Cubs

5 Questions with...Daily Herald's Barry Rozner

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5 Questions with...Daily Herald's Barry Rozner

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.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 everyone's favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, 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 guestan award-winning sports writer, columnist, author and radio host who has never been shy to express his opinions, even if they might upset some teams, players and fans from time to time ... he most recently received a major honor with his induction into Northern Illinois University's Northern Star Hall of Fame this past February ... if you don't catch him in the press box, you can check out his stellar columns in the Daily Herald and on the radio every Sunday from 9:00 AM 12:00 PM on 670 The Score ... get ready for 5 Questions with ... BARRY ROZNER!

BIO: A former vendor at all of Chicago's ballparks and stadiums during his college years, Barry Rozner has been a sports columnist for the Daily Herald since 1997, following a decade covering the Cubs first as a feature writer and then as the beat writer.

Rozner has won Peter Lisagor and Associated Press writing awards for his work as a columnist and sports writer, and includes among his national scoops the story that Phil Jackson would be named coach of the Bulls in 1989. In 2007, he was named "Sportswriter of the Year" by the Pitch & Hit Club of Chicago.

A graduate of Northern Illinois University, Rozner has written several books, including "Second to Home" with Ryne Sandberg, and "Where's Harry?" with Steve Stone. He's a frequent co-host on 670 The Score (WSCR-AM) and, in 2010, he began co-hosting the popular "Hit and Run" show with Matt Spiegel.

Rozner was honored by the Little City Foundation in 1998, and sits on the board of the James P. Lang Scholarship Foundation, which awards college scholarships to children of single parent homes.

Having finally given up the violence of hockey for the aggravation of golf, Rozner lives a mostly healthy existence with his family in the Northwest suburbs.

1) CSNChicago.com: Barry, with the NFL lockout upon us, many fans out there are hoping for a resolution by this summer at the latest. What specific aspect of this lockout concerns you most that may prevent the regular season from starting on time come this fall?

Rozner: Even if the players don't get their injunction, I'm not really all that concerned right now. The NFL's never been more popular and I don't think the owners really want to kill the golden goose. If it's August and the owners haven't come off their "billion-off-the-top" demand -- on top of the billion they already take off the top -- then it's time to worry. My belief all along has been that there will be at least a 16-game schedule in 2011. No amount of rhetoric or posturing is going to change my mind on that. I do think players skipping the draft is a foolish idea by the NFLPA and its already backfired on them from a public relations standpoint.

2) CSNChicago.com: As a journalist who covered the Bulls six-title championship run in the 90s, is it a big stretch to say this current off-the-charts talented Bulls team has the potential to also make a multiple-title run this decade? Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and even Michael Jordan himself stated this team can do it. Your thoughts?

Rozner: History suggests those predictions are hyperbolic at the very least. In the last 30 years, only the Isiah Thomas Pistons have won titles with a team featuring a point guard as by far its best player. The NBA has also traditionally been a league of steps, and the Bulls haven't taken the first step yet by winning a playoff series. However, all the free-agent movement of the last year has created a new NBA, where perhaps the Bulls can skip some of those steps. Derrick Rose will win a title in Chicago, maybe even a few. He won't rest until it happens and I'm convinced Rose will get there. Age is on their side and it's the enemy of teams like Boston. But it sounds crazy to talk about five or six titles at this point in their development.

3) CSNChicago.com: The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks also have their sights set on a multiple title run themselves. In your opinion, what would you say are the top three key things that need to happen come mid-April to get this years squad on yet another solid track to playoff success?

Rozner: Health is absolutely No. 1. If they can dress their best roster, they're going to be a nightmare to play in the playoffs. Except for Detroit, every team in the West will fear them. If Roberto Luongo even hears the word "Blackhawks,'' he'll have to change his pants, girdle, garter, socks and skates. Second is effort. Jonathan Toews is always there, but there have been too many times this year when too many guys didn't show up. Third is defensive responsibility from the forwards. It doesn't work if the guys up front aren't maintaining puck possession, avoiding turnovers at the blue line and getting back to help. Not that you asked, but it's exciting to see the progress of Nick Leddy and the addition of Chris Campoli on defense.

4) CSNChicago.com: Congratulations on being inducted into NIUs Northern Star Hall of Fame last month. What did that honor mean to you personally and what advice do you have for aspiring young sports journalists out there hoping for a similar successful career in the media?

