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5 Questions with...Tribune's Mark Gonzales

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5 Questions with...Tribune's Mark Gonzales

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

March 3, 2010

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys 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 weeka man currently hanging out in Arizona for the next several weeks before he really starts to get busyhes the White Sox beat writer for the Chicago Tribune who hopes to one day attain as many Twitter followers as Ozzie Guillen garnered in just 24 hourshere are 5 Questions withMARK GONZALES!

BIO: Mark Gonzales is entering his sixth season as the White Sox beat writer for the Chicago Tribune. Prior to that, he served as the Diamondbacks' beat writer for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix from 2000 to 2003 and served as the newspaper's national baseball writer in 2004. Prior to that, served as the San Francisco Giants' beat writer for the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News for eight seasons. Covered two World Series title teams (Arizona in 2001, White Sox in 2005), in addition to covering Stanford's 1988 College World Series title team for the Peninsula Times Tribune in Palo Alto, CA. Hes also old enough to have covered Kenny Williams' final high school football game at San Jose's Mount Pleasant High School and lucky enough to have played (and failed) against the likes of future major leaguers Mark Langston and Mark Davis.

1) CSNChicago.com: Mark, White Sox fans are thrilled manager Ozzie Guillen has entered the world of social media with the recent announcement that he now has his very own Twitter account. His tweets will no doubt be entertaining (he did state they will be focused on his personal life and not on the team). In your opinion, is there any way this can be a distraction to the team going forward in case something he tweets is taken out of context?

Gonzales: There have been a few times in which, after a tough loss, a player or two will come up to me and ask, "what did Ozzie say? I'll tell them, and they'll usually nod - which means he didn't tell us anything different than what he told them.

I believe Ozzie when he said he was going to limit his tweets to his personal life and not the team. I also think it actually helped that there was such a fuss over Twittergate because it brought further scrutiny to this matter. I don't think Ozzie would spill the beans on any trade that Kenny Williams would be working on, but it's important for him to know that there are thousands of people watching every word he writes.

I found it amusing that he asked for suggestions last week on where to eat dinner, and he immediately got a recommendation from a restaurant in Venezuela and then had to clarify that he was looking for eateries in Phoenix.

I don't go crazy over following other managers, coaches and athletes on Twitter. But I find that Joe Madden and Pete Carroll's are very supportive and positive as it relates to their teams and everyday life. Mark Teahen told me shortly after Twittergate that he had to be more careful about his tweets since gaining more followers after joining the Sox.

So the bottom line is that there will be more scrutiny, but I think Ozzie realizes that every word is being analyzed.

Good thing you didn't ask about his son Oney's tweets.
2) CSNChicago.com: Youre down in Arizona right now and spring training games are FINALLY about to begin. From your observances so far, name the players that have impressed you the most in the following four categories: hitting, pitching, fielding and running.

Gonzales: I really think Carlos Quentin is going to have a big year offensively. The guy hit 21 homers in 99 games on one leg. I just think he got out of whack with the plantar fasciitis and got impatient. Look at his on-base percentage the past two years. He went from a .394 OBP in 2008 to a .323 OBP in 2009. He was hurt and impatient. And the plan to rotate designated hitters will help him.

I covered Randy Johnson for four years in Arizona, and I love the way Jake Peavy gets after it on the mound the same way Randy did - yelling at himself, walking around the mound with aggressive body language, without losing focus. I know his ERA will be put to the test pitching in the American League, but this guy wanted a challenge and should quell the thoughts of those who believed he was too scared to pitch in the AL. As a fly ball pitcher, he might have some ugly games, but he brings an aggressive mentality to this staff that I like.

Covering the National League for most of my life, I didn't get a chance to see Omar Vizquel very much. But his agility and instincts are pretty scary. This guy is 42 years old, and he's got the body of an Olympic gymnast. Its great to see a guy who gets it at this stage of his career. There's a saying that some players say hello when they should be saying goodbye. But Vizquel looks like he's got a lot left in the tank, and he's an upgrade over what the Sox have had for at least the past four years as a utility player.

