White Sox

5 Questions with...Tribune's David Haugh

231881.jpg

5 Questions with...Tribune's David Haugh

Wednesday, Aug. 11, 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...

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 guestone of the top sports columnists in the city whose passion for Chicago sports and no-holds-barred opinions have made him a must read in the Chicago Tribunehes a mainstay panelist on Comcast SportsNets Chicago Tribune Live whos still waiting for the Jay Cutler era to beginhere are 5 Questions withDAVID HAUGH!

BIO: David Haugh came to the Chicago Tribune in February 2003 after spending 10 years as sports columnist at the South Bend Tribune. David spent his first two years in Chicago as the Bears beat writer before branching off into an enterprise role and then back as the Bears columnist from 2006-08. Before the 2009 season, Haugh became the Tribunes 17th In the Wake of the News, columnist. He grew up in North Judson, Ind., a one-stoplight town barely bigger than the fictional Hickory in Hoosiers. But Haugh played football, not hoops, in college at Ball State University where he was an All-Mid-American Conference safety. After receiving his Masters degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Haugh took his first job at the South Bend Tribune where he was when the Chicago Tribune came calling. He and his wife, Allison, have a son, Blair and two dogs.

1) CSNChicago.com: David, its been an interesting 2010 baseball season on both sides of town so far. The White Sox JuneJuly surge surprised many fans with their unbelievable 25-5 run, while the Cubs have had a rough one to say the least, which even includes manager Lou Piniella calling it a career after the season. With the July 31 trade deadline now past us, give us a grade for both teams on the moves they made and how those moves will affect them in the short and long term.

Haugh: The Cubs flunked 2010 overall, so the Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot deal wasnt enough to change that. I get that the Cubs wanted something for Lilly, but trying to re-sign him for a two-year deal to give the 2011 staff an ace would have been a better strategy. Dont talk to me about Lilly re-signing as a free-agent; that sounds like Cubbie fantasy. Theriots future may have been sealed after he took the Cubs to arbitration last spring. Blake DeWitt is a nice player, but not sure that warrants a celebration. A 135 million payroll resulting in a fifth-place team, so far, makes the Cubs one of the National Leagues biggest disappointments.

Meanwhile, if you are looking for a grade, the Sox came in with a solid B-plus in the Daniel Hudson for Edwin Jackson deal. Jackson represents an upgrade with experience down the stretch and Don Coopers track record makes me think he can help Jackson regain the form that helped him win 27 games the past two years. Hudson will be a good starter for years, but the Sox are in a pennant race for which Jackson is better-suited. And, no, Im not going to whine about missing out on Adam Dunn or Prince Fielder. I like the way the Sox play according to Ozzies aggressive style.

2) CSNChicago.com: Speaking of changes, the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks had to make some very difficult decisions this off-season by letting some key players leave due to the NHLs hard salary cap. However, the core of this team is still there and they should hopefully pick up right where they left off. What are your thoughts on the moves they made and do you think this re-tooled roster can bring the city another championship?

Haugh: I didnt like it at first when they fired Denis Savard in 2008. I wasnt sold on letting Martin Havlat go in 2009. I wondered about elevating Stan Bowman to GM that summer too. So skepticism is natural, but the Hawks have proven in the past two years they deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to personnel decisions. After having spent an hour hearing Stan Bowman detail all the various factors out of his control that forced his hand due to the salary cap, I think I have a better understanding and appreciation what he did. The core remains in tact with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, among others, and the new players whose names we dont know how to spell yet may one day make us wonder who Ben Eager or Brent Sopel were. I think the Hawks will miss Byfuglien more than any of the nine players that left, and wish they could have found a way to keep him. But Im not exactly sure how theyd have done that or who else could have gone. Admittedly, my first reactions to many of these moves were emotional and knee-jerk I didnt like them. After a little time and examination, its a little easier to see. I think they still will contend with the best teams in the Western Conference, depending on health.

3) CSNChicago.com: Its hard to believe the Bears regular season starts up in just a few weeks. From what youve witnessed so far in training camp, do you like what youve seen from an offensive standpoint under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz and do you think the mere presence of Martz will have a positive performance impact for Jay Cutler this season?

