Friday, August 22, 2008

WHYGAVS Interviews Rocco DeMaro, Part 2

Today I'm happy to bring you the second part of my interview with WPGB's Rocco DeMaro (if you missed part 1, you can find it here). Today we discuss the future of the Pirates, his show, and some of the players. Enjoy.

What do you think of the last three weeks for Huntington, Coonelly, and company? At this point, opinion seems to be kind of split as to whether or not the trades got the ball rolling in the right direction and whether the $9 million spent on draft picks is a sign that the ownership has turned over a new leaf.

RD: Well, in a general sense, I don't see how the new management group's first year on the job can be considered anything but an unqualified success. I mean, after the previous administration, Lindsay Lohan and that orange monster from the Bugs Bunny cartoons could have probably taken over and fared better than Kevin and Dave did. The bar was

We won't know for a while whether or not Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Bryan Morris, Craig Hansen, Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Dan McCutchen and Jeff Karstens will be the players some expect them to be. I had to pawn my crystal ball a while ago, so I can't look into the future and tell you definitively what's going to happen.

Personally, I'm a BIG fan of Tabata, LaRoche and Ohlendorf...but that's based on some minor league success and projection. I can tell you this much--those least some of them...HAVE to pan out if the team is going to turn in a winning season in the near future.

The draft this year was a great sign that ownership, at the very least, is finally allocating its dollars in the right place. And that's because ownership has finally put a competent management team. Will ownership continue to pour money into the draft/Latin/developmental side of things? I sure hope so. Considering Mr. Nutting has done nothing but take positive steps since he took over as Chairman last January, I see no logical reason to assume he won't continue to do so. Call me naive, but I genuinely think the guy is tired of losing.

This off-season, I fully expect the Pirates to do some of the forward thinking things that other successful small and mid-market teams have done in recent years--like locking up some of their more valuable pieces (Maholm, McClouth, Doumit) through their arbitration years and potentially into their free agency years. I also expect the Pirates to be aggressive in bringing in the best scouting talent there is to be had this fall.

If these things do happen, it'll be even more evidence that this franchise is finally interested in competing...a reality that wouldn't be possible without the backing of ownership.

WHYGAVS: In general, what's it like doing a show like yours for a team as bad as the Pirates. I guess your background is kind of applicable here. Are you from the area? Or is this show your introduction to the Pirates?

RD: I was born and raised in it's safe to say I'm a local. As such, I've been interested in the Pittsburgh Pirates for the duration of my time on Planet Earth. Steelers and Pens, too, by the way. But I've always had a special place in my heart for the Bucs and baseball in general.

Doing a post-game show for a bad team, in my mind, is no different than doing a show for a good team. I react to what's happening, both on the field and in general. That the team hasn't won for nearly 16 years is certainly a story, but it doesn't make my job any easier or more difficult. My job description, as I see it, is to dominate the airwaves on a nightly basis for 6 months straight...regardless of the team's success or failure.

Would I have a larger audience if the Pirates were contenders? Of course. But my audience size has nothing to do with the prep I do, the analysis I do, the entertainment I try to bring to the show or the level of dedication I'm obligated to put forth in order to make the show as good as I can possibly make it.

WHYGAVS: How tough is it doing a stats-based show on the Pirates' flagship station? Obviously a lot of people don't want anything to do with that, especially in a general audience.

RD: Well, if I didn't discuss the statistical side of things, I wouldn't be doing my job. Baseball, more than any other sport, is driven by numbers...both in a predictive sense and a reactive sense. That SO MANY media outlets bypass true performance analysis for easier to digest generalities (and, usually, misconceptions) has always been a frustration for me. It's all about homework, really. It's about being willing to put the work in to truly understand how the game works.

I mean, how can one purport to cover or be knowledgeable about an industry without doing the required homework? In what other field would such a lack of professionalism be so widely accepted? It baffles me that baseball, despite all the irrefutable data that is out there, is still discussed today as if we were in the Stone Age...with people making value judgments based on archaic data and out-moded models. To me, covering baseball without at least a little background in the statistical side of things, is tantamount to fraud.

WHYGAVS: What role do blogs play in preparing for your show? (Editors note: I am required by the Super Secret Sports Blogger Code of Ethics to ask this question. I've said too much already ...)

RD: Blogs are becoming a bigger and bigger part of my prep. Admittedly, the majority of the work I do on the 'net is still centered around mainstream sites and industry-specific sites. But there are some people out there in the blogosphere that are doing some really good work ... REALLY good work. I'm a HUGE fan of new media and I'm psyched to see what the next few years will bring us in terms of a potential paradigm shift in the way we consume our information, the sources of information that we come to trust as credible ... especially in the wake of the nearly libelous character assassination done by the aforementioned local newspaper.

WHYGAVS: Does Luis Rivas know you worship him?

RD: The Great and Powerful Luis Rivas, a.k.a., Rivas of Nazareth, to my knowledge, has no idea of his cult of Rivastic followers. Even if He did, His Divine Benevolence would surely keep such things to himself, as he is nothing if not a humble minor diety/demi-God.

WHYGAVS: How does Adam LaRoche feel about "The Best ... AROUND!"?

RD: I've personally asked Adam about 'The Best Around' on the air (after game 70 on 6/15, the archives of Rocco's shows are here) and his response was one of the highlights of my season. He used that Karate Kid song as his AB music on a DARE from then Dodgers prospect Andy LaRoche. Listen for yourself. Just hilarious.

And as a bonus, I asked Andy LaRoche about the same thing, which led to lead to, somehow, an even funnier interview (game 121, 8/13 ... same link as above). Again, listen for yourself. There are also some references to Adam putting the younger LaRoche in a pair of goggles and pelting him with BBs when they were growing up. Yeah.

WHYGAVS: Ian Snell is the most intense human being alive ... confirm or deny.

RD: Ian is certainly intense--having played some pickup basketball with him over the winter I can attest to as much--but nobody out-intense's Doug Mientkiewicz. Nobody. The man makes Jack Bauer seem like Bob Ross. Van Dyke Brown!!

WHYGAVS: Has John Russell ever expressed human emotion to you?

RD: I love John Russell. He's down to earth, somewhat sedate, and the man is a VERY GOOD manager. He has a great temperment...if only because that's who he is. The players respect the crap out of him, and that's all that matters in my mind. He's a great motivator, and he gets the most out of his players. You can't ask for much more out of a field manager...not to mention he's quietly using some sound sabermetric principals in his management these days, even if he does throw in the odd sac bunt when maybe he shouldn't. Love me some JR.

And with that, Rocco rode off into the darkness with Rick Astley blaring in the background. Or, you know, I ran out of questions and thanked him for his time. So again, a big WHYGAVS thank you to Rocco DeMaro for agreeing to do this.