We all know that Cubs Den gives you the best Cubs coverage out there.
That being said, I still wanted to delve a bit deeper into the overall media coverage of the Cubs. I talked to various sports media members in town to gain as much insight as possible. In a series of posts regarding those who cover the Cubs we start with part one and the heavy hitters.
Part one, the Story Breakers
Bruce Levine, ESPN am 1000
Levine has been covering baseball in Chicago for 28 years now. He’s a grizzled vet that has many contacts through out the game. A GM once told me he is able to get info by having info. In other words if a GM has a certain move in mind he may relay that in exchange for info he can use in a story.
I was told by one media source: “Bruce is a master of juggling many sources, sometimes even those at odds”.
Levine has relied heavily on some of the “old-school network” of baseball execs and scouts, coaches, etc. It has yet to be determined how much that flow of information will continue now that the newer school of younger GMs have taken over. Many of which seem to prefer secrecy.
When it comes to the Cubs, Bruce lost a good source and friend in Jim Hendry. However, he is still very clued in on what is going on at Wrigley Field.
I've heard the stories that Bruce has been especially hard on some of his partners on his weekly radio show “Talking Baseball”. We've also heard Bruce give the proverbial “smack down” to some of the station’s hosts if they dare question his info or his opinions, and almost anyone I talk to says Bruce keeps to himself and is clandestine in his ways.
Some have even joked that he is the "Helen Thomas" (famous White House reporter) of the Chicago baseball scene as it seems he always gets the ceremonial opening question at a Cubs press conference.
One media source wondered aloud just why both Levine and Kaplan go to great lengths to defend Crane Kenney, who is very unpopular with the media and the fans.
It's one thing to defend Kenney from unnecessary scrutiny, but at times Levine seemed to be touting Kenney and his influence in the Theo Epstein dealings. It seemed rather forced and calculated. That may be the deal you make to protect or promote a source.
I've been very critical of Bruce lately on Twitter for some of these issues. However, there is no denying that Bruce is very good at what he does, and that is giving the fans insider information that is extremely reliable.
Dave Kaplan, WGN 720 am, Comcast Sports Net
“Kap” isn’t just a Cub or baseball guy but it’s the one team he is most associated with.
Kaplan has done an array of things in the sports world. He has been a college basketball coach, and NBA scout, and a basketball analyst. However, the job that got him the most connections to start with was when he worked for a trading card company.
That gig helped him forge some great relationships to super agents by getting their then younger players signed to deals.
I was told that Kaplan is on the phone more than a teenage girl and never puts it down. Kap may not play the info exchange game like Levine, but he does use his friendships he has built in multiple ways to get his stories.
“Kaplan wants to badly break the story. He is ultra-competitive in that regard,” a media source told me.
There have been some critics of Kaplan that have accused him of being overly harsh towards certain Cubs, specifically the Latin-based players like Alfonso Soriano or Aramis Ramirez.
When I ran that past a media source it was debated.
“Kap was the first in town to rip then golden boy Mark Prior. He gave a rough ride to Jim Hendry, (despite their friendship) Mike Quade, and bashed the Lou Piniella hire. He is an equal opportunist basher when it comes to a Cub he doesn’t like” the source says.
Kap can be very opinionated, but it’s hard to find someone else in town that is as connected to the Cubs and is always willing to talk about them.
There have been some readers who have noticed a dip in rumors coming out of Wrigley lately. That probably has more to do with Epstein wanting things to be much less transparent than they were in the Hendry era. These guys may have to work the phones harder than ever.
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