Haugh: Cutler cant be worse than he was his first season in Chicago.right? I expect his efficiency to improve, his numbers to impress and his comfort level to increase. Hes still in my book a top 15 quarterback in the NFL, with the raw ability to slide into the top 10. The talent needs harnessing and perhaps Martz can do that. But the offensive line must protect Cutler, and thats something I am less certain about this season. Under pressure, how will Cutler react? If the line can improve the key to this season then Cutler will flourish and Matt Forte will resemble the guy we saw in 2009. Fortes burst and quickness in training camp has been one of the most positive developments. I also believe the wide receivers are better, as a group, than what many critics think. The key starts with the five guys up front.

4) CSNChicago.com: Name your favorite sports book (fiction and non-fiction) youve ever read and tell us why youre such a big fan of each one.

Haugh: The best sports fiction book I have ever read, without question, was North Dallas Forty, by Pete Gent. It was based on Gents experiences as a Dallas Cowboy and later made into a movie, but the book did a tremendous, vivid job of story-telling and was written in a way that grabbed the attention of any aspiring writer which I was when I read it as a teen-ager.

As for non-fiction, I think the books that have the biggest impact on writers are ones they read when theyre young. Im not young anymore and nothing ever topped The Bronx Zoo, by Peter Golenbock as far as a sports non-fiction book for me. It was a behind-the-scenes look at the 1978 Yankees World Series team and I remember sneaking it into my bedroom because I wasnt yet a teen-ager and knew my parents probably didnt appreciate me reading a book they thought was my older brothers. But the reporting, the humor, the storytelling, the description was really outstanding and the book probably was one of the first things I remember sparking my interest in sports writing.

5) CSNChicago.com: Its been about a year since you were given the prestigious In the Wake of the News sports column in the Tribune, following in the footsteps of a number of journalistic giants including Ring Lardner, David Condon, Bob Verdi, Bernie Lincicome and Mike Downey among others. What did that honor mean to you personally and, a follow-up question, how often do you directly respond to e-mails and letters from readers that are absolutely livid about something you wrote?

Haugh: The day I left the South Bend Tribune after a decade of working at a newspaper I really loved, a good friend gave me Ring Lardners biography. Lardner also began his career at the South Bend Tribune and eventually worked his way to do the same job Im doing today. Thats still very hard for me to comprehend so I dont think about it that much. I only know of David Condon what Ive read in the archives and his prose has withstood the test of time. I used to walk across the Ball State campus on Mondays just to go to the one spot in Muncie I knew got the Chicago Tribune just to read what Bernie Lincicome and Bob Verdi wrote after Bears games. Working six years with Mike Downey, one of the most generous, thoughtful guys I know who wrote with an even better sense of humor, was one of my highlights in Chicago. Thats a long way of saying that I am very familiar with the guys you mentioned who held this role, and the ones you didnt, and consider it a true privilege to represent the Chicago Tribune. Every day I feel responsibility to meet a standard set by writers whose work and talent I always have respected and admired. Its motivation. Theres not a single day that passes when I take this job for granted. Since I was old enough to set goals, this is the job I always wanted. Its what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I guess contrary to some of the e-mail I receive, Im all grown up now.

Nice segue, huh?

I respond to most e-mail. I thank the readers, viewers or listeners who have kind things to say and the ones who disagree or criticize, if they do it in a professional, civil way, Ill respond to them too. The essence of sports -- and sports journalism -- is rigorous debate. I respect peoples right to disagree with me as much as I respect my right to express my opinion in print or on the air. Its when the tenor of the response changes that I dismiss or ignore feedback. The Internet has empowered many people who use the Send, button or public forums as means to release whatever pent-up frustration may be building in their troubled lives. I get it. Those letters are pretty transparent and arent worth the time. Readers can offer helpful story ideas and feedback and I have built some nice rapports with those folks who do. The negative stuff goes with the territory and you learn pretty quickly how to handle it and if you dont, this is the wrong business for you.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you want to promote David? Lets hear about it

Haugh: I have a good time filling in on ESPN1000 whenever needed and enjoy the regular Tuesday and Friday hits with "The Afternoon Saloon," at 3:25pm. And Chicago Tribune Live is as spirited as ever with David Kaplan as host because, let's face it, it's fun to see someone on TV be that wrong that often. As far as charities, my wife and I belong to As Good as Gold (Golden Retriever rescue) and support the Humane Society and the Huntington's Disease Society of America.

