5 Questions with...Tribune's David Haugh

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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

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

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Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

The Cubs are preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson, hoping the talented, frequently injured pitcher can stay healthy and provide insurance for their rotation.

Anderson posted a telling message on his Twitter account on Monday night, hinting at what would be another offseason check mark for the defending World Series champs.

The physical for the agreement — first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network — won't just be a formality as Anderson underwent back surgery last March and appeared in only four games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

But Anderson fits on paper as a left-hander who will turn only 29 on Feb. 1 and won't have to carry front-of-the-rotation responsibilities or feel Opening Day urgency on a team with five projected starters.

The Cubs had been willing to gamble around $6 million on Tyson Ross, who recently signed a similarly structured one-year deal with the Texas Rangers as he recovers from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The calculus would essentially be the same with Anderson. The Cubs have to factor in last year's grueling playoff run into early November, this season's sky-high expectations, the organization's lack of high-end, upper-level pitching prospects and the uncertainty surrounding the 2018 rotation.

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Anderson finished sixth in the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year voting with the Oakland A's, but he's reached the 30-start mark only one other time and never accounted for 200 innings in a single season.

Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2011 season, and the injuries piled up from there, dealing with a strained right oblique, a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left index finger.

Anderson had such a fragile reputation that he accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers after a strong platform year in 2015 (10-9, 3.69 ERA). The Dodgers only got 11 1/3 innings out of Anderson, who didn't pitch during a playoff run that ended at Wrigley Field in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs stayed exceptionally healthy while winning 200 games across the last two seasons and need to be prepared in case John Lackey sharply declines at the age of 38 or Mike Montgomery experiences growing pains while transitioning from the bullpen.

Whether or not Anderson is ultimately the answer, the Cubs will be looking to place a sixth starter into their plans.

"I don't know if a six-man rotation on a permanent basis is the wave of the future," team president Theo Epstein said earlier this winter. "But we certainly endorse it on a temporary basis as a nice way to pace guys for the whole season.

"We can get them some rest, whether you do it in April to preserve depth and ease guys into the season, especially after a deep October and November run. Or after the All-Star break in the summer to kind of get through the dog days and give guys a little bit of a breather as you ramp up for the stretch run.

"I think it would be tough to pull off all season long. But it's something that (could certainly work) in the right spot."