I've admired the way the Los Angeles Angels go from first to third base, and the Sox have a chance to do this with more speed. They don't have to rely on A.J. trying to stretch singles into doubles any more. If Alex Rios can hit, we'll see more of his speed. When he's on his game, he makes everything look effortless. I bet many of those doubles he hit in 2007 and 2008 with Toronto were generated by his speed, and he can help his teammates just by getting on base and forcing the opposing pitcher to get in the stretch position.

3) CSNChicago.com: Theres no doubt the White Sox have arguably the best starting four in all of baseball in Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, John Danks and Gavin Floyd. However, there is a wild card out there in the fifth spot with Freddy Garcia. Hows he looked so far and is there anyone youve seen who may take that fifth spot away from him?

Gonzales: It's Freddy's job to lose. I like the way Freddy pitched dating back to that makeup game against the Sox in 2008 while pitching for Detroit. I don't see him as the same pitcher who threw heavy sinkers in 2005 with the Sox. I always liked him but became more impressed with the way he's recognized that he doesn't throw 93 mph any more and has learned to change speeds and throw that big off-speed breaking ball.

Keep in mind that Daniel Hudson, despite advancing through four levels last year, might need a little more seasoning. It's smart to prepare him as a starting pitcher in case someone gets injured. There's no harm with starting him at Triple-A Charlotte because he's got plenty of potential and there's no need to rush him.

And you never know with Kenny Williams. He might think he needs Hudson to trade as part of a bigger trade.

4) CSNChicago.com: Life on the road for a baseball beat writer is not all fun and games as most people think. Most notably, the traveling aspect has to take a toll as the season goes on. Pertaining to being on the road, name the top 3 best things about traveling and the 3 things that make you cringe to even think about right now?

Gonzales: Obviously, the best thing about traveling is seeing different parts of the country. Some cities are better than others, but I don't take this country's cities and cultures for granted. I'm looking forward to going to Washington, D.C., for the first time since 1988.

I love food, as you probably noticed. So seafood in Baltimore and Boston is a staple, as is Stroud's pan-fried chicken in Kansas City.

The other thing I like about travel are the modes of transportation other than airplane. Taking the train from Boston to New York last year was a blast. I hadn't done that since 2002. I'll take public transit when it's available and more affordable. But having grown up in California and driving from the Bay Area to Southern California very frequently, I love to drive and think I'm one of the few who believe Los Angeles traffic isn't that bad. My family lives in the Bay Area, so I get to see them every time the White Sox play Oakland.

I could get in big trouble if I tell you what the worst aspect of traveling is. Let's just say that I don't think it's hard to give a passenger a tray to put their computer in. And since when can someone throw out a three-ounce bottle of aftershave balm?

I don't care for travelers who don't follow the rules when boarding a plane by jamming their two carry-on pieces in overhead storage before everyone has boarded a full flight. Is it that tough to follow the rules?

I used to sleep on planes easily, but that has changed. Red-eye flights usually wipe me out for a few days.

5) CSNChicago.com: After the long MLB season finally comes to an end (not that it ever really ends for you), whats your favorite get-away destination during the off-season?

Gonzales: My wife and I take one one-week trip every year in January. This year it was Aruba, which was about as good as it gets. We try to go where we're assured of very warm weather. Recently, we've been to Maui, Puerto Rico (our honeymoon), the Virgin Islands and Puerto Vallarta. But I can't pass up telling you the following story.

My wife and I were in Grand Cayman sitting by the hotel swimming pool when I saw this man with a New York accent with his wife and two young kids. It was Don Cooper, who was conducting a series of baseball clinics for kids. Go figure.

Gonzales LINKS:

Mark Gonzales White Sox coverageChicago Tribune

Mark Gonzales on Facebook

Mark Gonzales on Twitter

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.