Chicago Cubs

Cubs TV: Search for Brenly's replacement coming into focus

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Cubs TV: Search for Brenly's replacement coming into focus

The search for Bob Brenlys replacement is coming into focus. Their next television analyst might have more name recognition and staying power than any free agent the Cubs will sign this offseason.

With interviews scheduled to begin this week, sources have identified five contenders for the job: Dan Plesac; Rick Sutcliffe; Eric Karros; Todd Hollandsworth; and Gary Matthews.

Plesac was considered a frontrunner from the moment Brenly announced he was returning to the Arizona Diamondbacks to work a reduced schedule on Fox Sports Arizona and national games for Fox Sports.

Before joining the launch of MLB Network, Plesac made a favorable impression as a pre- and postgame analyst for Cubs broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet. He also played with future Cubs manager Dale Sveum before spending two seasons on the North Side (1993 and 1994).

The issue is that Plesac recently signed an extension with MLB Network, though the Northwest Indiana native could be interested in returning home.

Sutcliffe is a big personality who recently told the Chicago Tribune that hes under contract with ESPN for one more year. Hes viewed as a real long shot, because the sense is that he would have to do more work and travel for less money after making national appearances on ESPN.

Sutcliffe the National Leagues Cy Young Award winner in 1984 also enjoys going to Cubs camp in Arizona as an instructor for spring training.

While working the World Series, Karros told the Chicago Sun-Times that hes not blocked contractually, and revealed that he was once approached about replacing the late Ron Santo on WGN Radio after No. 10s death in December 2010.

Karros wasnt interested in the job that went to Keith Moreland, but this is a different story. Karros only spent one season on the North Side, but 2003 was an unforgettable year, and hes still remembered as a go-to guy for the media in that clubhouse.

Karros went to UCLA and does television work around the Los Angeles Dodgers and national games on Fox.

Hollandsworth the pre- and postgame analyst on Comcast SportsNet has kept up his profile nationally with MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM. Hollandsworth has filled in for Brenly before, around the All-Star break, when Brenly would go watch his son Michael play for a Cubs affiliate in the minor-league system.

As a color commentator for the Philadelphia Phillies, Matthews already knows the day-to-day demands of the job. Sarge played for the Cubs (1984-1987), and coached on Dusty Bakers staff (2003-2006), so he also understands the market.

Brenly was a WGN employee and drew praise for the way he mixed in music, pop culture, in-game strategy and pointed criticism while developing a real chemistry with play-by-play man Len Kasper across the last eight seasons.

WGN is expected to take the lead in this round of negotiations, with the Cubs having their say and Comcast SportsNet giving input.

The Cubs will be looking to cash in once their television contract with WGN expires after the 2014 season. Last year that didnt prevent Kasper from getting an extension through 2016, and they would presumably want to build their broadcasting team for whatever shape their next television deal takes.

Joe Maddon finally sees Cubs playing with the right 'mental energy'

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USA TODAY

Joe Maddon finally sees Cubs playing with the right 'mental energy'

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Joe Maddon looked back on the perfect baseball storm that hit the Tampa Bay Rays and played all the greatest hits for local reporters, waxing poetic about the banners hanging inside Tropicana Field, stumping for a new stadium on the other side of the Gandy Bridge, telling Don Zimmer stories, namedropping Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and riffing on sabermetrics and information buckets.

But the moment of clarity came in the middle of a media session that lasted 20-plus minutes, Maddon sitting up on stage in what felt like the locker room at an old CYO gym: “We only got really good because the players got really good.”

There’s no doubt the Cubs have the talent to go along with all the other big-market advantages the Rays could only dream about as the have-nots in the American League East. Now it looks like the defending champs have finally got rid of the World Series hangover, playing with the urgency and pitch-to-pitch focus that had been lacking at times and will be needed again in October.    

Maddon essentially admitted it after Tuesday’s 2-1 victory, watching his team beat Chris Archer and work together on a one-hitter that extended the winning streak to seven games and kept the Milwaukee Brewers 3.5 games back in the National League Central.

“You’re really seeing them try to execute in moments,” Maddon said. “When they come back and they don’t get it done, it’s not like they’re angry. But you can just see they’re disappointed in themselves.