Haugh LINKS:

Haughs In the Wake of the News Tribune sports columns

Haugh on Facebook

Haugh on Twitter

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

0516_jace_fry.jpg
USA TODAY

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

The White Sox best reliever through the first 42 games of this rebuilding season? Undoubtedly, it’s been Jace Fry.

With Rick Renteria’s bullpen hardly the most reliable relief corps the game has ever seen, Fry has been a revelation, starting his 2018 campaign with 7.1 scoreless innings over six appearances.

And now things are getting a bit more dramatic for the 24-year-old lefty, a guy who’s been through a pair of Tommy John surgeries. He pitched some high-leverage ball in Saturday night’s 5-3 win, sitting down all four hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings while protecting a two-run lead.

“I was ready the whole game, just waiting for my name to be called,” Fry said. “But it was awesome getting in there in the eighth inning, even getting the first guy in the ninth inning. After I got him I was kind of hoping he’d let me keep going.”

Renteria uses his bullpen in a non-traditional manner, one that perhaps he thinks is a way of the future or one that’s a result of his lack of dominant options out there. Whichever it is, he doesn’t really have a closer but rather a host of guys he uses in those high-leverage situations, whenever they might come during the late stages of a game. Joakim Soria, Nate Jones and Bruce Rondon have all been used to get big outs late in games, and Rondon threw a scoreless seventh Saturday, with Jones getting the game’s final two outs for the save.

But it could be argued that most difficult outs were recorded by Fry, who put away the visiting Texas Rangers’ fourth, fifth and sixth hitters before getting the seventh hitter to strike out to start off the ninth.

Renteria steered away from dubbing Fry one of his new high-leverage guys after the game, but why wouldn’t Fry be in that mix? All he’s done since joining the big league squad earlier this month is get outs. He’s got 10 strikeouts, hasn’t allowed a hit and has just two walks as the lone blemishes on an otherwise perfect season line.

“It just happens to be that it was the eighth inning and the ninth that he pitched,” Renteria said. “I think he’s looking very comfortable in those. It happens to be the eighth and ninth we needed him. He’s been very, very effective. He’s been commanding the strike zone very well, confidently approaching his hitters. He’s got pretty good stuff.

“He’s able to command the zone. Along with that nice breaking ball he’s got to lefties and righties, it’s pretty effective. But he’s continuing to show you he’s capable of coming in and getting some pretty good hitters.”

Fry has been a rarity this season in that he’s appeared to be a candidate for a long-term spot in the White Sox bullpen. Jones would perhaps be the only other guy coming close to qualifying for that, mostly because of his team-friendly contract that keeps him under control a few more years, but he’s had some rough moments, even with his ERA dropping to 3.50 on Saturday.

Fry, though, is young and is dealing at the moment. He even got a shoutout as a potential long-term piece from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week.

“Take Jace Fry, someone we haven’t mentioned when we’ve had this conversation the last couple of weeks,” Hahn said Thursday, discussing the positives he’s seen during this developmental season. “He’s shown up here and shown that he’s made some progress in his last stint in the minors and now, at age 24, seems like he’s ready to take that next step, and pencil his name in as part of what we’re building here going forward.”

There’s a lot of season left, and no one’s expecting Fry to keep batters hitless and opposing teams scoreless from now through the end of September. But this is a nice development for the rebuilding White Sox at the moment, a guy who’s giving them at least one name to put into that bullpen of the future.

How long can he keep this thing going? As long as he keeps getting ahead of hitters.

“Having the success is awesome, but I realize it’s the plan, the plan of attack,” Fry said. “I’m going out and throwing Strike 1 and getting ahead. Actually doing it, seeing it and having the process work definitely creates more confidence. Once you go back to the blueprint of baseball, Strike 1 is everything.”

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer getting sent to Triple-A following Friday’s game might be, to this point, the biggest development this season on the South Side.

Fulmer doesn’t carry the same expectations as higher-rated prospects like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen or Dane Dunning, but this is a top-10 draft pick who the White Sox still believe can play a significant role in their bright future. And he’s struggling. Badly. Once his ERA jumped up past 8.00 thanks to his third straight brief and run-filled outing, the White Sox made the decision to send him to Charlotte.

