5 Questions with... Tribune's Phil Rogers


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

Admitted promise or not, the Bulls knew they wanted Chandler Hutchison – and they got him

Admitted promise or not, the Bulls knew they wanted Chandler Hutchison – and they got him

Neither John Paxson nor Chandler Hutchison himself would admit to what many called the worst kept secret in the pre-draft process. So whether you believe the Boise State senior had a promise from the Bulls that they would select him with the 22nd pick if still available, what Paxson and Gar Forman made clear was that they wanted Hutchison. And they got him.

“There are storylines and rumors all the time in this business and to keep trying to respond to them is often difficult. We liked Chandler a lot,” John Paxson said at the Advocate Center. We scouted him early, we scouted him often and we had our eye on him. He knew we liked him. Most players know when you like them, if you show up a lot and you’re around.”

There was plenty to like. Hutchison blossomed as an upperclassman at Boise State - after a unique basketball upbringing - averaging 18.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in his final two seasons with the Broncos. His 6-foot-7 NBA-ready frame kept him closer to the basket, leading to the efficient scoring and a blistering 72 percent at the rim, but keeping him a work in project on the perimeter.

He projects as a plus-defender who can defend on the wing and on the block in small-ball lineups and, as a four-year college player, should find minutes in a wing-depleted rotation. Put another way: he’s versatile at a position the Bulls have needed since the day Jimmy Butler walked out the door. Any shooting will be an added bonus.

But was there a promise, Chandler?

“I didn’t have any guarantee on where I was going," he said. "It could have been anywhere. Honestly, my heart was racing from 15 on. It was an exciting moment, though.”

The Bulls drafting Hutchison kept the theme of the night in Chicago trending after they took Wendell Carter 7th overall: complementary pieces to help an improving roster. Where Hutchison excels – physicality, scoring at the rim, defending multiple positions – the players he’ll share the floor with don’t. It’s easier to hide Denzel Valentine, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen defensively with a physical perimeter threat.

Paxson and Forman mentioned Hutchison's “slashing” multiple times, and that physical, quick style will help a Bulls offense that ranked 28th in the NBA on shots 5 feet and in. That inefficiency was one of the major reasons the team finished 28th efficiency and often struggled to find secondary scoring.

That versatility spans more than just defending, too. Hutchison was asked to become a do-it-all for a Broncos team whose second leading scorer averaged 11.8 points, second leading rebounder averaged 6.6 boards and second leading passer averaged 2.6 assists. Hutchinson did it all for the 23-win Broncos. His usage rate was 33.0, 10th highest in the country and a slight tick above Alabama point guard Collin Sexton (32.5%). His passing, shot creating and eventual shooting make him a Swiss army knife on the wing.

“We think he can put it on the floor and create. He got to the lane a lot as a ball handler. His shot is getting better and better, we think he’ll be able to shoot it from NBA range at some point but that’s an area he’ll have to continue to work on,” Paxson said. “The more guys you have that can handle and create and pass, with the way our game is and the way our floor is spaced, we think he can do those things.”

Promises aside – Hutchison is represented by Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, who has plenty of ties to the Bulls – Hutchison checked all the boxes the Bulls were looking for, especially after they passed on wings like Mikal Bridges and Kevin Knox with the 7th pick.

“He addresses a position of need,” Paxson said. “We had debates all through this draft on wings and the type of player we wanted at that position. He fits.”

Wendell Carter Jr. talks up his fit with Lauri Markkanen: 'We're going to be unstoppable'


Wendell Carter Jr. talks up his fit with Lauri Markkanen: 'We're going to be unstoppable'

Draft prospects always get asked about how they would fit in with the best players on various teams. Once they are drafted, that goes double

New Bulls' draft pick Wendell Carter Jr. didn't disappoint with his answer about how he can play with Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls' first-round pick from the year before.

“We’re going to be unstoppable," Carter Jr. said to reporters in Brooklyn. "He is a great player, someone I can learn from. A great young player. Someone I can learn from on and off the court. With my work ethic, as I come in I’m going to do all I can do to help my team to win. I think we’ll definitely complement one another on both ends of the court.”

Carter Jr. could play the center next to Markkanen at the power forward spot to form a formidable frontcourt if both players continue to develop.

On the ESPN broadcast of the draft, Chauncey Billups talked about the two big guys and the state of the Bulls in general after Carter Jr. was picked.

"I love what they're putting together there," Billups said of the Bulls. "I like their backcourt with Dunn and LaVine. These two big guys, him and Markkanen, are going to play very well together."