bob Smizik: Not much to see so far. It has not been impressive but I think we are seeing a small part of it. Besides, offenses are more about execution.
James Pittsburgh: Should the Pirates call up Jeff Locke and leave him on the team for the rest of the season?
Bob Smizik: Other than today, I don't think they need pitchers for the rotation, which is Locke's primary job. I know he pitched well in relief while with the team this month but I think there are better relievers in Indianapolis who would more serve the Pirates current needs.
Naterosboro: What/who has impressed you most over 2 preseason games for the Steelers? The least?
Bob Smizik: To be perfectly honest, I haven't watched much. Nose tackle Steve McLendon has jumped out on defense. I've been impressed with running back Jonathan Dwyer.
Kenman: The Pirates are astonishingly unsuccessful at the running game, not just the high rate of caught-stealings, but the high number of related pick-offs. It is surely costing them runs. Should Hurdle just admit it can't work this year and dial back the agression by not trying to steal and keeping leads small and safe?
Bob Smizik: I think they have dialed back the running game. McCutchen barely runs. They don't have a lot of speed in their lineup, beyond McCutchen and the left fielder. Not a lot you can do in the running game without speed.
Naterosboro: If you had to give an answer right now, do the Pirates hang on to that last wildcard spot?
Bob Smizik: No.
Naterosboro: Is it just that we've seen more of Tabata now that his flaws seem so apparent? When he came up as a rookie, he looked as if he could hold down the top spot in the lineup for some time. Now, 4th outfielder seems to be his ceiling. Thoughts?
Bob Smizik: He certainly has regressed as a player. He looked like an ideal leadoff man at one point in his career, with speed and the ability to draw a walk. I have no idea where that has gone, although it does not like he's gained some weight. With his lack of power, he looks like no better than a fourth OF. Certainly, McCutchen, Marte and Snider are ahead of him on the depth chart.
Ken: Bob, what is the real reason behind so many annoying Yankees-Sox games on Fox, ESPN and MLB Network. People in Peoria, like us, must want to change the channel immediately. Has it simply become a matter of getting every viewer in New England, NY, NJ and "who cares" about the rest of us, accoriding to tv sports executives?
Bob Smizik: $ $ $ . It's all about drawing an audience. Those teams not only represent two major markets, they have a country-wide following, as much as some don;t want to admit that. Both, especially the Yankees, have recognizable names, which is important in attracting an audience. I agree those teams are on too much, but I will take NY-Boston before a lot of other matchups.
Naterosboro: Criticism from fans towards Andrew McCutchen's recent slump is a bit much, no? He's in the midst of his best season as a pro, 1 of the best in the MLB this year, and 1 of the best in franchise history. I think the guy is due for some 0-fers after hitting almost .450 in July!
Bob Smizik: Comes with the territory, and that's especially so in view of his terrible second half last season. No one ever said there is a lot of rational thinking among fans when it comes to critiquing players.
Naterosboro: Pedro Alvarez had a great September his rookie year. Do you think he can have a strong September this year and carry the Bucs to the playoffs?
Bob Smizik: If he could get it going, that would be a tremendous lift to the Pirates. He has two HRs in the past four games so he could be about to take off. And maybe not. It is impossible to predict what path most players will take.
James Pittsburgh: In regards to Gaby Sanchez, I think Clint Hurdle is handling it well. Sometimes Jones is in right even against a left handed pitcher. The only hope for Sanchez to hopefully get back to where he was in 2011 is getting at bats at the Major League level.
Bob Smizik: I would agree. Hurdle is utilizing Sanchez about as well as that can be done.
HectorLuna: Would the NFL be better off no showing preseason games on national television? Who would watch guys who will be on practice squads/no squads/Pittsburgh Power in a few weeks play a meaningless game?
Bob Smizik: I'm not sure why they watch, but they do. And viewers translate into money. No, the NFL would not be better off not showing exhibition games.
MrAugust: How important is Pedro's power (whether he actually makes contact or not) to the Bucco lineup? It appears opposing managers are definitely aware of the impact his bat has in there.
Bob Smizik: He is enormously important to the Pirates. If he could go on a roll, he can carry the team. How he plays the rest of the way will go a long way toward determining the team's level of success.
Oneanddone: It has been so long, but have Pirate fans forgot that even good teams experience slumps from time to time
Bob Smizik: True. Even the best of teams lost about 60 games a season. With many fans, just one loss take on a catastrophic feeling.
