Cubs extend TV broadcasters through 2019 season

Cubs extend TV broadcasters through 2019 season

Cubs fans will be hearing Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies for the next three seasons, at least.

The Cubs re-upped with the dynamic TV broadcasting duo through the 2019 season.

Kasper and Deshaies — more often referred to as "Len and JD" — have brought wit and analysis to Cubs TV broadcasts for the last four years, watching as ratings have doubled the last two years on CSN.

After enduring a couple years of rebuilding, Len and JD have been calling games for a Cubs team that has won 200 regular-season contests plus five postseason series (and of course, the first World Series in 108 years).

"We think Len and JD are the best team in baseball," Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said in a statement. "Their chemistry as a team and their ability to weave baseball history, current events and the Wrigley experience into the game call speaks to their preparation and love of baseball. We are excited to know they will continue bringing Cub games to our fans, especially after such a thrilling and historic season."

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2017 will be Kasper's 13th year as the Cubs play-by-play TV broadcaster after three seasons with the Florida Marlins (2002-04) and three years with the Milwaukee Brewers (1999-2001)

"I am thrilled to formalize an extension of what has been the greatest job in the world," Kasper said in a statement. "Calling Cubs games with Jim Deshaies for the most passionate fans in baseball is something I cherish and hope to do for the rest of my career. I am incredibly thankful to the Cubs, the Ricketts family, WGN, CSN and ABC 7 and all the fans with whom we watch and cheer on the Cubs every season."

Deshaies worked 16 years as the analyst for the Houston Astros broadcast before joining the Cubs. He played 12 years in the big-leagues, working almost exclusively as a starting pitcher, going 84-95 with a 4.14 ERA over 1,525 innings from 1984-95. 

"I am excited to continue my relationship with the Cubs and the entire organization," Deshaies said. "It has been a joy to share Cubs baseball with our great fans and I hope to do so for a long time. It is a special privilege to call Wrigley Field your home office, and working with a top notch partner in Len Kasper and all our broadcast partners makes coming to the ballpark that much more enjoyable."

First impressions of Ian Happ in Cubs clubhouse (not really a 'defensive foot fetish' guy)


First impressions of Ian Happ in Cubs clubhouse (not really a 'defensive foot fetish' guy)

Ian Happ will let Joe Maddon talk about his “defensive foot fetish” and entertain everyone during the press briefings. As a rookie on the team defending a World Series title, Happ believes he belongs yet still understands his place.   

Happ’s locker is next to the media entrance to the Wrigley Field clubhouse, but the new guy isn’t here to banter with reporters and deliver money quotes about improved footwork, the way the Cubs manager did in his own colorful style. 

“Sounds like Joe,” Happ said before Wednesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants. “I feel great about the way I’m playing the outfield right now and I’ll just continue doing what I’m doing.”

That’s not to say that Happ views himself as a finished product less than two full years into professional baseball, with only 26 games on the Triple-A level and not even two weeks in The Show. But the Cubs clearly saw Happ – a first-team Academic All-American at the University of Cincinnati and a two-time Cape Cod League All-Star – as a quick study.   

“You have to continue to get better,” Happ said. “It’s always a process. Once you settle, you’ll start to regress. Every day, I’m trying to get a little bit better.” 

That attitude will go a long way with a veteran group and the young stars not that much older than Happ (22). Just listen to a three-time World Series champion, the reigning National League MVP and a Cy Young Award winner.

“He’ll figure it out – he’s an athlete,” Jon Lester said. “Obviously, the approach and the hitting (is already) there, so the other stuff, I’m sure, he’ll figure out on the fly.”

“He’s a stud,” Kris Bryant said. “He was ready out of spring training.”

“He’s not fazed by anything,” Jake Arrieta said. “He’s got a very good demeanor about the way he handles himself. That’s going to help him make the transition very quickly. 

“He’s had some really nice at-bats. He can handle balls down in the strike zone. He’s able to lay off pitches east and west and balls up in the strike zone. He’s got a great approach. He’s going to be really good for us.”

Maddon admitted he was only nitpicking with Happ, who has answered some of the lingering questions about his defense and positioned himself as someone who can take on Bryant/Ben Zobrist responsibilities, moving all over the outfield, playing second base and backing up the corner infield spots.

“It doesn’t matter” where you see yourself, Happ said. “I’ll keep working on both. I’ll be prepared every day for wherever I have to be. But I just want to help any way that I can.”

Joe Maddon ‘Anchorman’ vision for Cubs road trip: ‘We got the Sex Panther in today’

Joe Maddon ‘Anchorman’ vision for Cubs road trip: ‘We got the Sex Panther in today’

A homestand that has already featured Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price grumbling “Hail to the Cubs” after a game ended on an overturned replay review – and Milwaukee Brewers officials complaining about a premature rainout – will end with Joe Maddon’s team walking out of Wrigley Field dressed as “Anchorman” characters. 

The Cubs are hovering around .500 as a baseball product, but the defending World Series champs are already back in terms of getting under people’s skin and going viral on social media. That will happen again on Thursday, when the Cubs start posting photos of their 1970s outfits to Twitter and Instagram before boarding their flight to Southern California.

“We got the Sex Panther in today,” Maddon said during Wednesday’s pregame media session, sounding nothing like San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

Q: You got the what?

“Sex Panther,” Maddon said, “60 percent of the time, it works every time, you’re not aware of that?”

Q: Does it growl when you open it?

“It does,” Maddon said. “It growls.”

The official theme for the road trip through Los Angeles and (Stay Classy) San Diego would be…

“It’s the Ron Burgundy/Brick Tamland – and I also wanted to include Tommy La Stella – Tribute Road Trip, where 60 percent of the time, it works every time, sponsored by Sex Panther cologne,” Maddon said.

La Stella is the enigmatic pinch-hitter/backup infielder now playing at Triple-A Iowa. Steve Carell played Tamland – the weatherman for the Channel 4 news team – in the movie. 

“I just see him like Brick Tamland,” Maddon said. “I just see him kind of like Brick. It’s almost like two interchangeable guys. I see Brick, I see Tommy, I see Tommy, I see Brick. Put some glasses on Tommy like that, dress him up, some sideburns and have him scream a little bit, I got Brick.”     

And when the Cubs return home next week, it will be interesting to see if the St. Louis Cardinals notice the celebration shots on the big video board and find any amusement in the dancing relievers.

“Oh my God, absolutely, I love it,” Maddon said. “I think it’s very entertaining. I would have to believe two things: I believe the fans will really appreciate it, and I don’t think it’s disrespectful to the other side. 

“I just think it’s funny. I really believe if we’re on the road and the other bullpen did that, I would laugh. So whoever’s thought it was in the beginning, I commend them. I think it’s pretty funny.

“It really makes you look forward to the next home run, to see what these guys are going to do, so I’m all for it.”