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

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."