By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) When it comes to replacing Bob Brenly in the TV booth, the Chicago Cubs don’t just need a color man for 2013.
They need a colorful man. Very colorful.
After all, for the Lovable Losers, next season has the looks of another lean one – and, by this point, that’s hardly lovable. Considering that another triple-digit-loss season is a strong possibility and the dearth of star power on the field, it’s crucial for the Cubs to replace another star alongside play-by-play man Len Kasper up in the booth.
Because, if the team is hoping for fans to tune in to watch a game in August with the Cubs 20 games out, they need a compelling reason.
Or, even better, an entertaining one.
On Friday in his column for the Chicago Tribune, 670 The Score’s Dan McNeil astutely observed that, “We have a much more intimate relationship with those behind the microphones for our baseball teams than other sports. For six months, on an almost daily basis, baseball announcers become our companions. They are guests in our living rooms. Our cars. Our headphones.”
The last things Cubs fans want is a dull summertime companion. And the last thing the Cubs can afford is an analyst incapable of taking the attention off the on-field product when the team is stinking up the joint.
Thus far, in regards to potential replacements for Brenly we’ve seen the likes of Cubs icons Mark Grace, Rick Sutcliffe and Kerry Wood names thrown around. We’ve seen ESPN’s Doug Glanville and Comcast Sports Net’s Todd Hollandsworth and MLB Network’s Dan Plesac have their names pop up as well, along with White Sox analyst Steve Stone and Fox Sports’ Steve Lyons.
But on Friday, my long-suffering Cubs fan buddy Ryan tossed out a name that I haven’t seen yet when he emailed to say: “I’ve never heard his name mentioned, and doubt it would ever happen. But John Kruk would be a hoot.”
And, jeez, wouldn’t he be?
Not only does the roly-poly, everyman analyst for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight know his baseball, Kruk also produces more laughs per minute than most comedians. His presence in the booth alongside Kasper would almost certainly make for “Must-See TV” during even the crummiest of Cubs seasons – which we might just see in 2013.
For example, I’d love to hear Kruk recount the tale of how he once told a catcalling critic, “Lady, I’m not an athlete. I’m a professional baseball player.” Or, it would be a blast to hear him share gems such as, “I would think I drive most hitting coaches crazy. During one single at-bat I used six different stances on six pitches. Oh yeah, I also struck out. So what do I know?”
For stories such as those – and who knows what other ones – I’d surely tune in to watch Cubs games in 2013.
Even with Chris Volstad on the mound.
Since 2004, Kruk has worked for ESPN and surely he earns a nice chunk of change with the network. There are no indications that he’s looking to leave Bristol, and as a longtime Philadelphia Phillies star and West Virginia native, Kruk also has no connection to the Cubs.
That said, neither did Brenly before he rolled into town eight years ago. And by most accounts, the Cubs’ color analyst position is considered among the very best in professional sports. So, who knows, maybe “Kruky” would be interested if the Cubs asked him to come to town.
Perhaps the biggest downside of Kruk rolling into Wrigley would be Kasper having to deal with his notorious eating habits.
Baltimore Orioles manager and former ESPN analyst Buck Showalter once said about working with Kruk: “Have you seen the rigors of ESPN at 3 o’clock in the morning when a guy blows a save on the west coast and you have to stick around for another two hours? … You wanna think about tough times, is being around him at 2 o’clock in the morning when he’s hungry. That’s not good.”
Yeah, maybe not.
But imagine the stories Kasper could tell.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.