Cubs welcome Deshaies to TV booth

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Cubs welcome Deshaies to TV booth

Not two minutes after stepping in front of the microphone, where hell replace Bob Brenly next season as the Cubs television color commentator, Jim Deshaies started to tell a story.

It was about the last start of his major-league pitching career, which took place at Wrigley Field in July of 1995. The summer was particularly hot, and he remembered being able to see the heat radiating off the towers at the Hyatt on Wacker, where his team, the Phillies, were staying. He knew his playing days were numbered I was on life support pretty close to flat-lining and with the wind blowing out and the temperature something like 105 degrees, the fly-ball pitcher was worried.

My career is going to end today, Deshaies thought. I knew it.

The room laughed. Deshaies joked that at least he acted as a good scout in predicting his own downfall. More laughs.

The Cubs officially introduced Deshaies on Wednesday as their new TV analyst with a press conference at Wrigley Field during which Deshaies featured the quick wit and honesty that prompted the Cubs to pull him away from the Houston Astros, where he left a 16-year partnership with play-by-play man Bill Brown that had been regarded as one of the best in baseball.

To a certain extent, I feel like Im breaking up the band there, said Deshaies, a former left-handed pitcher who went 84-95 with a 4.14 ERA in 12 seasons, seven with Houston.

But he was drawn to a city where baseball is relevant regardless of the year the team is having. The Astro guy had a hard time leaving Houston, but the baseball guy says this is the place to be.

Deshaies said Houstons upcoming move to the American League didnt affect his decision to leave. But the Astros havent had a winning season since 2008 and lost 106 games last year, five more than the Cubs.

Deshaies, 52, signed a four-year contract that will pair him with Len Kasper for Cubs games broadcast on WGN, Comcast SportsNet and WCIU. Other reported candidates were former Cubs Eric Karros, Dan Plesac and Rick Sutcliffe, but for a second straight time, the Cubs hired someone with no connection to the organization.

Deshaies quickly showed he gets the significance of the booth hell step into, which has been filled by Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray.

Im not going to pronounce any names backward, he joked.

Kaspers former partner, Brenly, left the Cubs after eight seasons for the same job in Arizona, where he won the 2001 World Series as the Diamondbacks manager.

Kasper and Brenly had also developed into a popular pair, but Deshaies personality seems to complement the usually straight-laced Kasper. While talking about his new partner, Kasper said that Deshaies humor will come in handy. Kasper didnt say this, but that might be most true next season as the Cubs continue to re-shape a team that lost 101 games in 2012.

You have to tell the truth and you have to have fun, said Deshaies, who wore a black blazer over a white shirt and a purple polka dot tie.

More of his self-assessment:

-- He said he points out players mistakes but is reluctant to bury guys because he thinks baseball is a difficult game and there is always context for any situation, which he learned when he once criticized an opposing player for not running hard to first base only to be told by one of the teams broadcasters that the player had a hamstring injury.

-- He prefers saying I dont know instead of bluffing and being wrong.

-- Hes a believer in sabermetrics, the statistics-based computer analysis that has swept over the game in recent years, but he understands that not all listeners want to hear about them all the time.

-- He likes to feel out players individually to get a sense of what theyre willing to share, and he makes it a point to be available to players before games in case they want to talk about a certain play he commented on.

Deshaies family wife Lori and daughters Libby, Molly and Kelly will move to Chicago after Kelly, the youngest, graduates high school next year. Libby is a second-year law student at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and Molly is a teacher.

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta is a Cy Young Award winner who won't get the Opening Night assignment. John Lackey is a No. 3 starter already fitted for his third World Series ring. Kyle Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA last year and won't start until the fifth game of this season.  

Do you feel like this is the best rotation in baseball?

"We're up there, yeah," Arrieta said after homering off Zack Greinke during Thursday afternoon's 5-5 tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "I think on paper – and with what we've actually done on the field – it's tough to not say that.

"We like the guys we have. People can rank them, but time will tell. Once we get out there the first four or five times through the rotation, I think you can probably put a stamp on it then, more so than now. 

"But, yeah, we stack up just as well as anybody out there, for sure."  

Arrieta made it through five innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up three runs and eight hits in what figures to be his second-to-last Cactus League tune-up before facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 4. 

The New York Mets blew away Cubs hitters with their power pitching and game-planning during that 2015 National League Championship Series sweep. The Washington Nationals are trying to keep Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg healthy and already watched Tanner Roark deliver for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Cubs dreaded the idea of facing Johnny Cueto in a possible elimination game at Wrigley Field last October. The Los Angeles Dodgers almost became a matchup nightmare for the Cubs with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill during the 2016 NLCS.

But slotting Hendricks at No. 5 – five months after he started a World Series Game 7 – is a luxury few contenders can afford. 

"That just speaks to our length in the rotation," Arrieta said, "and being able to keep relievers out of the game, longer than most teams. That's a big deal, especially when you get into July and August. 

"Obviously, Kyle could be a 1 or 2 just about anywhere. Not that he's not here. We've got several of those, which is a good problem to have. It's going to be favorable for us when there's a No. 4 or No. 5 guy in our rotation going up against somebody else's. Our chances are really good, especially with our lineup." 

Arrieta talked up No. 4 starter Brett Anderson as "a little bit like Hendricks from the left side" in terms of his preparation, cerebral nature and spin rate, a combination that makes him an X-factor for this rotation and an organization starved for pitching beyond 2017. 

The if-healthy disclaimer always comes with Anderson, who played with Arrieta on the 2008 Olympic team and has been on the disabled list nine times since then. Coming out of high school, Arrieta initially signed to play for Anderson's father, Frank, the Oklahoma State University coach at the time, before going in a different direction in a career that wouldn't truly take off until he got to Chicago. 

"We're all looking forward to seeing how we pick up where we left off," Arrieta said. "Judging by what we've done this spring and the shape guys are in and the health – I don't see any reason we can't jump out to an early lead like we did last year and sustain it throughout the entire season."
 

Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

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Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull sits down with CSN executive producers Ryan McGuffey and Sarah Lauch, the creators of 'Reign Men: The Story Behind Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, which premieres March 27 at 9:30 p.m. on CSN.

McGuffey and Lauch share their experience making the 52-minute documentary as they sifted through hours of sound from the likes of Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and more recapping one of the greatest baseball games ever played.

Plus, hear a sneak peak of 'Reign Men’ as Heyward and Epstein describe their perspective of the Rajai Davis game-tying homer and that brief rain delay that led to Heyward’s epic speech.

Check out the latest Cubs Talk Podcast right here: