Today I bring to you another edition of Check Your Head, this time featuring the Philadelphia Inquirer's Todd Zolecki. Zolecki can be found in the newspaper, on radio, and on tv...so that leaves me with one question. Why is he bothering with little ol' me? Todd, it's time to check your head!
1. You hail from the BBC (Milwaukee- land of beer, bratwursts, and cheese), but now reside in Philly. Please compare the two cities and their fan bases.
Milwaukee and Philadelphia are different, but in good ways. Philly has more energy than Milwaukee. Bigger city means more options. I love being able to drive or take a train to New York, DC and Baltimore. Milwaukee is more laid back, but it's also fun. I love Milwaukeeans. They're incredibly friendly. Philadelphians are a little more ... impatient. The fan bases reflect that. Milwaukeeans are more patient with their team, but they will boo. (They're not blindly loyal like Cardinals fans might be.) Philly fans are quicker to step on an athlete's throat. For example, if Brad Lidge stumbled out of the gate in Milwaukee it wouldn't be reason for alarm. It might be in Philadelphia. But I've been in Philly since 1999. I like it here.
2. Who is the coolest athlete you've ever met and had a real conversation with?
I think the coolest athletes are the ones that can have a regular conversation with you, or don't feel and act like they're superior to you. That's why I always liked talking with Randy Wolf. Great guy. Funny. Doesn't big time anybody. Just a normal guy.
3. Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? (If you say Paul Molitor, this interview will be terminated.)
Robin Yount ... with Paul Molitor a close second. My first baseball memories are of 1982, when the Brewers made the World Series and Yount won the MVP. My brother and I once waited in line about four hours for a Yount autograph at a Brewers Fan Fest. I wouldn't wait in line four hours for anybody's autograph today, but at the time it felt totally worth it.
4. Describe some of the perks and pitfalls of being a beat writer.
Perks: Cover baseball for a living. Get to see a lot of great ballparks and cities. Can say, "I was at that game when (insert memorable moment here) happened." Get to learn a lot about baseball just by talking and listening to people. Pitfalls: It's a real grind. I chuckle when I hear people say, "How can these ballplayers get tired? They're playing a kid's game! That's not work!" Hey, I get tired. Really tired. And I don't even play. I just write. Other pitfalls: It dampens the social life. Flying US Airways.
5. What city is your favorite destination and what ballpark, aside from the Brick Cit House, is your favorite venue to view a game?
That's tough, but I'd have to pick Chicago and Wrigley Field. Chicago is my favorite city to visit. It's the best. (San Francisco, San Diego, Denver and Phoenix also are in my top five.) And I absolutely love Wrigley. The ballpark is in a great part of town. It has character. It's historic. It's fun. (PNC Park, Fenway, AT&T Park and Dodger Stadium are in my top five.)
6. Do you have any of the Phillies ball girls numbers?
Sadly, I don't. I'll have to work on that, though.
7. You're a journalist that is embracing the blogsphere, and I for one appreciate that. Please discuss the evolution of your blog- The Zo Zone.
I basically told my former boss last April that I wanted to start a blog. He said, "OK, sure." I wanted to write one because I see how the Internet is changing things. And our deadlines are so early that some nights it's tough to really explain what happened the night before the way I'd like, or at least put what happened into the proper perspective. The blog allows me to dig a little deeper into issues with the team. It also allows me to have a little more fun. I can post silly clips from YouTube, etc. I enjoy it. I still update the blog as much as I can over the winter months, even though I'm supposed to be on vacation and taking comp time. It's kind of addicting. Maybe I need a hobby?
8. What's your favorite aspect of baseball- pitching, offense, or defense?
I'm actually a fan of whatever gets the game finished as early as possible so I'll have more time to write on deadline. But I guess I appreciate good pitching more than good hitting because I see so little good pitching these days. That's why I like Cole Hamels.
9. What's your real opinion of the job Charlie Manuel and Pat Gillick are doing?
I've covered two managers: Bowa and Manuel. Fans can dismiss this if they want, but I think chemistry is big when you're talking about 25 guys being together for eight months a year. Guys didn't like playing for Bowa. That's all they ever talked about. Manuel pulls these guys together. He keeps them positive. Does he make some head scratching decisions? Yes, but sometimes those head scratchers are based on personnel. Look at last year's bullpen. Unless he was going to Romero, Gordon or Myers, it was a total crapshoot. As far as Gillick, he's been OK. His in-season moves have helped the last two years. His offseason moves haven't been as good, although the Lidge trade could be huge if it works out the way they hope. I heard somebody say on the radio yesterday that the Phillies have the money to spend, they just won't spend it. "They're cheap." It seems like such a cliche. They outbid the Red Sox for Mike Lowell and the Padres for Randy Wolf and Tadahito Iguchi. Were they cheap there? The Phillies spend money. The better question is: do they spend it wisely? Frankly, if I'm Gillick there's no way I'm signing Kyle Lohse to a five-year, $55 million contract or whatever. Just because you spend money it doesn't mean you're going to win. I'd rather take my chances with what I have then make a long commitment to a Lohse or a Silva or somebody like that. People forget Adam Eaton's contract, you know?
10. How's it feel to be mentioned by the likes of Jayson Stark and Buster Olney on their ESPN blogs? How much of an insider are you.
It's cool that family or friends get a kick out of it. But it's nice because Jayson and Buster are two of the best in the business. But I'm not sure how much of an insider I am. I can say I try to stay on top of the Phillies as much as possible.
11. Discuss your love for WSBGM's.
WSBGM's is one of my favorite Phillies blogs. You guys make me laugh, which is great. I try to link to you guys as much as possible. I'd actually love to link more to you guys, but sometimes I worry that a link to one of your, uh, more risque posts might scare some people who regularly read The Inquirer. We're a family newspaper, you know. :)