The Cubs could go in several different directions and find their next voice for the broadcast booth. It won’t become the existential crisis that was the American League MVP debate – Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout – but whoever is hired to replace Bob Brenly will generate strong reactions from the fans.
The search process led by WGN continues, and you can add at least one more name to the list: Jim Deshaies. Sources confirmed the longtime Houston Astros color analyst recently interviewed for the job.
Another source said that Dan Plesac – who was viewed as a frontrunner – informed WGN on Friday that he’s withdrawing from consideration and will remain at the MLB Network.
Judging by the messages across Twitter, Doug Glanville definitely appealed to a certain demographic. Here’s a University of Pennsylvania graduate, a gifted writer for The New York Times who gets social media and has a three-dimensional view of the game.
Contact was made, but the two sides never had a sit-down. There’s an extension with ESPN in the works, according to a source close to Glanville, so cross him off the list.
The X-factor is what happens when WGN’s contract expires after the 2014 season and the Cubs look to cash in on the local television deals that have fundamentally changed the baseball economy.
Earlier this month, sources identified five contenders who were targeted for interviews: Plesac; Rick Sutcliffe; Eric Karros; Gary Matthews; and Todd Hollandsworth.
Sutcliffe is under contract at ESPN and viewed as a long shot given his high profile. Karros has a broad television portfolio, working nationally on Fox and around Los Angeles Dodgers local broadcasts.
“Sarge” has done the job before, calling games for the Philadelphia Phillies. Hollandsworth, who has occasionally filled in for Brenly, is the pre- and postgame analyst on Comcast SportsNet, which will have some input along with the Cubs and WGN.
With these ex-Cubs believed to be in play, it’s worth noting that Brenly was a relative outsider when he replaced Steve Stone. Brenly played almost his entire career with the San Francisco Giants – and returned to their coaching staff after spending two seasons in the WGN radio booth with Harry Caray and Thom Brennaman.
Brenly lasted eight seasons alongside play-by-play man Len Kasper before the Arizona Diamondbacks made what sounded like an offer he couldn’t refuse. The two had developed a strong chemistry, even when the on-field product was barely watchable.
Brenly accepted the new job in October and went back to his home in the desert. Nothing’s imminent – his replacement might not be named for a few more weeks.
Deshaies never played for the Cubs, but one rave review described a broadcasting style that sounded Brenly-esque. Here’s what the Houston Press wrote in its “Best of” section for 2008, naming the city’s best commentator:
“Jim Deshaies had some tough shoes to fill when he took over the Astros analyst spot from Larry Dierker. But let’s just say, as J.D. settles into his second decade as the Astros TV analyst, that he has not only surpassed Dierker, he has perhaps surpassed every other analyst in baseball. The former starting pitcher knows the ins and outs of the game, from pitching to hitting to fielding to strategy.
“Best of all, he’s not a homer, and if the good guys goof up, he’ll let you know how and why. And then there’s his quick wit and his ability to throw out a Seinfeld reference or obscure pop culture trivia at a moment’s notice. Nothing gets past Deshaies, and, if you pay attention, you’ll learn more from him than just about any baseball geek in the country.”
Within the past 13 months or so, the Astros have transitioned to a new ownership group and a new front office, and they will be moving to a new league and a new television home, switching from Fox Sports Houston to the recently launched CSN Houston.
On Oct. 3 at Wrigley Field, a 101-loss Cubs team beat a 107-loss Astros team, mercifully ending their seasons. That day, the Houston Chronicle reported that Deshaies “is expected back next season.” Stay tuned.