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BCB Interview: Bob Brenly

Thanks to Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly for answering nearly all the questions you all posted a couple of weeks ago. I'll continue the player projection series this afternoon.

BCB: How do you prepare for games and what kind of preparation do you do? Do you have any superstitions?

BB: Most of my prep work is done during batting practice. The Cub coaches graciously allow me access to the stats and scouting reports on the opposition before BP. During BP I stand around the cage and listen to what the players and coaches are talking about. (corrections, changes, opposing pitchers, etc.) I'm not really superstitious now. I did enough of that when I was managing.

BCB: Can you compare what it was like calling a Cubs game and a game on TBS? At times, viewing the TBS playoff broadcasts, it felt as if they weren't quite "ready for prime time". How did it feel inside the announcers booth?

BB: National games are completely different from local games. Even though I don't consider myself a "homer" I think it's obvious I want the Cubs to win. Every day. Every game. On a national broadcast you really have to play it right down the middle. No favorites, just a good game. National shows are more of an event, lots of bells and whistles. Our Cub telecasts are more about the ebb and flow of a long season and even if this game happens to stink, we'll be back to do it again tomorrow. TBS did have some real challenges putting together the post-season crews on short notice. I know I enjoyed working with Chip Caray and Tony Gwynn and our crew from TBS.

BCB: From your previous stint in Chicago as a radio announcer, what's your favorite Harry Caray memory?

BB: On getaway days on the road, Harry had a limo to take him from the ballpark to the airport. Everyone else rode the team bus. On occasion, Harry would come by the radio booth after the game and say, "You're going with me, kid." We would make at least one to three stops on our way to the plane and the stops weren't at museums. I always looked forward to that ride to the airport.

BCB: Who's your favorite broadcaster of all-time? Besides Len, of course.

BB: There are a lot of current broadcasters I think are really good. All-time it's hard to beat Vin Scully.

BCB: To what do you attribute the great chemistry you seem to have with Len, and how long do you think it took to develop?

BB: We both have a tremendous love and respect for the game and the players who play it the right way. The rest is just timing. Getting to know one another's non-verbal language really helps.

BCB: It's been rumored that you were being pursued by several organizations regarding a managerial position. Would you rather be sitting in the booth calling the game or would you rather be sitting on the bench managing the game?

BB: I really enjoyed managing the teams we had in AZ. The 2001 team was truly special. That being said, the lows seemed lower than the highs seemed high if that makes any sense.

BCB: You are paid to explain your expertise in baseball to average fans. What part of the game itself do you think fans know the least about? (Don't worry, we can take the criticism)

BB: I'm not sure if fans realize how truly random this game can be. The only things you can really control are effort and preparation. That is really the only time I'm critical of players and managers -- when they aren't physically and mentally prepared to play or when there is a lack of effort. No excuse.

BCB: Give us some examples of times when you really have to bite your tongue about on field play. What type of things have you wanted to say on the air but as a professional employed by the club you really have to back off about? Also, what kinds of things would you feel comfortable criticizing from the bench but not from the booth, if any?

BB: Nobody has ever censored or warned me what to say or not say. On occasion the 7th inning stretch singers cause me to cover my ears, but not bite my tongue.

BCB: What do you think of Len's use of sabermetric stats and concepts? On the air, you seem open-minded but a bit skeptical. Is that accurate?

BB: Len is very open minded when it comes to thinking outside the box. I definitely think there is a place for new statistical analysis of the game, but I place great value on intangibles and instinct. It's hard to quantify those things.

BCB: Besides Wrigley, what is your favorite stadium to call a Cubs game and why?

BB: Besides Wrigley, I would have to say Busch Stadium is one of my favorites because it's so much fun to watch Cardinal fans cry in their beer when the Cubs win there.

BCB: If you could make only one improvement to Wrigley Field, what would it be? (meaning the structure itself)

BB: Dome it with a see through retractable dome. Like one of those snow globes. Only if the weather is bad.

BCB: Will you and Len be doing your podcast for WGN again this season? And, if so, will the shows be any longer? They were really short last year!

BB: I think we are doing the podcast again. The length of shows depends on when the podcast studios are completed.

BCB: How often are the messages and questions left for them through WGN and CSN checked? About how many are you allowed to respond to during a game?

BB: The guys in the truck go through all the messages we get during a game and suggest some to read on the air. We could spend entire games responding to messages we get.

BCB: How did you develop your on-air sense of humor? What are your inspirations for your broadcast style?

BB: I learned from 6 seasons in the minor leagues that there is definitely a place for humor in the game and that includes the booth. Over the course of spring training and a regular season you will see some things that you can't help laughing at. Some of the stories that you hear on a daily basis would make for a great sitcom or stand-up routine. Of course, we can't repeat much of it, but you get the idea. I don't think I really had an inspiration for my style -- I don't even know what my style is. I just look for things, some obvious, some not so obvious, that I think people may be interested in. I try to anticipate what might (not should) happen.

