Oh, you should have heard it.
Maybe you did hear it -- the anguished teeth-gnashing last fall when both Chip Caray and Steve Stone left the Cubs' broadcast booth.
"Oh! It'll never be the same!" "Stoney's part of the ballclub!" "They forced him out!" "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
(Whoops! That last one belongs to Ron Santo, of course.)
Today marked the TV debut of the new broadcast team, Len Kasper and Bob Brenly. Brenly's somewhat of a known quantity to Cubs fans, because he was a WGN radio analyst for a couple of years in the early '90s, as well as being heard nationally on Fox-TV's baseball broadcasts after his dismissal as Diamondbacks manager last summer.
Kasper and Brenly, as I wrote during the Cubs convention, were friendly and open during their convention meet-and-greet session, but of course it's easy to say what everyone wants to hear, not so easy to slide into slots that have been held by some legendary broadcasters for the last fifty-plus years.
If you've heard much of the telecast today, I think you'll agree with me -- we're going to be just fine. Kasper's understated delivery reminded my friend Dan, and me as well, of Skip Caray's voice, and if he eventually shows some of the dry wit that I enjoy from Skip, he's going to be one of my favorites. And yes, I understand that Skip Caray is an acquired taste, and not everyone likes him.
Kasper showed his versatility by doing a very informative, and yet funny, booth interview with Jim Hendry. In addition to asking him about acquisitions -- Hendry pointed out that nothing's set in stone, that they are looking around still, and that the re-signing of Nomar (who homered today, his second of the spring) is really almost like getting a marquee free agent (a concept with which I agree) -- he also gently poked fun at something that baseball folks know about Hendry, which is that he is incessantly on his cellphone. They also did a nice interview with the Tribune's Paul Sullivan later in the game.
I think Kasper isn't quite sure how to handle his home run call, because he seemed a bit tentative calling Nomar's, but this is something he'll work into.
The broadcast crew also revealed that they are starting a blog. Why? "Because everyone else is." Hey, we were here first!
I also like the new WGN scorebox -- much larger and easier to read, without being obtrusive. It does look odd seeing that "LAA" instead of "ANA" for the Angels franchise.
I actually wasn't expecting to see the game today, as Mark's basketball league team had its playoff day -- which could have lasted all day. But, they lost their first game and were eliminated.
The game, which was close for seven innings, was broken open off Eddie Oropesa in the 8th, and then Jon Leicester couldn't finish off the Angels until six runs had scored. Just as well, then, that the feed from Mesa went out briefly in the bottom of the 8th; the Cubs went on to lose to the Angels 8-3. Then Stephen Randolph, another lefty trying to fill the LOOGY spot in the bullpen, walked the leadoff man in the 9th, then put them down in order. All things considered, he didn't look too bad.
Jason Dubois hit his third home run of the spring, a consolation shot in the 9th. Good. If he keeps doing this, even Dusty Baker won't be able to sit him down.
Greg Maddux threw what is becoming somewhat of a typical late-career Maddux game: allowing a couple of runs in the first inning, then settling down. He didn't give up anything after the first, when he allowed a two-run homer to Garret Anderson, and threw strikes throughout. That's something he didn't do early last season.
Hey, you've got to find encouraging signs wherever you can, right?