Today, the Chicago Cubs announced that after three years, Keith Moreland will walk away from his position as the color commentator on the flagship’s radio broadcasting partner of long time play by play man Pat Hughes.
Signed to a three year contract before the 20111 season to replace the irreplaceable Ron Santo, he had big shoes to fill. While some feel he did an admirable job, many other felt that he left a lot to be desired. He was just not able to bring the excitement or the chemistry to the broadcasting booth that Santo and Hughes had. In Moreland’s defense, he only had three years with Hughes where Santo had more than a decade.
Now, the team has to once again look for someone to sit beside Hughes to call Cubs games. In what you would think would be a prime job to have, finding a replacement for Moreland might not be easy. The Cubs contract with WGN Radio ends at the end of the 2014 season. There is no guarantee that the Cubs will work out a new deal with their long time radio home. If a new radio deal is not worked out with WGN, the Cubs will only be able to offer a one year contract to whoever is willing to join the Cubs booth. With only one year guaranteed, the Cubs may have to settle for a less than admirable broadcaster.
If there is a new deal reached with WGN Radio, and I have to believe that the Cubs would be stupid to walk away from 720, then they could very well have their pick of the litter. If the Cubs want to once again fill the radio booth void with a former Cubs player, there are two names who the fans would put at the front of the list.
A lot of Cub fans bring up Mark Grace as a potential replacement for Moreland. He was one of the most popular players in Cubs history, especially in the decade that he manned first base. Grace also has a stellar resume as a broadcaster. He is a former broadcaster for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and even did games for FOX on the weekends. He is very intelligent, knows the Cubs history and could bring excellent chemistry into the radio booth with Hughes.
The only problem with Grace, is he has a bit of a drinking problem. He has quite a few DUIs on his resume as well, and has spend time in jail because of them. That being said, he has paid his debt to society and should be considered to fill the vacant radio position. Not because he is a former Cub (though that would help the fans welcome him), but because he is a smart baseball man.
Then, there is Kerry Wood. Being a long time fan favorite, Wood seems like a no brainer to good percentage of Cub fans. While he has no experience as a broadcaster, he would have an instant connection to the Cub fans, and would also bring back to the booth a connection with Santo. Wood was always one of Santo’s favorite players, and the two joked around with each other a lot. Santo would always talk about how he gave Wood batting advice, and Wood re-signed with the Cubs in 2011, due in part to Santo’s passing. Wood attended Santo’s funeral , and a conversation with then General Manager Jim Hendry took place. From there, Wood decided to return to the Cubs at a very team friendly deal shortly afterwards in part to pay tribute to the man.
But here is why I feel he may very well be the man to replace Moreland.
A few years ago, Dan Bernstein of WSCR, 670 The Score, reported that along with the contract he signed to pitch for the Cubs in 2011 came an additional clause that would essentially make him a member of the Cubs family for life. Bernstein took that rumored clause a step further by saying that Wood would eventually take the place of the departed Santo. He said that job would have to wait since the position had just been filled by Moreland. Now, with Moreland’s departure, if there is anything to that rumored clause, now seems to be the perfect opportunity for Wood to fill that void.
Of course, Wood may not want to be a broadcaster. Grace may not want to return to the booth, or maybe he doesn't even want to return to Chicago. This is all just speculation, and lot likely depends on what happens with the Cubs contract with WGN Radio. While both Grace and Wood might be great additions to the booth, there is a very good chance that they might go in a completely different direction. They might even hire some guy no one ever suspected. Whoever they hire, they have a great man to work beside in Hughes. Just as long as he is kept after the WGN Radio contract expires. The Cubs could have an entirely new Radio and Television broadcasters in 2014. But that is another blog for another day.