BCB: How do you honestly feel about interviewing the guest conductor in the bottom of the 7th inning? And, would you ever consider leading the seventh-inning stretch by playing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on your guitar?

BB: Fortunately, Len is so good with the 7th inning guests I don't feel I have to pipe in unless I have a question I think fans may want to have asked. I've never tried to play "Take me out to the ball game" on my guitar. I would do it only if I thought I could do it justice.

BCB: What four current umpires would you pick to form the best officiating crew? Which of the four would you choose to be behind the plate?

BB: Are you really going to ask me about umpires? I will admit baseball umpires are far superior to football and basketball officials at the same level. That's about as good as I can do.

BCB: Does 2007 stick out in your head as an odd/strange year? If not, were you ever around a team that had as crazy a year as last year was for the Cubs?

BB: 2007 sure had its share of odd occurrences. Maybe more than its share. Every year and every team has weird stuff happen. The fact is you only hear about a small percentage of the oddities that go on. In the Cubs case, so much of their dirty laundry was aired in very public ways, it just seemed like every day was a soap opera. I played for a Giants team that was so dysfunctional that by the end of the year we had a player who was so far in the doghouse he wore white Stan Smith tennis shoes during the game. (he knew he had no chance of ever getting into a game) During one game our manager wanted to use a guy to pinch hit. He was out in the players lot washing his car. It happens all the time, everywhere.

BCB: Who do you see as legitimate NL contenders this year, and why?

BB: In no particular order: L.A. -- great pitching, if healthy. Col. -- young players who should only get better. Mets -- loaded everywhere. Az. -- same as Col., Haren will help. Cubs -- as talented as any team in the NL.

BCB: Which current Cub player reminds you the most of how you approached the game and how you addressed those opportunities each game could present? And, which of your peers, in your own baseball generation, did you admire the most?

BB: It's no secret that I'm a huge Theriot fan. The "Riot" is a max effort grinder that just finds ways to help you win a game. Mark DeRosa is such an important part of this team because of his unselfishness and versatility. During my playing days I liked Pete Rose for the way he approached every game. Ryno for his high level of consistency. Tony Gwynn for how great a hitter he was. Mike Krukow for being a great teammate.

BCB: As a former catcher, what is your analysis of Geovany Soto's defense and pitch calling skills?

BB: Too early to tell. I like his take charge attitude. He got in Zambrano's face a couple times late last year.

BCB: Lou Piniella has mentioned that he feels there is an advantage to going into spring training knowing the personnel already, as opposed to last year. Speaking as a former manager, how much of a difference will that make? Is it quantifiable?

BB: Lou's familiarity with the players is important but I think it is more important that the players now know better what to expect from Lou. As a manager, it is easier to make decisions knowing what your players are capable of doing, even based on one year's experience.

BCB: How much interaction do you have with the team? Are you able to give advice -- is it encouraged or discouraged? Do the players ask?

BB: I have daily access to the players and coaches. A few guys have asked, "what do you see?" when talking about their swing. I've talked to a few pitchers about pitch selection in general. I don't volunteer advice because I know no one knows better than the coaches what is going on with their own guys. I would never step on those toes.

BCB: Which current Cubs players would you say have the highest "baseball IQ"s?

BB: Baseball IQ? Isn't that an oxymoron? DeRosa seems to have a great handle on the subtleties of the game. I've heard Fukudome is a well-schooled player. Of course, any catchers on the roster.

BCB: If you could bring back some missing element of the game from the past, what would it be?

BB: I liked it better when every one wasn't best friends. We used to get fined for fraternizing with the other team before a game. Now, it looks like a family reunion around the cage during BP.

BCB: Your son plays ball; does he ask for your opinion often or do you offer suggestions to him?

BB: I probably offer more suggestions than he wants to hear. When I go to one of his games I take pictures with a high speed camera or a video recorder and we analyze his swings. He is so much more advanced than I was at his age it's ridiculous.

BCB: When are you and Len going to release your debut CD?

BB: We joked about that at this year's Bash. At this rate (2 songs per year) it will take about 6 years to have enough tunes for a CD.

BCB: From an OU grad... got any good stories from your days playing baseball at Ohio University? What was your favorite bar to frequent on Court Street?

BB: Ohio University was an awesome place to attend when I was there. It's a beautiful campus, the Halloween spectacular was just beginning, there were more bars than classroom buildings, great friends, oh yeah, and I got my degree. (still not sure how) We used to hang out at the Cat's Den. Several upperclass ballplayers tended bar there. We hit them all though. I still remember $1.50 pitchers of malt liquor on Thursday nights at the student union. Cheap was good! I also remember road trips to Parkersburg, W. Va. to load up for the weekends. (W. Va. drinking age at the time was 18)