Plesac, Glanville out; Deshaies in the mix for Cubs TV job

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Plesac, Glanville out; Deshaies in the mix for Cubs TV job

Updated: 9:10 p.m.

The Cubs could go in several different directions and find their next voice for the broadcast booth. It wont become the existential crisis that was the American League MVP debate Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout but whoever is hired to replace Bob Brenly will generate strong reactions from the fans.

The search process led by WGN continues, and you can add at least one more name to the list: Jim Deshaies. Sources confirmed the longtime Houston Astros color analyst recently interviewed for the job.

Another source said that Dan Plesac who was viewed as a frontrunner informed WGN on Friday that hes withdrawing from consideration and will remain at the MLB Network.

Judging by the messages across Twitter, Doug Glanville definitely appealed to a certain demographic. Heres a University of Pennsylvania graduate, a gifted writer for The New York Times who gets social media and has a three-dimensional view of the game.

Contact was made, but the two sides never had a sit-down. Theres an extension with ESPN in the works, according to a source close to Glanville, so cross him off the list.

The X-factor is what happens when WGNs contract expires after the 2014 season and the Cubs look to cash in on the local television deals that have fundamentally changed the baseball economy.

Earlier this month, sources identified five contenders who were targeted for interviews: Plesac; Rick Sutcliffe; Eric Karros; Gary Matthews; and Todd Hollandsworth.

Sutcliffe is under contract at ESPN and viewed as a long shot given his high profile. Karros has a broad television portfolio, working nationally on Fox and around Los Angeles Dodgers local broadcasts.

Sarge has done the job before, calling games for the Philadelphia Phillies. Hollandsworth, who has occasionally filled in for Brenly, is the pre- and postgame analyst on Comcast SportsNet, which will have some input along with the Cubs and WGN.

With these ex-Cubs believed to be in play, its worth noting that Brenly was a relative outsider when he replaced Steve Stone. Brenly played almost his entire career with the San Francisco Giants and returned to their coaching staff after spending two seasons in the WGN radio booth with Harry Caray and Thom Brennaman.

Brenly lasted eight seasons alongside play-by-play man Len Kasper before the Arizona Diamondbacks made what sounded like an offer he couldnt refuse. The two had developed a strong chemistry, even when the on-field product was barely watchable.

Brenly accepted the new job in October and went back to his home in the desert. Nothings imminent his replacement might not be named for a few more weeks.

Deshaies never played for the Cubs, but one rave review described a broadcasting style that sounded Brenly-esque. Heres what the Houston Press wrote in its Best of section for 2008, naming the citys best commentator:

Jim Deshaies had some tough shoes to fill when he took over the Astros analyst spot from Larry Dierker. But lets just say, as J.D. settles into his second decade as the Astros TV analyst, that he has not only surpassed Dierker, he has perhaps surpassed every other analyst in baseball. The former starting pitcher knows the ins and outs of the game, from pitching to hitting to fielding to strategy.

Best of all, hes not a homer, and if the good guys goof up, hell let you know how and why. And then theres his quick wit and his ability to throw out a Seinfeld reference or obscure pop culture trivia at a moments notice. Nothing gets past Deshaies, and, if you pay attention, youll learn more from him than just about any baseball geek in the country.

Within the past 13 months or so, the Astros have transitioned to a new ownership group and a new front office, and they will be moving to a new league and a new television home, switching from Fox Sports Houston to the recently launched CSN Houston.

On Oct. 3 at Wrigley Field, a 101-loss Cubs team beat a 107-loss Astros team, mercifully ending their seasons. That day, the Houston Chronicle reported that Deshaies is expected back next season. Stay tuned.

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

MIAMI – Kyle Schwarber’s offensive spiral had gone on for so long and gotten so deep that the shock value of sending a potential franchise player to Triple-A quickly wore off once the news broke on Twitter.

The Cubs sent their message directly to Schwarber. Even if the bosses wanted to, the Cubs couldn’t put the rest of the clubhouse on edge by demoting a .171 hitter with 260-plus plate appearances in late June. 

The Cubs are in survival mode, not a position to play mind tricks, beginning an 11-games-in-11-days road trip with World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (sore left wrist), Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward (cut left hand) and Cy Young Award finalist Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) all on the disabled list.   

The Cubs didn’t rebook Schwarber to Iowa so he can be converted into a pitcher. An aging, stressed rotation remains a much bigger concern than the boom-and-bust periods with a young offense. 

