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March 2017

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COMMENTS

Insight From Cubs’ Play-by-Play Man Len Kasper

Written by , Posted in General

I’m a pretty faithful daily listener to Buster Olney’s Baseball Tonight podcast. It goes live every morning around 9am Central Time and is an hour long each day. If you have any sort of long commute and you’re looking for a good baseball podcast, definitely check this one out.

Today was a great episode because he had our good friend Len Kasper on for his “Inside Heat” segment, which is reserved for reporters or other media members affiliated with particular ball clubs.

He asked Len a number of questions about different issues regarding the Cubs and how the team might look different this year. Len’s answers were insightful, and it was neat to hear his opinion on things, as he does a good job of trying to be more objective in the booth.

Here are some of the highlights from the conversation that I took away:

On Players Recovering From a Short Offseason

Len made a good point on this topic: Ben Zobrist already knows what this feels like. He has appeared in the World Series the last two years and is no spring chicken, so he knows what it’s like to have to come back from a short offseason (perhaps that’s why he’s been a bit dinged up this spring already). So, like he will likely do in a number of areas this year, Zobrist can provide some leadership in this respect.

He thinks the Cubs may have a more difficult time recovering from the hangover of last season mentally and emotionally than physically. I didn’t really agree with his point here, but I do think it is good that the Cubs are relying on young guys who can more easily recover from a short offseason than older veterans who may have a tougher time. I am actually most concerned with the pitching staff in this respect—it’s old.

On Replacing Dexter Fowler

Len told us what we already know: that the Cubs are going to be using a platoon in center field with Jon Jay and Albert Almora, Jr. He said that, while Almora is likely ready to handle the load on his own, the Cubs didn’t want to give him that burden. Len said the team likes Jay’s leadership, and he even made it sound like the Cubs hope for him to have a clubhouse leadership role similar to what Ross had. Jay also has a nice OBP and plays good defense, so that’s helpful.

Side note: I hope Dexter Fowler hits three home runs every game and the Cardinals still find a way to lose every game. 🙂

On Jason Heyward

Len thinks Jason Heyward is the most interesting player to watch on the Cubs this year, and I agree with him. I also agree with his assessment of Heyward that there is almost no way this year can be as bad as (or worse than) last year, but that it’s hard to tell how much better it will actually be. Len made a good point: if Heyward starts off the year two-for-20, it could get really bad really fast. It would be good if he could have a couple of three-hit games early on to boost his confidence a bit.

On the Lineup and Its Ability to Produce Runs

Len commented on the odd situation of having someone like Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot—a situation of which I was, at first, very skeptical but with which I am now quite comfortable. He went on to say that it isn’t a big deal to have a slower guy like him in the leadoff spot because the team doesn’t plan to run a bunch anyway, which makes sense. Len said that he thinks it’ll be the best lineup in baseball and that the team will likely score more runs than last year, which is simultaneously hard to believe and hard to argue with.

On Jon Lester Changing from David Ross to Willson Contreras

Len said that Ross would agree that Contreras has a better, more accurate arm. The concern comes beyond the physical. Ross was able to calm Lester down in situations when he would get amped up in a way Contreras may not be able to do. Also, when Lester would get chippy with the umpires, Ross would talk with the umps to make sure they knew it wasn’t anything personal. Contreras may or may not be able to serve Lester in those ways, but the physical improvement will be good regardless.

On Wearing His World Series Ring

Some people wear their World Series rings out and about, but some people don’t. Len says he thinks he will wear it around a good bit and at public events, but that he’ll want to keep it tucked away in a safe place more often than not.

Man…I wish I had to figure out how often I was going to wear my World Series ring.

I didn’t cover everything Len had to say to Buster. If you’d like to get the whole discussion, click the link below and listen to the segment yourself.

Click here if you’d like to listen to Len Kasper’s segment.

  • cap’n realist

    Nice that you left out the part about John Legend’s upcoming performance at the Metro…and the plug for his part time gig on WXRT, which are both of far more importance to Kasper than this side gig he has with the Cubs.

  • Doug S.

    Cue Raker – 3, 2, 1……

  • Jerry in Wisconsin

    If those were the highlights, it is clear Len has no insight. Just about any Cubs fan over the age of seven could tell you what was above, and most would be able to support those statements with some interesting facts that have nothing to do with music.

    • cap’n realist

      exactly how I feel. The guy is around the ballclub EVERY DAY, and comes up with straight rehash of the Cubs media release folks. Nothing below the surface with this guy. Corporate Shemp.

      • Sherm

        Corporate WHO? OH, Shemp. Never mind. Print is so small on my phone…

  • Doug S.

    Len gets a ring?
    Do the beer and hotdog vendors at Wrigley also get one?

    • I was surprised by that too. In fact that appeared to be the only insight. (No offense, Chris, I am not a Len Kasper fan. Your side note about Dexter Fowler was the most interesting thing here. The rest of it, well you could have been quoting any of our writers or readers here and I wouldn’t know the difference. Even I could come up with that “insight.”)