“Their mental energy is probably at an all-season-high right now.”

Six days after the Cubs moved him to the bullpen, lefty swingman Mike Montgomery took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, when Tampa Bay’s No. 9 hitter (Brad Miller) drove a ball over the center-field wall. Maddon then went to the relievers he will trust in October – Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Wade Davis – with the All-Star closer striking out the side in the ninth inning and remaining perfect in save opportunities (32-for-32) as a Cub.       

“We want to go out there and prove every day that we’re the best team in baseball,” said Kyle Schwarber, the designated hitter who launched Archer’s 96-mph fastball into the right-center field seats for his 28th home run in the second inning. “The way our guys are just going out there and competing, it’s really good to see, especially this time of year. It’s getting to crunch time, and we just got to keep this same pace that we’re going at.

“Don’t worry about things around us. Just keep our heads down, keep worrying about the game and go from there.”     

In what’s been a season-long victory lap, Maddon couldn’t help looking back when the sound system started playing The Beach Boys and “Good Vibrations” echoed throughout the domed stadium, a tribute running on the video board and a crowd of 25,046 giving him a standing ovation.

“It was cool,” Maddon said. “I forgot about the bird, the cockatoo, I can’t remember the name. Really a cool bird. I told (my wife) Jaye I wanted one of those for a while. But then again, she gets stuck taking care of them.

“I was just thinking about all the things we did. You forget sometimes that snake. I think her name was Francine, like a 19-year-old, 20-footer. And then the penguin on my chair. You forget all the goofy stuff you did. But you can see how much fun everybody had.

“I appreciated it. They showed all my pertinent highlights. There’s none actually as a player. It’s primarily as a zookeeper.”

But within the last week, you can see the Cubs getting more serious, concentrating on their at-bats and nailing their pitches. There is internal competition for roster spots and playing time in the postseason, when Maddon becomes ruthless and doesn’t care at all about making friends. This just might be another perfect storm.

Montgomery – who notched the final out in the 10th inning of last year’s World Series Game 7 – put it this way: “I feel ready for anything after how this year’s gone.” 

Are Cubs lining up Jake Arrieta to start Game 1 vs. Nationals?

Are Cubs lining up Jake Arrieta to start Game 1 vs. Nationals?

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Are the Cubs lining up Jake Arrieta to start Game 1 against the Washington Nationals?

“I’m not even anywhere near that,” manager Joe Maddon said during Tuesday’s pregame media session with the Chicago media, immediately shifting his focus back to the decisions he would have to make that night – how hard to push catcher Willson Contreras coming off the disabled list, what the Cubs would get out of lefty Mike Montgomery, how the bullpen sets up – against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“Players can do that kind of stuff. I don’t think managers can. Honestly, I don’t want to say I don’t care about that. I just don’t worry about that, because there’s nothing to worry about yet. Because first of all, he’s got to be well when he pitches, too.”

Arrieta had just completed a throwing session at Tropicana Field and declared himself ready to face the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday at Miller Park. That would be the Cy Young Award winner’s first start since suffering a Grade 1 right hamstring strain on Labor Day. It would set him up to face the St. Louis Cardinals next week at Busch Stadium and start Game 162 against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.

“The plan is to be out there Thursday,” said Arrieta, who would be limited to 75-80 pitches against the Brewers and build from there, trying to recapture what made him the National League pitcher of the month for August. “The good thing is the arm strength is there – it’s remained there – and I actually feel better for maybe having a little bit of time off.

“The idea is to be able to be out there the last game against Cincinnati – pretty much at full pitch count – and to be ready for the playoffs.”

Five days after that would be the beginning of the NL divisional round and what could be a classic playoff series between the defending champs and Dusty Baker’s Nationals. The Cubs started Jon Lester in Game 1 for all three playoff rounds during last year’s World Series run and their $155 million ace could open a Washington series with an extra day of rest.

“It’s inappropriate to talk about that now,” team president Theo Epstein said. “We have a lot of work to do, and those would be the guys that would help get us there in the first place. If you’re lucky enough to get into that situation, you’d just use all the factors. You guys all know – who’s going the best, who matches up the best, the most experienced – and we figure it out and go from there. But we’re still a good ways away from figuring that one out.”