Big Lead Sports Bar

9/08/2008

MONDESI'S HOUSE INTERVIEW: PIRATES POSTGAME HOST ROCCO DEMARO

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and meet with Rocco DeMaro, host of the Pirates' postgame show, Extra Innings, on WPGB 104.7 FM. We talked at length about our similar backgrounds (believe it or not, both of our fathers once operated Giant Eagle supermarkets within a few miles of each other - a fact I did not realize beforehand), the recent controversy he's dealt with, and of course, Pittsburgh sports.
Rocco has quite the interesting story, and was nice enough to answer a few questions for the site on a variety of topics. Please enjoy responsibly.

[Mondesi's House]: Here we are nearing the conclusion of Pittsburgh Pirates Consecutive Losing Season XVI. Rather than re-hash the season that was, tell us some positives about the future of the organization….please!

[Rocco DeMaro]: Well, searching for positives on the field isn't going to be easy...XVI is upon us and no amount of progress behind the scenes is going to change that. But if it's positives you're looking for, I guess the logical place to point would be the new-found competence in the front office. Neal Huntington, Frank Coonelly and Co. have been quite a departure from the wild mismanagement of the previous regime. They've sold high and bought low on their commodities. They've instituted new systems in baseball ops that will at least put them on equal footing with some of their competitors and perhaps give them a leg up on others. And they've got, in Frank Coonelly, a man that could potentially be baseball's next commissioner. Frank has clout...a lot of clout...and he brings a great deal of respect and authority to the Pirates throughout baseball.

So even if the wins aren't piling up just yet, the ship is at least pointed in the right direction (finally). Personally, I find it absurd that mere competence is seen as progress, but that's where we are vis a vis the Bucs.
[MH]: You've had a few major scoops on your show this season. Tell us about a few of the bigger news items that you were the first to report.

[RD]: Well, Robbie Grossman ($1,000,000 bonus) and Quinton Miller ($900,000) were, in my estimation, the 2 biggest surprises of the Pirates signing period and arguably the two biggest pieces of evidence that the Pirates are (finally) serious about spending in the draft. I'm not sure which aspect of those signings is more important--the amount of dollars spent or the willingness to spend them--but any way you slice it, the 2008 draft might be the defining moment of the 2008 season.
I'm happy to say we had both those stories first--Grossman on July 24th--more than three weeks ahead of the curve...and Miller a day before anyone else had it.
There was also the fateful communication I received prior to 7:00 p.m. on the night of the 15th telling me that the Bucs and 1st rounder Pedro Alvarez would absolutely get a deal done. I'll not get into the specifics of the way that info was reported (and misrepresented)--Matt Bandi of Pittsburgh Lumber Co. has done as an impartial and accurate breakdown of that show as I could hope to. But, hilariously enough, there now seems to be some debate as to whether nor not Pedro and the Bucs actually DID, in fact, get a deal done (arbitration hearing pending).
[MH]: As most of the readers probably know, there was a bit of controversy surrounding your coverage of the signing deadline, most vocally from the Post-Gazette. Now that a little time has passed, what have you taken away from the experience?

[RD]: Hmmm...that's a great question. I've taken away a lot from it.
I've learned what passes for acceptable in a widely-read newspaper column. I've learned that some people will believe half-truths, sophisms and cherry-picked sentence fragments as long as they appear in print--even if all of it flies in the face of facts and evidence to the contrary. I've learned that today's "journalism" apparently isn't about the search for truth, or giving credit where credit is due, but seems to be more about covering one's posterior. I've learned what it feels like to be publicly drawn and quartered, figuratively speaking (it's not as fun as you might think).
But regarding the Pedro Alvarez show specifically, I guess the thing at the front of the line would be this--I've got to be perfect when I get unique information. As a lowly radio guy, people are going to take pot shots. I've got to communicate my info as clearly and carefully as possible. And the larger the stage, the larger the story, the more exacting the precision.

[MH]: So what's your gut feeling: will we ever have the opportunity to attend a Pedro Alvarez Bobblehead Night at PNC Park someday, or will he end up back in the draft next year?
[RD]:Gut feeling? Gun to my head? No bobblehead. However...
I think Pedro WILL be ruled a Pirate in the near future (even if the arbiter rules that MLB broke the rules via the deadline extensions, said arbiter seems to have very little authority in terms of awarding relief in this case, hence a likely slap on MLB's wrist and Pedro becomes a Pirate) but I also believe Pedro will be killed by an errant pitchfork thrown by an irate Bucs fan as he makes his way to PNC Park to finally sign the contract to which he has allegedly agreed to. A tragic ending.

[MH]: You had a life-threatening softball injury last year that left you with titanium plates in your head. By all accounts, your recovery was remarkable. What inspired you to such a quick comeback?

[RD]: Mainly, I'd say it was Bela Karolyi. The guy is a master motivator. He just kept saying, 'You can do it...you can DO it!'. Once my brain re-wired itself around my damaged 'Brocas' region and I could actually understand him, things really fell into place.

And to be clear I don't really have 'plates' in my head...I think they're more like small titanium bow ties and stars...really. That's how they were described to me...but then again, I was on copious amounts of opiates and severely brain damaged at the time...so take that for what it's worth.

Handy advice for readers: Try and avoid getting hit in the left temple with a flying projectile at all costs. As Adrian Monk might say (my viewing habits are my business), you'll thank me later.

And if you're interested in hearing an audio account of the incident, have a go.

[MH]: I know you're also a pretty big football fan. Over or under: 9 wins for the Steelers this year?

[RD]: Under. Random Prediction Alert!!

Ben will get injured this year. His penchant for holding onto the ball too long + an offensive line that is, at best, 'a concern' in passing situations = a rough year and a likely injury to the Steelers most valuable motorcycle enthusiast. 8-8 is looming, people. Embrace the '08 mediocrity.
[MH]: In the recent Mondesi's House Media Popularity Contest, you came in with a 51.4% approval rating, virtually splitting the audience right down the middle. With the spirit of campaigning in the air, what can you say to the other 48.6% of voters to bring them over to your side?

[RD]: Well, I'm not a war hero. I'm not an agent for change. I don't have hair plugs and my young daughter isn't pregnant...so I'm not sure this is the year for me. Much in the same way that bringing Craig Hansen into a high leverage situation is a waste of everyone's time, so too would be any appeal on my part to sway the audience as to the virtues of me or my show.
I'll say this much, though: As a listener, the LAST thing I want to hear is a safe little show that doesn't ruffle any feathers or slay any sacred cows. Vanilla is boring to me...radio, TV, print...whatever the medium. I want research-backed analysis, ESPECIALLY if it goes against conventional wisdom. I want humor. I want a compelling narrative carried over the course of 162 games. And those are the things I try to do with Extra Innings.
As a talk show host, my job, essentially, is to split the audience. I don't think I'd be doing my job if 85% of the audience liked (or hated) me. I really don't. What I care about is whether or not the audience is tuning in. And based on the numbers, they are.
ROCCO DEMARO LINKS:
Rocco DeMaro [104.7 Bio]
The Return of Rocco [Audio clip]
Thanks again to Rocco for the time.
You can catch him on Extra Innings at 104.7 WPGB or at www.wpgb.com.

3 comments:

AJ said...

Bob Smizik just wrote an article stating that Rocco guessed on all of the answers for this interview.

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

In hindsight, that was an even bigger slap in the face article from Smizik considering this guy alomst dies a year ago.

Brian McElhinny said...

Rocco's the man!!

That Lumber Co. link in the post refutes the Smizik article nicely.