      • Eddie Von White

        I kept reading thinking something interesting might pop up. This is like listening to him for 9 innings, but I couldn’t mute my eyes.

      • Sherm

        Couldn’t mute my eyes is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. Great line, Eddie Von Wordsmith

      • Eddie Von White

        That means a lot to me coming all the way from China – or wherever you are.

    • Bryzzo1744

      I thought the same thing too. Why does the broadcaster get a ring? When I took a tour of Fenway Park my first year in Boston, the tour guide was wearing 2004 and 2007 World Series rings. He said they were the same rings the players got, and all the team employees got rings.

      • Eddie Von White

        You should’ve got one for taking the tour.

      • Bryzzo1744

        In 2007 when George Mitchell was writing his steroids report, he was also on the Red Sox board of directors. He recused himself, but he still got a ring when they won it all.

    • Doc Raker

      I don’t know if everyone who works for the club gets one but a lot of people that work for the club get one, the grounds crew will get one although a less expensive version of the players ring.

      • Sherm

        They should buy rings for all the fans, without whom none of this could have happened. The team makes a fine profit.

  • Brad Lyerla

    Buster Olney is a good guy to follow. Glad Chris brought him up.

    But I had to laugh at Len’s insights and how that would go over with the VFTB regulars. These guys *** HATE *** Len Kasper. Which I don’t get. How do you hate the prosaic?

    • That’s exactly why we hate him.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Usually, the absence of poetry or imagination inspires boredom, not hatred. But I like it. Cubs fans demand poetry!

        And at these prices, they should get it, dammit!

      • That’s an uppity definition of the equally uppity word. Common. Uninspired. Run of the mill. Dull. Boring. Len. Fine traits for mankind in general. I’m fairly boring myself and that’s perfectly fine with me. But I’m also not getting paid to announce baseball games for a large market team.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Prosaic is the opposite of poetic. Len is not poetic. Vin Scully was poetic. It would be nice if we had a Vin Scully instead of a Len Kasper.

      • Eddie Von White

        Not really. Vin was quite prosaic. himself.

      • cap’n realist

        At the end, sadly, Vin was a babbling old fool. May a drunken bar patron wanted to fight me for saying it,but my comeback was always, ‘sit at the bar, drink your beer, if you hear Vin say something informative or insightful THAT ISNT SOMETHING HES SAID BEFORE 10 times, I’ll buy your next beer.’ Never had to fight (thank Christ) and never bought a beer.

      • Brad Lyerla

        OK. That is fair. Vin hung on too long. But that was true of Harry and Steve too. You had to listen a long time to hear something that you had not heard before near the end with Harry. And Steve was recycling Steve most of the time too.

      • cap’n realist

        yes, but Harry was a caricature of himself, and I don’t believe he even took himself seriously those last few years. Once Brickhouse got to that point, he bailed. It happens…Rizzuto was in the Yankee box10 years too long. Don’t get me started on Berman. Raker’s hero old man Brennaman is an angry babbler as well, but he loves the team and does tell it like it is. I believe that this year’s version of the Reds, especially the pitching staff, will be the end of him. He might actually have a the grabber on air. I certainly hope not, but his anger is palpable, and guys that age need to watch their diastolic. If only there was a regular commenter we could ask about diastolics…

      • That would mean there’s a cardiac surgeon among this group of slobs. Not likely.

      • Seymour Butts

        Slobs you say? A finer group of miscreants I’ve not been associated with in over a month.

      • Sherm

        Len is on Prozac? Makes sense now.

        Maybe I need new glasses. Anyone know an eye doctor? Preferably one who can rake.

      • Bryzzo1744

        From dictionary.com. Prosaic:

        adjective

        1. commonplace or dull; matter-of-fact or unimaginative:
        a prosaic mind.

        2. of or having the character or form of prose, the ordinary form of spoken or written language, rather than of poetry.

      • I think we’re tuning in for different reasons, Brad. Not sure what else to say.

      • Brad Lyerla

        We tune in because we love baseball. But we might love baseball for different reasons.

      • I hope that’s a haiku, and you’ll later tell us about what a haiku is.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Got it. You and Lizzie are the uppity word police. I will dumb it down so you are not ill at ease. I can leave my hat on indoors and breathe through my mouth too, if that would be a comfort.

      • Oh no Brad please! Continue to be as condescending as always. It’s very entertaining!

      • Brad Lyerla

        Geez. I used the perfect word for what I was trying to say, I thought. You turned it into some sort of the slobs vs the snobs thing. Not me.

      • cap’n realist

        BUUUY BUSHWOOOOD? NEVER!

      • Brad Lyerla

        Exactly.
        I came from the wrong side of the tracks. But I got a good day job and now I hang out with the golfers, not the caddies. And I don’t apologize for that. I do regret some of my elitism. I wish I were a man of the people, but I that does not come naturally to me.
        On the other hand, among the golfers, I do want to be more like Ty than Judge Schmales, though I don’t always get it right.

