Those of you who may still be stuck in the rut of only reading the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune have probably been missing out on some of the best Cubs-related writing out there. Bruce Miles of The Daily Herald
has become a must-read on my morning periodical tour, offering a critical, but objective voice on all things Cubs with a sharp wit to spare. And the fella knows what OBP is as well, which is refreshing.
He was kind enough to answer a few questions on what it's like to follow the Cubs on an everyday basis and give us his thoughts on the past season and the future off-season.
Letís start off with a quick autobiography, how did you eventually come about landing what I can only imagine is a dream job, that of covering a major league team on a daily basis. And if Iím not mistaken, the team you grew up following?
Yes, I grew up in Chicago, following both the Cubs and White Sox in baseball season and the other Chicago teams in their seasons. I wanted to get into sports journalism early on as I had a love of sports, reading and writing. Like many writers, I started off covering high school sports before moving to other things, including a stint on the Sports copy desk at the Daily Herald, where I learned how to put the paper out every night.
Iíve always found the life of a reporter that follows a certain team to be rather intriguing. Iím guessing that over a course of a season you end up forming some decent relationships with the players, coaches and management, yet at times you may need to be critical of that individual in one of your articles. How difficult is it to balance the personal relationships you form and your duties as a journalist? And how difficult is it to face someone after youíve taken them to task in print?
Itís a balancing act, but Iíve always found that if Iím fair in my criticism and never get personal in that criticism, things will be fine. The good players will tell you: ìIf I played poorly, write that I played poorly. Just donít get personal.î And Iíve always made myself available whenever Iíve criticized a player, manager or management person.
Earlier this season, Paul Sullivan of the Tribune made some headlines when Andy Macphail and Jim Hendry took exception to a few of his articles (I believe regarding Jacque Jones). Have you ever felt any pressure from the Cubs powers-that-be to temper your criticism of anyone in the organization?
Youíve made your presence felt a few places beyond your own paperís site, most notably showing up on the message boards over at North Side Baseball. Why have you embraced fan sites like ours and do they help you in any way with your writing?
Iíve never wanted to feel ìaloofî from the readers. I learn a lot from them. Many are much more well versed in aspects of the game than I am. I have the advantage of access. Everybody has their blind spots. Iíve learned to cover a few of mine by listening to the readers.
Thereís been much made about the Cubs not being able to get practice time at Wrigley Field this season, either out of lack of desire or scheduling overruns for corporate events. Is this something that has been happening for years and weíre just hearing about it now? Or are these Cubs as ill-prepared as theyíve looked all season?
The most recent bunch of Cubs could have been made to work harder. That will be addressed this off-season. The Cubs have held fan clinics before games for several years. This is the first year, however, that I canít remember a Cubs team out there for regular early work.
Paint us a picture of the Cubs clubhouse. Who are some of the stronger personalities? How would you compare the clubhouse atmosphere to past teams and possibly to some other organizations?
This is a pretty laidback clubhouse. Scott Eyre was a very vocal presence. Phil Nevin tried to bully the reporters. He found out that doesnít work in Chicago. The veteran players the Cubs had this year were more ìlead-by-exampleî types, but I think Derrek Lee has emerged as a ìgo-toî guy. The atmosphere was good overall, even with all the losing.
What have you heard about how Dusty Bakerís contract situation will be handled? Aramis Ramirez? Juan Pierre? Kerry Wood? We demand details!!! Actually weíll take whatever you got, weíre easy.
(These questions were asked last week before Dusty's departure)
By now, you know about Baker. I believe Ramirez will be back. I expect the two sides to exchange proposals next week. The Cubs will allow Pierre to test the market. I believe Kerry Wood will be back, taking an incentive laden deal to be a reliever.
Have you heard any names that the Cubs might be coveting this off-season? Donít be vague now.
Iíll know more after their organizational meetings. Theyíre evaluating every player in pro ball right now. Certainly, theyíll look at center-field candidates if Pierre leaves. Guys like Dave Roberts, Carl Crawford and Vernon Wells will be talked about a lot.
Correct me if Iím mistaken, but you coined the nickname, ìThe Riotî for one of our favorite new Cubbies, Ryan Theriot, is that right? Do you have any other ones you care to unleash?
You know, Bob Brenly may have come up with ìThe Riot.î Or we thought of it at the same time. But Iíd be glad to give Bob credit. Iíve come up with no others.
Can we get one behind-the-scenes story that your editor wouldnít let you print or at least one you didnít think would fit in one of your articles?
Iím not a real big gossip monger, so I donít have much for you here. Pretty much, if I know it, itís going in the paper. I will say that one of the most impressive things Iíve seen was Carlos Zambrano acting as interpreter for Juan Mateo after one game this year. I remember was Carlos first came up and could barely speak English. The fact that he now can serve as interpreter speaks volumes to me. Thatís really a lot of progress.
Thanks to Bruce for his time and insight on the state of the Cubs. It's good to hear about Zambrano maturing into a mentor. Not so good to hear about the Cubs not practicing on a regular basis.
You can read another Q & A with Bruce over at Bleed Cubbie Blue
as well and of course his writing via The Daily Herald.