All these circumstances made a vintage Jake Arrieta performance during Thursday night’s 11-1 win at Marlins Park so important. Whether or not the Cubs make a blockbuster trade for a pitcher, there are still five-plus weeks left until buyers and sellers will feel the urgency of a deadline.   

“If something presents itself that makes sense, we’ll certainly jump on it,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “But to us, the answers are in that clubhouse. We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut. The answers are in there, and we believe in those guys. 

“Will we be active? No question. But that’s not going to happen for a while and there’s a lot of games to be played between now and July 31.”

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On a night where he felt “low energy,” rocked a new buzz cut and covered his right thumb with Dermabond to treat a cut/blister issue that can be traced back to spring training, Arrieta needed only 82 pitches to get through seven innings, completely shutting down a strong Miami lineup except for a Marcell Ozuna home run.

Arrieta’s inconsistencies (7-5, 4.36 ERA) have mirrored a 37-35 team, but he didn’t hesitate when asked where he is at now in a season that has so far not lived up to his Cy Young/All-Star expectations.  

“I’m close,” Arrieta said. “I’m really close.”

The Cubs are still the defending champs. Kris Bryant unleashed an MVP swing when he launched a three-run homer into the left-center field patio deck. Blocking out a messy personal situation, All-Star shortstop Addison Russell almost hit for the cycle (no triple) the day after getting questions about his divorce and a Major League Baseball investigation. This year’s Schwarber – rookie Ian Happ – also went 4-for-5 and gave the team another jolt.  

“It’s tough to see Schwarber go down,” Arrieta said. “We know that he’s going to be one of our mainstays in the lineup eventually. He’s hit a rough patch and it happens to the best of us. 

“I’ve been there. I talked to him yesterday a little bit about just keeping his head down and going to work and getting his at-bats and trying to find that comfort level. He’ll be back soon. He’s a tremendous hitter who’s going through some struggles and he’s going to right the ship. There’s no doubt about that. He’s too good of a hitter.

“A night like tonight where we pitch well and we score 11 runs, it looks easy. But it’s about consistency and trying to build off of a night like tonight. We’ve got the guys necessary to do so. We’re very capable of doing that.”

Especially if Arrieta gets hot again and shows how he can lift an entire team. 

“To get Jake pitching that kind of quality game again is going to be a big boon to us,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

MIAMI – Everything aligned for the Cubs to make Kyle Schwarber their leadoff hitter. Joe Maddon’s gut instincts told him to do it – so the manager asked the Geek Department to run the numbers – and the projections backed him up. A front office raised on Bill James principles endorsed the idea after Dexter Fowler took an offer he couldn’t refuse – five years and $82.5 million – from the St. Louis Cardinals.
   
It all looked good on paper and sounded reasonable in theory. But by the time the Cubs made the Schwarber-to-Iowa move official before Thursday’s game at Marlins Park, the slugger once compared to Babe Ruth in a pre-draft scouting report had devolved into the qualified hitter with the lowest batting average in the majors (.171) and an .OPS 75 points below the league average.  

If Schwarber had been batting, say, sixth since Opening Day, would the Cubs be in a different spot right now?   

“Obviously, I can’t answer that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s an impossible question to answer. We put him in a leadoff position and he struggled. We obviously moved him out of that position (and) that didn’t work either. I know that’s what people are going to point to, because that’s a variable in his career. 

“Obviously, hitting him leadoff in 2017 didn’t work. Whether or not it caused the tailspin, I have no way to answer that question.”   

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The Cubs also deserve credit for: drafting Schwarber when the industry viewed him as a reach with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014; fast-tracking his development to the point where he could help the 2015 team win 97 games and two playoff rounds; and overseeing a rehab process that allowed him to be a World Series designated hitter less than seven months after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.    
 
The Cubs will have their hitting instructors give Schwarber subtle suggestions, focusing on how he starts his swing and where he finishes, trying to reestablish his balance and confidence during this Triple-A timeout.
    
But deep down, this is a 24-year-old player who never experienced a full season in the big leagues before and wanted so bad to be a huge part of The Cubs Way.

“I do think a lot of the problems are mental,” Hoyer said. “These struggles have kind of beaten him up a little bit. Like anyone would, he’s lost a little bit of his swagger, and I think he needs to get that back. But I think when you look at what a great fastball hitter he’s been – how good he was in ’15, how good he was last year in the World Series – the fact that he hasn’t been pounding fastballs this year is a mechanical/physical issue that we’ll be looking to tweak. 

“This is a guy that has always murdered fastballs and he’s not there right now.”