It was a unique off-season for me, to say the least, after my longtime booth partner, Bob Brenly, left the Cubs to broadcast games for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For Bob, it marked a return to where he managed the team to a World Series title and, just as important, to his year-round home in Scottsdale. We had built a great rapport over our eight seasons together and I will always be grateful to him for making me sound better every day just by getting to sit next to him.
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Having said that, when I received the news that Jim Deshaies had accepted an offer to replace Bob, I couldn't believe how fortunate we were to grab one of the most underrated color analysts in the game today.
It's not fair to compare JD to Bob or vice-versa because they both bring their own unique perspective to the job. But, I will do it anyway because they have many qualities in common.
They are both extremely low-maintenance guys whose easygoing personalities shine through on the air. And when you add the baseball knowledge, self-deprecating humor and pop culture references to the mix, you have two of the best, most instantly likable broadcasters in the business.
From my perspective, it makes the job so much fun and completely devoid of stress because I know my partner always has my back and teaches me something new about the game on a daily basis.
I was more than ready to get the season started because I knew how good JD was, and while I could tell that to Cubs' fans, they needed to hear it for themselves. I also wanted to work on getting in a groove and building that chemistry that only comes with time.
After a handful of spring training games and two weeks of the regular season, I feel like we are humming right along. He has already dropped some hilarious gems on the air, such as noting a helicopter flying over the ballpark with, "There's a high chopper over the mound." Last week he pointed out that the Brewers had three shortstops on their infield and compared them to the hands team getting set for a football onside kick.
That ability to quickly comment on something during the game in a simple, fun and sometimes even goofy way is something you can't teach. You either have it or you don't. And JD has it.
We all want insightful analysis from our former players in the booth, and JD brings it with a "gray, not black or white" approach, which I really appreciate. There are few absolutes in baseball and he can intelligently explain options when it comes to pitch selection, bullpen usage and other strategic decisions.
He also knows how difficult a game it is, and that comes from 12 years of pitching in the big leagues with a fastball that averaged about 85 miles an hour. He thrived for part of that career and, as he will gladly admit, survived during other years with stuff that was average at best.
As is the case with Bob, that success and failure as a player allow him to bring a dynamic perspective to the booth.
When Bob left, I was really unsure if we could recapture the fun and insight that he brought to our broadcasts on a daily basis, but I can proudly say we hit a home run with JD. I have been incredibly fortunate to work with two of the best in the business here in Chicago and my plan now is to ride JD's coattails for as long as I can.
• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]