Inside covering the Cubs: Part one Levine/Kaplan the Story Breakers

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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  • Yikes. A fight where you root for nobody.

    Well, I have made my feelings on the Kapman quite well known on these boards. I think he's a hot headed wind bag who lets his own knee jerk opinions cloud whatever info he may get. He also has the just god-awful, rude as hell, immature way of shouting and getting louder to try and win an argument instead of having a rational discussion.

    But he does wear impeccable suits.

    He has good contacts. And good info. Unfortunately, to hear that info from those contacts you have to listen to Kaplan. Arguello says the Kapman is a nice guy and I bet in quieter moments he is. But his actions in front of the camera and in the public eye are so baboonish, tactless, and overbearing, I couldn't imagine a quiet moment with him would ever take place.

    I keep bribing my friend Matt Spiegel to just once pat him on his bald head after one of his obnoxious declarations but so dice.

    As for Levine, I really can't say because if you're at ESPN, your pretty much persona Non Gratta to me. ESPN is just an awful, evil, cesspit of a company and tey ruin everything they touch. Back before there was an ESPN 1000, I found Levine to be a fairly good reporter who really struggled with other aspects of is job, like being interviewed. My brother interned at ESPN1000 for Dan Mcneil and said he's actually a nice guy. So there's that.

    I guess I'll give the edge to Levine, because at least I don't have to cover my ears when he tries to make a point. But if ever there was an open seat at the top of the baseball reporting food chain it's right here in the Windy City....

  • In reply to felzz:

    John did say Kaplan was gracious with him but I continue to have the same impression as you felzz. I deeply dislike the way he treats folks who dare disagree with his opinions or bow to his omnipotence. To me he is frequently rude, obnoxious, condescending and immature. Rather than a pat on the head I'd like to see a sack of dung to the face when he flashes that sneer.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    Bruce does a lot of "reacting" to others as well when it comes to his reports.

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    In reply to felzz:

    I once saw Kaplan drinking a pina colada at Trader Vick's. His head was perfect. You better not mess with him. He'll rip your lungs out friend. I'd like to meet his tailor

  • In reply to felzz:

    I agree with felzz. Kap comes off like the white Steven A. Smith to me. The tough guy act into the camera, just makes me change the station.

  • In reply to felzz:

    I disagree with all the Kap hate. His rants are often refreshing when no other media member has the guts to rip on a team/player who deserves it. He's always an interesting listen. And this is Chicago... We deserve interesting media.

  • For some reason I tend to enjoy listening to Levine more over Kap, but I don't have a favorite. I use to listen to Levine because at one point I thought that he had very great knowledge of the game and in the years I have found myself wondering and shaking my head saying, "WTF?". So now I just read Cubs Den.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    That's all you need now :)

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Ha! That's great. Thanks for that!

  • I guess I take a different view I appreciate the varied personalities of both. I enjoy both at times, yet other times they both piss me off. When and if the Cubs get their own network, I can envision both having their own segments. Kind of like the ying and yang approach.

  • I think there are just going to be issues with media people who have authority, Kap and Bruce both have strong personalities but they both do us baseball fans a service by digging, which isn't always easy to do.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Agreed. I think having a strong personality goes with the territory. You're not going to break a lot of stories by being a meek guy. Some of that strong personality will be reflected in their on-air persona. I give credit to both of these guys for doing some of the heavy lifting when it comes to breaking stories.

  • I find it interesting that they both defend Kenney so much too. It seems like (as Tom mentioned in the story) that Kap and Levine are now getting their info about the Cubs at about the same rate, if not slower, than the national media.

    To me that screams that Kenney was their source, as it is widely known that he took a demotion from being involved in anything having to do with baseball side when Theo was hired. Therefore, the main source of the big 2 (Kap and Bruce) is not really in the know unless Theo wants him in the know.

    Also, I don't think that Theo likes Crane that much. I could be reading into looks, but when they were introduced in the video for CubsCon, Crane leaned over to Theo and said something. The look that Theo gave him was like, "Yeah, whatever. Just shut up." Like I said, I could be reading into things too much but I believe you can tell a lot by body language.

    All that said, I kinda think that TRicketts might like the fact that the two top guys don't really like each other. That way, he knows there is NO WAY that Theo is going to let Crane help make ANY baseball decisions just because they are good for business. Ricketts has stated on numerous occasions that he likes Crane's abilities on the business side, but never says he thinks he helped make the baseball side better.

    All of that said, I think that Kap and Bruce are working real hard to get a different source than their old boy Crane. He just won't be getting good baseball info anymore as of this time.

  • In reply to Still Love the Cubs:

    You can bet that Theo will run ALL aspects of baseball, that being said Crane is beloved by the Ricketts.

  • I've heard they are looking at Ronnie woo Woo as their new source. Honestly, I hope the information given to the media is more Bulls then Bears. I feel like the Bulls give enough to satisfy a craving, but don't divulge enough to start controversy.

    That being said, Ricketts' secrecy through the Hendry firing was masterful. I think a lot of Cub's stories will have a lot more shock value, which is the best kind of news in my opinion. Let's face it, we wouldn't have suspected Epstein's hiring if a random guy hadn't spotted him in Starbucks.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Yes but Kap and I were both saying at the time that Hendry wouldn't be back.

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    I can't stand Kaplan, he seems entirely phony, like he's doing an impression of an announcer, right down to his cadence.

  • But, there's a difference between being a strong personality and being a horse's ass. Hub Arkush breaks as many stories, if not more, than Kaplan. And he's not nearly as grating. Sam Smith breaks stories and is more wired in than anybody on the basketball beat. Isn't nearly as abrasive.

    I understand that these guys have good info and there's gravitas that comes with that. But you get a lot more cred with me when you let the info be the story and not when you put YOUR REPORTING THE INFO as the headline.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Yes and and it's too bad that everyone has to self promote these days. It makes it even harder to stand the media.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Not everyone loves Hub though either. Though I appreciate his efforts as well. Someone has to do the dirty work.

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    My favorite bit of the article:

    “Kaplan wants to badly break the story."

    So was the media source, while meaning to say that Kaplan badly wants to break a story, actually saying subliminally that Kap does a bad job?

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    No it was from a guy who just was pointing out that it's a goal of Kap's. It's really hard to be out in front these days of Twitter.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I'm referring to the phrasing (former editor here) - Kaplan wants to badly break the story. In other words, he wants to break the story badly. I think the source meant to say "Kaplan badly wants to break the story."

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    Ha! If you're going to break a story, don't do it badly ;)

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    Sorry Kevin, my bad I need an editor are you in?

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    If you can afford me, I'm there :)

  • Kap has a pretty nice lead so far in the polling.

  • Sorry Kevin, chances are we can't afford you :)

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