Rozner: It's humbling to be honored by your university. I don't know what else to say. Very proud, very surprised and very grateful. As for anyone who wants to get into this business, it's obviously evolving and I don't know what it's going to look like in the years to come, but if this is your dream then you should chase it. There are too many people in this world who will tell you what you can't do. Ignore them. Chase the dream and you can still succeed in journalism -- or succeed at anything -- if you're good and you're willing to work hard.

5) CSNChicago.com: Your Hit and Run with Spiegel & Rozner radio show on 670 The Score (Sundays from 9:00 AM-12:00 PM) is always a great listen, especially when you and Spiegs disagree on certain issues. With that said, tell us about the single, biggest sports-related disagreement you continue to have to this day ... and, in general, how often does Spiegel think hes right?

Rozner: I can't think of one of those really nasty fights where we wound up yelling at each other on The Score. We disagree on a lot of things, like old school vs. new school, stats vs. hunch and use of the bullpen. Spiegel hates the specialized bullpen roles. But it's a Sunday morning show and we go heavy on the information and the entertainment and try to give people an easy listen as they're shaking off their hangovers and driving the kids all over creation.

Now, you could have asked, "What do you and Dan Bernstein fight about most?'' That's easy: numbers in baseball. We've had some crazy arguments over new-age stats vs. scouting. He wouldn't want you to know this, but the truth is he's much more reasonable about it than he lets on and he's willing to grant me that some of his stats don't always tell the real story. But don't tell anyone I told you that, especially him.

BONUS QUESTION! CSNChicago.com: Anything you would like to plug Barry? Tell us, CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it.

Rozner: Im easy to find at dailyherald.com, the Score, on Facebook and sometimes just rummaging through dumpsters. If I can be serious for a moment, I help with a lot of different charities, but have a particular soft spot for anything that involves children or any of the cancer charities. This is a really tough time for most charities because the economy is so dreadful, but if you can give at all, every little bit helps.

Rozner LINKS:

Daily HeraldBarry Rozner section

670 The ScoreHit and Run with Spiegel and Rozner

Barry Rozner on Facebook

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

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USA Today

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said that he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted that the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.” 

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

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USA Today

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

While the Cubs’ decline has been talked about over and over again, it’s always been framed in relatively vague terms. Perhaps in the interest of protecting a former manager who is still well-liked within the clubhouse, specifics were always avoided. It was just a change that was needed.

That is, until Javy Baez spoke on Sunday morning. In no unclear terms, Baez took a stab at explaining why such a talented team has fallen short of expectations in back-to-back seasons. 

“It wasn’t something bad, but we had a lot of options – not mandatory,” Baez said from his locker at Sloan Park. “Everybody kind of sat back, including me, because I wasn’t really going out there and preparing for the game. I was getting ready during the game, which is not good. But this year, I think before the games we’ve all got to be out there, everybody out there, as a team. Stretch as a team, be together as a team so we can play together.”

Related: What to love, and hate, about the Cubs heading into 2020

The star shortstop's comments certainly track. Maddon is widely considered one of the better managers in baseball, but discipline and structure have never been key pillars of his leadership style. He intrinsically trusts players to get their own work done – something that's clearly an appreciated aspect of his personality... until it isn't. World Series hangovers don’t exist four years after the fact but given Maddon’s immediate success in Chicago, it’s easy to understand how players let off the gas pedal. 

“I mean I would just get to the field and instead of going outside and hit BP, I would do everything inside, which is not the same,” he said. “Once I’d go out to the game, I’d feel like l wasn’t ready. I felt like I was getting loose during the first 4 innings, and I should be ready and excited to get out before the first pitch.” 

“You can lose the game in the first inning. Sometimes when you’re not ready, and the other team scores by something simple, I feel like it was because of that. It was because we weren’t ready, we weren’t ready to throw the first pitch because nobody was loose.” 

Baez also promised that this year would be far more organized and rigid. They will stretch as a team, warm up outside as a team and hopefully rediscover that early-game focus that may have slipped away during the extended victory lap. That may mean less giant hacks, too. 

“Sometimes we’re up by a lot or down by a lot and we wanted to hit homers,” he said. “That’s really not going to work for the team. It’s about getting on base and giving the at-bat to the next guy, and sometimes we forget about that because of the situation of the game. I think that’s the way you get back to the game – going pitch by pitch and at-bat by at-bat.” 

Baez was less specific when it came to his contractual discussions with the team, only saying that negotiations were “up and down.” He’d like to play his whole career here and would be grateful if an extension was reached before Opening Day – he’s just not counting on it. The focus right now is on recapturing some of that 2016 drive and the rest, according to him, will take care of itself.

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