JamesinNYC: Great game yesterday. I was traveling home from PGH and I was entertained the whole way. Picked up a Z tshirt in the strip. Life is actually good to be a Pirates fan again. Do they bring up someone today to pitch or do they piece together a Correia/Rodriguez tandem? Also big thumbs up to Correia for stepping up to say he would pitch today.
Bob Smizik: I cannot imaging they'd try to use both Correia and Rodriguez today. Not the way pitchers are babied these days. I'm guessing they will bring in Justin Wilson from Indy to start and Bryan Morris might come with him to bolster the bullpen.
Will: What exactly has happened to ESPN in recent years? I'm annoyed at the lazy Tim Tebow/Mark Sanchez/Jets/quarterback centric coverage.
Bob Smizik: It has been my experience that the people who run ESPN are very smart. I think they know what the public wants. Not all of the public, but they have a great sense of what viewers want to see.
Tabatas Bunt: Now that it appears that the 20-year streak is coming to an end, what do you think was the low point of the Pirate franchise since 1992? Ed Sprague as our all-star rep in 1999 might be the one for me.
Bob Smizik: For my money it was 2010 when the team lost 105 games. That was a continually pitiful performance. But it has spawned something good.
MAdesso: Bob, do you see the Steelers looking at bringing Merriman as a body to have for OLB?
Bob Smizik: I would highly doubt that.
Charlottes Web: Please tell me Pitt playing Gardner Webb this fall had something to do with the ACC move? Or did they schedule this game on purpose? They should have just played Duquesne.
Bob Smizik: Pitt's schedule got messed up when TCU and WVU left the Big East. They were scrambling for games. It's a bad situation but not all Pitt's fault.
James Pittsburgh: There is little doubt that Joe Paterno should have contacted the authorities about Sandusky. However it seems like the NCAA sanctions show that some people may have had something personal against Joe Paterno. Just my feeling. I am not sure whether it can be supported by evidence. Your thoughts?
Bob Smizik: NCAA president Mark Emmert wanted to show he can get tough. I thought he was too tough.
BlueSinsav: Hey Bob...does it disgust you to see a player like Brown showboat into the end zone (flip)? On top of acting bush league in a pre-season game, he puts himself at chance for an injury or open for a shot at by the opposition.
Bob Smizik: It's the way or the world. Atthough that was especially stupid and I doubt he'll do it again. MLB players do something almost as stupid every time there's a walkoff win without any regard to how such showboating has ruined the career of Kendry Morales.
James Pittsburgh: I would have to disagree with you on not needing Jeff Locke. Erik Bedard may have better stuff, but I think Locke would give the Pirates a better chance to win the last 8 times through the rotation.
Bob Smizik: Bedard has pitched pretty well of late. I would disagree.
MAdesso: Bob, will Redman start the season as RB1. Do you think, if healthy, he remains the starter the rest of season, regardless of Mendenhall's health?
Bob Smizik: If he's healthy, I'm guessing he'll start. Although Dwyer has been impressive. Mendenhall will not be ready for the opener, barring a medical miracle.
MAdesso: Bob, what's the latest on Shane Doan's decision?
Bob Smizik: As near as I can tell, he really wants to stay in Phoenix. There is almost no chance he'll end up with the Penguins.
Sheff: Why aren't they throwing Heath the ball?
Bob Smizik: I don't believe Miller has caught a pass. But I don't think exhibitions are a barometer of what is to come -- as much as the NFL would like us to believe that.
Matt: Does the fact that some Board of Trustees and certainly a lot of Penn State enthusiasts still don't get it that it was the institution's obsession with football and the deification of its coach that led to these crimes being perpetrated rights under their eyes that led to the harsh penalties?
Bob Smizik: I think a very small percentage of the BOT and fans don't get it. I think most get it completely.
Matt: If the Pirates fail to make the playoffs even as the second wildcard, do think this season should be judged as a success (huge?) if they FINALLY go over 500?
Bob Smizik: Yes, i think the season will be a success if they achieve 82 or more wins. That does not mean fans won't be disappointed but -- in the end -- I think most will be happy with a +.500 season.
Bob Smizik: Sorry I could not get to all the questions today. I will be back next Monday at noon. Thanks to all.
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