At last weekend’s Cubs Convention, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney presented quite a bit of information about the Marquee Sports Network, which will be the source for 150 Cubs games in 2020 and beyond (all but the 12 you’ll see on national networks FOX or ESPN), as well as many more hours worth of Cubs content.
There were still some unanswered questions I had (and many of you had as well) about how the games will be seen on the network, so I spoke with Cubs play-by-play voice Len Kasper about his role. 2020 will be Len’s 16th year behind the TV mike for the Cubs. The 16 years matches Harry Caray’s tenure with the Cubs (1982-97) and as far as Cubs TV is concerned, only Jack Brickhouse (1948-81) served in that position longer.
Kasper will pass Caray in 2021, as both he and Jim Deshaies have signed multi-year contracts to continue as the principal voices in the booth. As you learned from the Convention sessions, the Cubs/Marquee have signed a large number of people to also be game broadcasters, in addition to Cole Wright, who will be Marquee’s main studio host. While Wright’s broadcasting career most recently had him working for NFL Network, he is a Chicago-area native (Waubonsie Valley High School) who grew up a huge Cubs fan.
Taylor McGregor will be the field reporter for games. She most recently worked in that position for Colorado Rockies games, and is the daughter of former Rockies president Keli McGregor, who passed away in 2010. Here’s a profile of Taylor McGregor from the Denver Post published in 2018.
Former Cubs players Mark DeRosa, Ryan Dempster, Doug Glanville, Jason Hammel, Carlos Pena, Dan Plesac and Rick Sutcliffe, former Cubs manager Lou Piniella and FOX broadcaster Chris Myers are also joining the Marquee Network. Some of these men who have on-air roles with other networks (FOX, ESPN, MLB Network) will retain those positions while working part-time for Marquee.
According to Len Kasper, Myers will fill in for him on about 10 games during the season as well as doing pre- and post-game work. You will see Len doing some non-Cubs games for FOX this season, and might also hear him on the Score filling in for Pat Hughes on occasion, when Pat takes some time off. Len will also call almost all Cubs spring training games, and at this writing it’s unclear whether the audio webcasts that he and Mick Gillispie hosted in previous years will continue. I have reached out to the Cubs for more information on this and will report back when I find out the status of the audio webcasts.
As far as the players or Piniella are concerned, they will make occasional appearances in the booth, possibly as a third man in the booth or filling in occasionally for JD. (Personally, I don’t care for three-man booths; there’s never enough time for all three to make appropriate conversation.)
While the network still doesn’t have a deal with Comcast in Chicago, they announced at the Convention deals with 22 other providers. The full list is in this Tribune article. Most of those are small carriers in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa (and one in Omaha!); the largest are Metronet (Chicago, Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne, Peoria, Terre Haute and the Quad Cities) and RCN, which covers parts of Chicago. It’s estimated that about 40 percent of the Chicago metro area is now covered, which clearly isn’t enough. If the Cubs can sign up Comcast, that would put them over 90 percent, close to 95. Hopefully that happens before Opening Day, March 26.
Hope that clears up some of the questions you might have had about the Marquee Network. It’s just four and a half weeks until its debut February 22, when the Cubs host the Oakland Athletics at Sloan Park for their first spring game of 2020. The Cubs will be playing 34 spring games this year. Of those, 28 will be televised on the network. Five others are split-squad games at the same time, so only one can be carried. One is yet unaccounted for here and might be picked up for national broadcast, though ESPN has not yet announced any national spring game broadcasts. I’ve reached out to ESPN for further information.
Here’s a short video produced by Marquee showing some of the things you’ll see when the network launches: