Let's be honest: there is no ideal replacement for Bob Brenly. The chemistry that developed between Brenly and play-by-play man Len Kasper over the past eight seasons was nothing short of broadcasting gold, and the Cubs' television booth will never be the same. That being said, the situation seemed just as bleak nine seasons ago, as the Cubs needed to fill the holes left by Chip Caray and Steve Stone. The team made a fantastic decision pairing Brenly with Kasper then, despite the doubts of many, so what's to stop the Cubs from making a similarly great signing this time around?
While there are a number of candidates that would appear to be viable options, many simply will not work once you dig past the surface. One man rises above the rest to be the glaring, obvious solution to this conundrum, but before singling this one out, let us first look at the field of candidates.
The "dumb" suggestions:
Steve Stone's name seems to be tossed around anytime there is any important vacancy in Chicago baseball. Even last off-season, as the Cubs were preparing to acquire a new General Manager, there was constant speculation that Stone may be the man for the job, no matter how many times he has expressed zero interest in becoming a GM. Stone is currently under contract with the White Sox, whom he began broadcasting for after his not-so-friendly departure from his last stint as color analyst for the Cubs. Even fathoming the notion of Stone leaving early from his deal with the Sox to jump back to the Northside is ridiculous, not to mention that he just finished assuring the fans and media, a week or so ago, that he would indeed return and put up with Hawk Harrelson yet again next year. I would love to see Stoney back in the Cubs' booth, but this simply will not happen.
Next in this category is current radio voice Keith Moreland. While anyone can sound tolerable working next to the exquisite play-by-play of Pat Hughes, I found Moreland to be incredibly underwhelming as the Cubs' radio color commentator. By no means was he as vacant, misinformed, or unprepared for his job as Ron Santo was amidst his final seasons on Cub radio, however, I simply cannot understand why any Cub fan would want to see Moreland next to Kasper next year. He is an average+ color commentator, at best, and if he is to continue broadcasting for the Cubs, he needs to remain in the radio booth.
The ESPN problem:
Two of the best options to replace Brenly are currently employed by ESPN. While it would not be surprising for either one to end up taking the job, it is unclear yet how their respective prior commitments may impact their ability to do so. Both Rick Sutcliffe and Doug Glanville are former Cubs who expressed great pleasure in simply being considered for the job. While Sutcliffe's career as a Cub certainly puts him on higher ground than Glanville, both candidates have done excellent work for the four-letter network, and Cub fans should be happy if either ends up being Brenly's replacement. Glanville is an extremely well-spoken, intelligent analyst and would give the Cubs TV booth a more "youthful" feel than in years past, while Sutcliffe brings the firepower of being a former Cub-Ace along with him. Either should be able to develop an excellent chemistry with Kasper, but the looming cloud of ESPN could impact either one's decision, or completely negate their availability.
Those who would appear to be the "right" answer:
Many fans have been clamoring for Kerry Wood since about two seconds after the news broke that Brenly was leaving. While I at first considered him to be the odds-on favorite to take the job, Wood has since made it clear that he is not interested in doing so. With Wood then out of the equation, another former Cub whom many have singled-out as a serious candidate is current pre and post-game analyst for CSN, Todd Hollandsworth. He has done a solid job covering the Cubs for CSN and is not afraid to share his opinion, whether that involves praising or brandishing the team or specific players and coaches. That honesty goes a long way in the ears of Cub fans, but one must wonder if Hollandsworth is simply excelling in a position that he is made for. Would he be as effective commentating over the course of 162 nine inning games as he is in small doses before and after the Cubs play? Perhaps, but there is one person remaining who undoubtedly could step in and immediately have Cub fans saying "Bob who?"
Bring back Mark Grace:
With Brenly taking the vacancy left by Mark Grace in the Arizona Diamondback's booth, why not just make a clean commentator swap? The primary issue here seems to be Grace's recent issues with not making idiotic decisions. The former Cub first baseman, who lead all major leaguers in hits in the 1990s (only 1,754 of them), has racked up not one, but two DUIs in the past 15 months. Likewise, this is why he is no longer working for Arizona. This makes sense from AZ's perspective; Grace had a second chance with that team, and blew it... literally. However, why should that stop the Cubs, or WGN, from pursuing him?
This is another debate entirely, one that I may address in-depth in the near future, but everyone is aware of the double standard that professional athletes live under. If not for the DUIs, it would be heresy for Grace not to be Brenly's replacement. He was always a fan favorite, and certainly was the highlight of all of the woeful seasons of the 1990's for fans (aside from that guy we all pretend to have forgotten about who used to hit a bunch of homers or something), and has always said he wants to return to Cub nation anyways... and he is currently unemployed.
Bring Mark Grace into the TV booth; now is the perfect time. Brenly and Grace switched booths for an inning this past season when the Diamondbacks visited Wrigley Field, and the broadcast did not skip a beat. Len and Grace were fantastic in their short time together. The booth was still full of honesty and humor, without taking away from, or neglecting, the play on the field. The decision-makers simply need to be strict and clear with Grace: slip-up again, and you're gone for good. Otherwise, everyone gets want they want: the Cubs/WGN will have landed a historic and fan-favorite ex-Cub, Grace would no longer be unemployed, and fans would not have to worry about an obscure or undesirable former player poorly attempting to fill Bob's massive shoes. This is a no-brainer.
Other potential candidates to keep an eye on include Dan Pleasac, Eric Karros, as well as Steve Lyons. Personally, I am not interested in Steve Lyons, but Karros has put in some solid work for FOX, and Pleasac was a hands-down riot doing Cubs' post-game analysis just a few years ago (he stepped aside to pursue a national gig, and was eventually replaced by current analyst, and competing candidate, Todd Hollandsworth).
All that can be sure at this point, is that much is up in the air. For me, the obvious, and only correct choice, is to get Mark Grace back to Chicago as soon as possible. I see the potential for greatness with Pleasac, Sutcliffe, or Glanville, but none of them offer quite the same allure Mr. Grace. Bringing him back simply feels right.
So, agree or disagree; who do you want to replace Bob Brenly, Cub fans?
Filed under: Cubs
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Baseball, Bob Brenly, Broadcast Team, Chicago Cubs, Chip Caray, Dan Pleasac, Doug Glanville, Eric Karros, ESPN, FOX, Keith Moreland, Kerry Wood, Len Kasper, Mark Grace, MLB, Pat Hughes, Rick Sutcliffe, Ron Santo, Steve Lyons, Steve Stone, Television Booth, Todd Hollandsworth