It leaves the White Sox rotation looking like this: James Shields, a struggling Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago and either Chris Volstad or the recently summoned Dylan Covey.

Four of those guys (Shields, Santiago, Volstad and Covey) don’t figure to play a role in the team’s long-term future, and Giolito is dealing with his own significant struggles, leading the American League in walks heading into his Saturday-night start. Lopez has been the rotation’s bright spot, but even he watched his ERA climb more than a full point after allowing six runs in two innings his last time out.

It’s not a great state for the rotation to be in if you, like the White Sox, have your sights set on the long-term future of this team, though it probably won’t look like that for too much longer. Still, it provides a few valuable reminders about not only this rebuilding effort but rebuilds in general.

This season is about development, and this is what development looks like

For better or worse, this is what development looks like. The White Sox own baseball’s worst record, and general manager Rick Hahn has been among the large number of White Sox fans to voice their disappointment over play that has been sloppy at times.

Fulmer’s struggles fall into the same category and serve as a reminder that growing pains like this are going to happen. We’ve seen it with Fulmer. We’ve seen it with Giolito. We’ve seen it with Lopez. Heck, we’ve seen it with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, too.

But more than wins and losses, this is what this season is about. Hahn calls it “the hardest part of the rebuild” because it features guys getting lit up and games being lost. The hope is that Fulmer can figure things out in the minors and that Giolito won’t require a similar demotion to right his ship. And if everything turns out all right, then this will be an easily forgotten chapter in both of those players’ development.

In the moment, though, it’s another reminder that rebuilds take time and that the waiting game provides minimal fun.

Each player’s development has a different trajectory

Just because Fulmer is getting bumped down to Triple-A doesn’t mean he can’t still turn into a successful major league pitcher. Player development and rebuilds aren’t linear, as rebuilders like to say. And to expect every prospect to travel in a straight line from potential to big league stardom doesn't make much sense.

“We reiterate, ‘It’s not the end of your career,’” Renteria said Saturday. “This is simply a reboot, a reset. Ultimately, I think after the initial shock for any player, they settle down and they understand exactly what’s going on when you look at it logically and look in the mirror. I think it’s easy to logically look at it and say, ‘I need to work on x, y and z.’

“This is a good kid with a really positive attitude and a lot of confidence. I think he’ll look in the mirror and go, ‘You know what, I got things I can work on, I’ll settle in and get over this initial bump and get to work.’ Those are the guys that end up giving themselves a chance to return sooner rather than later and have success.”

Not all prospects pan out

The other side of that coin is the reminder that not every single one of the White Sox wealth of prospects will pan out. Hahn & Co. have prepared for that and built up an incredible amount of prospect depth, but when someone doesn't live up to expectations, it will be painful.

This isn’t to suggest that Fulmer, specifically, won’t pan out, but it’s to point out that not everyone will. That’s a crowded-looking rotation of the future with Kopech, Hansen, Dunning, Fulmer, Giolito, Lopez, Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease all competing for those eventual five spots. Rather than the White Sox having to make tough decisions about who will be left out, certainly a possibility, the developments of those pitchers might make those decisions for them.

Renteria is confident that Fulmer will be back in the big leagues, and there’s little reason to think that this is the end of Fulmer’s opportunity. But not every top-10 pick reaches All-Star status.

The future is on the way

The current starting rotation might have fans asking why the heck it looks like it does. But a month or two from now it will look drastically different.

Rodon makes his first rehab start Saturday at Class A Kannapolis as he battles back from shoulder surgery last fall, and he shouldn’t be too far away from providing a serious jolt to the starting staff. Not to mention, he’s a guy who as good a chance as anyone as grabbing one of those front-end spots, and with him in the rotation, things will look a tad more futuristic.

Same goes for Kopech, whose promotion figures to be coming at some point this summer. Given the hype and the expectations there, his arrival will obviously be a really big deal.

But regardless of the results either Rodon and Kopech put up in their first tastes of major league action in 2018, they’ll make the rotation into something that way more closely resembles the rotation of the future. There’ll be plenty of development left for the Hansens and the Ceases and the Dunnings in the minors. But a rotation featuring Rodon, Kopech, Giolito and Lopez looks a lot different than one featuring Shields, Santiago, Covey and Volstad.

Patience. It’s not much fun. But it’s necessary to build a contender.