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posted: 8/20/2012 1:45 AM

While tough to see, change for Cubs was inevitable

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  • Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija figures to come to spring training next year trying to win the job of opening-day starter.

    Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija figures to come to spring training next year trying to win the job of opening-day starter.
    Associated Press


Q. The big off-field news last week centered around the firing of some long-tenured people in the baseball department. Was this a surprise to you?

A. It's always a surprise when you hear about long-tenured, well-respected members of the organization being dismissed.

Oneri Fleita, the Cubs VP of player personnel, and Chuck Wasserstrom, manager of baseball information, had been in the organization for a long time.

On a personal level, of course it's tough to see them go.

But, from a baseball/business perspective, it really isn't surprising that a new baseball operations president would want to construct the front office exactly how he wants to.

Jim Hendry brought Fleita and Wasserstrom into his inner circle, and Theo Epstein should be allowed to surround himself with people he is most comfortable with.

When you think about it, there haven't been that many defections/firings since Theo took over. He added to his staff more than replaced people.

But after spending almost a full season evaluating, he probably will make more moves coming up. That's just the way the business works.

I think everyone in the game understands that change is inevitable, particularly for a franchise that is going through a huge transition on the baseball side of the business.

Q. Jeff Samardzija seems to be getting stronger as the season goes on. Is it crazy to think he could be the Cubs' opening-day starter next year?

A. Not at all. The Matt Garza situation over the winter certainly will affect it.

If Garza is back, you could make the case he deserves the opening-day assignment, but there's no guarantee he will still be here.

Samardzija has really emerged as the staff leader since the Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster trades and the Garza injury, and I guarantee his goal going into spring training will be to earn that coveted opening-day assignment.

Q. The Reds appear to be pulling away with the division. Can anyone catch them?

A. At this point, it doesn't look like it. The Pirates have picked a bad time to go into a slump, and while the Cardinals aren't playing poorly, the Reds have created a lot of separation.

I do think last year's wild-card races prove that anything's possible. But the Reds would have to totally collapse to not win the Central.

Q. How hard is all the losing on you and Bob Brenly in the booth?

A. Losing isn't fun for anyone associated with the ballclub. The games are much easier to call when the team is winning, no doubt.

But I always look for the silver lining, and seasons like this are a good challenge from a pure broadcasting standpoint.

I think we have brought a lot of interesting things to the table this year, including Stats Sunday, which have kept the broadcasts fresh and fun.

Of course, the game is always the "star" of the show, but when the contest gets lopsided we still have to keep it informative and entertaining.

I tell people all the time, "You can turn the TV off in the sixth. I can't!"

A colleague of mine once joked to me that in a winning season you probably could broadcast bar tone over the pictures of the game and your ratings still would be good.

But in a losing season the broadcasters become much more important.

I think there's some truth in that. On a personal level, it means more to me when people compliment our work during a losing season than during a winning one.

When the Cubs are good, people seem to like us a little better. When the team is bad, I feel like we have to work a bit harder for fans' attention.

•Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter;[URL]. Subscriber Total Access members can email him [/URL]questions;[URL] each week via our online link.[/URL]

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