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

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

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