Blackhawks

5 Questions with... Tribune's Phil Rogers

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5 Questions with... Tribune's Phil Rogers

Wednesday, June 9, 2010
By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guest... one of the premier baseball journalists in the country... his national coverage of Americas pastime has earned him rave reviews for over thirty years... hell be plenty busy this weekend at Wrigley as the Cubs vs. White Sox crosstown series makes its triumphant return... from the Chicago Tribune... here are 5 Questions with... PHIL ROGERS!

BIO: Phil Rogers is in his third decade covering major league baseball, and has done it for the Tribune since 1997. He covered Sammy Sosa's major league debut and first interviewed Magglio Ordonez when he was in Triple-A. As the Tribune's national baseball writer, his responsibility is to cover the business of baseball, the commissioner's office, the 30 major league teams and everything else served with rosin and pine tar. He always keeps one eye on the minor leagues and an ear to trade rumors, looking for The Next Big Thing.

He's written two books, including "Say It's So,'' a narrative on how the 2005 White Sox were put together and came together to form Chicago's first championship team since 1917.

He looked ahead to a career as a baseball journalist while serving as a backup center fielder-second baseman for Denton (Texas) High School.

1) CSNChicago.com: Phil, unfortunately, its been a tough start to the 2010 baseball season on both sides of town. In your opinion, whats the single biggest issue the Cubs and White Sox must address respectively before the All-Star break?

Rogers: Yes, its tough all over town. Its been one of those years with two teams sporting nine-figure payrolls that somehow still seem to be in a state of transition. Theres a lack of direction with both the Cubs and White Sox (especially) and it comes in large part from letting cornerstone players in Paul Konerko and Derrek Lee enter the last year of their contracts unsigned. Konerko also did this in 2005 and it didnt hurt that team, but I never think its a good idea -- either extend the guy before the season or trade him and move on. Both will be better off when those decisions have been made but I dont see that happening before the All-Star break. Simply finding an All-Star representative from each team might be the most difficult issue between now and then. Alex Rios and Carlos Marmol, maybe? Konerkos in that picture, too.

2) CSNChicago.com: In what may be the top story so far of the 2010 MLB season, the self-admitted blown call by umpire Jim Joyce that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game has sparked much debate about the enhanced need of instant replay for game officials. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Rogers: Big Brother is always watching, isnt he? But I dont want expanded replay for 162 regular-season games. I think it would bog the game down and create as many problems as it solves. The beauty of the marathon baseball schedule is that theres room for just about everything to happen -- including a blown call to cost a guy a perfect game -- and, in the end, the right teams go to the playoffs. I would like to see a replay system in the playoffs, however, because theres so much on the line in those games. I believe a system could be easily and immediately put in place with the key change being that two of the six umpires on the field rotate into the replay booth every game, along with one of MLBs umpiring supervisors. They would have the power to overturn clearly missed calls after looking at two or three replays, not 10 or 12.

3) CSNChicago.com: The recent retirement announcement of Ken Griffey, Jr. came as somewhat of a surprise to the baseball world. Would you consider him one of the greatest players in the history of the game, even though his years in Cincinnati were marred by injuries and less than stellar statistics?

Rogers: Absolutely, he should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Hes the fifth all-time home run hitter -- even though he played in the steroid era, he never got dirty from it -- and he was the greatest defensive center fielder of his era. He carried himself well in Cincinnati even though his move home didnt turn out like he would have liked. And dont forget his impact in Chicago. If he doesnt make a perfectly accurate throw to the plate to nail Michael Cuddyer in the 2008 division playoff against the Twins, the Sox may not have gone to the playoffs. He wasnt a very good center fielder at that point, but he made the play when it was needed. Impressive.

4) CSNChicago.com: The Cubs-Sox crosstown series makes its return to Wrigley Field this weekend (NOTE: Comcast SportsNets live Cubs vs. White Sox coverage on Friday gets under way at 11:00 a.m. with an early edition of Chicago Tribune Live). Critics over the years have stated that interleague play has lost its luster, but that doesnt seem true whatsoever when these two teams meet. Whats so special about this rivalry that really brings this city together every summer?

Rogers: I almost hate to say this, but I believe it is based largely on hatred -- specifically the way White Sox fans are conditioned to hate everything about the Cubs. The Sox resent the mystique of Wrigley Field and the way the Cubs can draw fans no matter how theyre playing, and it really does carry over into the clubhouse. That being said, I dont think theres a single player in the Sox clubhouse that would trade places with his brethren on the Cubs. They enjoy their place in the city and understand the weight that the Cubs players carry around with them. They also enjoy the creature comforts that are lacking at Wrigley. Fans get carried away but, with the exception of bleacher brawls, its all part of our great city celebrating summer weather. Its fun to have all 50 of Chicagos big-leaguers in the same ballpark, especially when one of the two teams is at the top of the standings.

5) CSNChicago.com: Youve covered thousands of baseball games over the years in your very successful sports journalism career. When you have an off day, do you ever just attend a game at Wrigley or U.S. Cellular Field and sit in the stands as a fan or do you try to stay as far away as possible from the game at least for a day?

Rogers: I love to sit in the stands and enjoy myself, especially with my wife, my kids or a good friend. Sometimes Ill keep score but my children, 18-year-old Shelby and 16-year-old son Dylan, have generally taken over those duties. One of my favorite times of the year is spring break. Dylan will come to Arizona with me and well watch as many games as we can, trying to catch every team out there, if possible. Well go to doubleheaders when there are night games and just feast on baseball.

This spring we even headed over to Cincinnatis minor-league complex to watch Aroldis Chapman pitch. A couple summers back we did a guys trip with my brother, Dave, and nephew, Kyle, to catch a game at the original Yankee Stadium and one at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Our favorite stop on the trip, however, might have been a night game played by the Staten Island Yankees, whose ballpark offers a view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline. Ive seen a lot of baseball with my family -- starting with my mom and dad -- and pretty much loved every minute of it. We call extra innings free baseball, and almost never go home before the last out.

BONUS QUESTION CSNChicago.com: Anything you want to plug Phil? CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it.

Rogers: Nothing out of the ordinary, at this point. I hope people are checking out the Tribunes Chicago Breaking Sports site, and in particular my daily ramblings, called Your Morning Phil. Its pretty much a five-morning-a-week offering, allowing me a chance to write about Chicago teams or any teams, really. Every now and then I might even review a concert or something else that grabs me. Its fun.

Rogers LINKS:
Chicago TribunePhil Rogers columns

Phil Rogers on Facebook

Phil Rogers on Twitter

E-mail Phil Rogers

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.