TMS Q&A with Paul Sullivan

A few days back, we received the nifty little graphic to the right and unabashedly took an opportunity to toot our own horn. Yes, all of us bartenders here at Thunder Matt's Saloon are geeked that Paul Sullivan reads our little blog, and wholeheartedly (maybe?) approves of it. We decided to extend an invitation to Mr. Sullivan, to see if he'd like to belly up to the bar and answer a few questions. What follows will most likely shock you. No topics were off limits. It was kind of like ESPN's "The Budweiser Hot Seat", only we're not affiliated with any particular beer, we ask more questions, and we're not employees of ESPN. Shoot, we don't even get paid to bring you hard-hitting interviews like this!

1. Being baseball nuts, we have always wondered if we could perform your job up to professional standards. How hard is it to keep the relationship with the players professional rather than personal? Do you find it hard to criticize a player that you find genuinely nice and sincere?

I don’t know you guys well enough to know if you could do my job because not sure how you’d handle the deadlines and the demands of my bosses, but it’s not exactly brain surgery. I even type with three fingers. The hardest part, as you may realize, is dealing with the players and management and finding a way to be honest and still have them talk to you. You just hope they all realize what your job is and don’t take it personally. It’s much harder to criticize Ryan Dempster than Mark Prior because Dempster is a great guy and Prior is… oh, never mind.

2. Do you have any memorable run-ins with players or coaches (that you can share of course)?

Royce Clayton got in my face with a bat in his hand before Sox hitting coach Gary Ward (Daryle’s dad) pulled him away. We didn’t speak for a year, then ironed it out the next spring and have been on good terms ever since. Frank Thomas and I had some blow-ups, and of course, Terry Bevington and Ed Lynch… I could go on and on, but you’ll have to wait for the book.

3. Were you an athlete growing up? What sports did you play and what teams did you root for in your youth?

I was an athlete as far as playing in my back yard with my friends, but too small to make it to the bigtime. We played every sport. Grew up rooting for Chicago teams and, for some reason, I liked the Boston Red Sox when I was a kid.

4. What sportswriters / news columnists did you read in your formative years? What writers are you currently reading regularly, baseball or otherwise?

Bob Verdi, Jerome Holtzman, Dave Condon, Tim Weigel, who was a great writer at the old Daily News before he became a sportscaster. And Gary Deeb, Mike Downey, and of course, Mike Royko, who later became my boss. Now I read everyone online, but the best sportswriters in America, in my opinion, are Bernie Lincicome, Lee Jenkins of SI, Roger Angell of New Yorker, and Sam Smith, formerly of the Trib.

5. In your opinion, what role has management played in the Cubs legendary futility? Have they (and the fans) concerned themselves too much with the experience of Wrigley rather than the product on the field?

Cubs management is almost completely to blame for Cubs ineptitude, though Hendry is probably the best GM they’ve had in my lifetime. I think the fans are also to blame for falling in love with mediocre players who are huggable.

6. With rumors whirling about, what are your thoughts on the remodeling of Wrigley Field and the chance that the Cubs may play an entire year at US Cellular?

That’s not ever going to happen. Yes, I know I wrote it, and I had to because Crane Kenney said it, but I would bet my house that it will never happen.

7. Who was your favorite past Cubs player to interview? Current?

Terry Mulholland, Kevin Tapani, Rod Beck, Mark Grace… actually, most of the ’98 Cubs. They actually tried to be quotable. Not too many current players try to be quotable because they think if they say something interesting they’ll get in trouble. The good old days are over.

8. You refer to our blog as 'esoteric'. We, perhaps foolishly, took this as a compliment. Please elaborate. Also, have you ever met Tommy Buzanis? He seems to think he knows you.

I do not know Tommy Buzanis*. I’m not sure why I referred to your blog as esoteric. I must have been doing a crossword puzzle that day.

9. We here at the Saloon are obsessed with lunch. What does a typical beatwriter ingest on game day?

Actually, I usually eat the ballpark food, so it differs. Most of it is over-priced crap that I would never eat if I couldn’t put it on my expense account. When the season ends, I eat sensibly and have not had a hot dog since Fenway Park last October during the Red Sox-Cleveland series.

10. What's the best place in Wrigleyville to grab a beer (please don't say The Cubby Bear)? Also, confirm or deny that all sportswriters eat dangerous amounts of steak.

I prefer Justins on Southport. I rarely grab a beer near Wrigley, except perhaps at Bernie’s. Haven’t gone to Cubby Bear in 10 years, and I boycott Murphy’s. I may try the new Harry Caray’s place when I get a chance. I seldom eat steak, unless I’m grilling it myself. Can’t speak for the rest of the hacks.

11. Why does Thunder Matt always get the shaft? And do you think he reads our site?

I don’t think Thunder Matt gets the shaft. He was the odd man out because he can’t play center like Reed Johnson. If the Cubs didn’t have Daryle Ward, he’d be here. He’s a good hitter, but needs to improve defensively. Great guy, one of my favorite Cubs. I’m sure he reads your site, as he should since it’s named for him. I hope he’s traded to a team that will give him a real chance to play, but I agree with Hendry that they shouldn’t just give him away.

*We can only assume this was said for Income Tax purposes or following the Stop Snitchin' Clause in Tommy's self-made Rules of the Sea.


A very special thanks to Paul Sullivan for being gracious enough to take time out to answer our questions. You can check out his work at the Chicago Tribune's Hardball Blog.

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