      • Seymour Butts

        I’m actually going to side with Brad on the point that Prosaic is an apt description of Len. I love that we are having a word usage discussion as well. An unwritten goal of VFTB is mind enrichment. New thoughts are never harmful as those one rejects can be easily discarded.
        On the other hand I may take issue as to which side of the tracks is right and wrong.

      • Eddie Von White

        I agree – is there a right and wrong side of the tracks? The poorest person I ever met was also the richest.

      • Wearing my cap right now at work, Brad, walking on a treadmill. Guess I’m 0-2.

      • Brad Lyerla

        I am not the one keeping score.

      • Nope, that’s Liz. She not a fucking d-bag.

      • Sherm

        Question. Why abbreviate d-bag if you are not abbreviating fucking? Just wondering.

      • Eddie Von White

        Only if you wear it cocked sideways.

      • Sherm

        Haiku:

        Verb,

        1. How to greet your friend Ku

  • Ben

    Question how much are these world series rings anyway?

  • dangit.. twitter account checks out.. I was hoping this was a long play by Sherm and pissed I didn’t think of it first

  • Eddie Von White

    I hope Dexter Fowler goes 0-for16. He’s a Cardinal now.

    • Bryzzo1744

      Exactly how I feel. He doesn’t deserve to be booed because he didn’t defect to the enemy, but he still plays for them

    • Doc Raker

      Dexter Fowler is dead to me……………….as all Cardinals are. The Jim Edmunds era was hard on me.

      • Bryzzo1744

        We cheer for laundry

  • Doc Raker

    Len Kasper insights? I almost choked myself when I read that. Lame Len just spits out whatever the ball club wants to market, he will never give you insight or criticism of the club. Did Len give us insight into why the 2016 MLB ERA leader isn’t pitching against our most formidable divisional foe in the opening series? Probably not because that would be controversial and a criticism of the Cubs manager and Len isn’t paid to do that.

    Did Len mention how his music career is going? Any chance Len will blow up big in the music industry and leave Cub nation to a broadcaster that talks and knows baseball? We can only hope.

    To each his own Brad but if you don’t see the difference between the entertaining visceral honesty of a Harry Carey verse the vanilla sterile corporate shill of Len Kasper than I can not help you. You tube Harry’s call of the Sandberg game if you need a reminder. Come to San Diego and hold our banner up that says FIRE LEN KASPER!

    • Brad Lyerla

      Wow. Have you got me wrong. I loved Harry. I do not love Len. I just don’t get the hate fest about Len. He is just average and that is disappointing. But as you say, to each his own.

      • Bryzzo1744

        It’s not that. He has no passion for the game. Bryant hits a HR off the scoreboard, Len goes they’re going to score that a hit. Last year vs. Texas he goes Wilson is 3 for 4 lifetime vs Hammel but hasn’t faced him since 2012. I just told you a stat that doesn’t matter.

      • Sherm

        I don’t want to defend Len, but since you’ve now mentioned the score it a hit line 1000 times, I’m going to. It was an attempt at humor, not stupidity, that led to the comment. And it does have some comedic merit.

      • Bryzzo1744

        How about the other comment from Lame Len?

      • Sherm

        It’s an attempt at humor. If it wasn’t funny when he first said it, no matter the number of times you repeat it? It won’t be any more or less funny.

        I think he’s just a little over his skis broadcasting the best team in baseball and in such a huge and diverse marketplace. It’s not that he’s terrible – he’s just not a great fit.

      • Eddie Von White

        Prosaic?

      • 1000 thank yous for this. It was humor. Plainly, to everyone but Caps.

      • Doc Raker

        I don’t hate Len, you are misinterpreting me. I dislike the way Len broadcasts a baseball game. I think he is really boring, really disinterested and oblivious to the finer points of the game. I don’t hate Len I just don’t want him broadcasting Cubs baseball.

        How does one of the most loved sports franchises in all the world go from Harry Carey who wore his emotions on his tongue whether he was joyful or disgusted to Len Kasper who does nothing but spit out the Cubs talking points while telling you the count and how many outs there are and when Len needs to fill time he references bad rock bands. Tell me about the nuances of the game I can’t see, I know how many outs there are, I know what the count is, if that’s all your going to tell me I have no use for you. Tell me about how the pitcher is trying to set up the hitter, tell me what the manager needs to consider an inning from now when his pitcher hits 100 pitches, who is in the bull pen, who has done well against the opposing hitter due up the next inning. Think along with the game just don’t regurgitate what is already on my screen and what the Cubs front office wants to market to its fan base. Give me real baseball talk.

      • Bryzzo1744

        Think outside the box and ask the tough questions

      • Brad Lyerla

        OK, Doc. You don’t hate Len. I don’t hate Len either. You wish Len was more passionate and well informed. That he would stick to baseball. I wish he was a journalist and I wish the broadcasts were about baseball rather than some kind of a variety show happening at a baseball park. But that last bit started with Harry, so we can’t blame Len for that.
        I can leave it at that.

      • Let me spell it out for you Brad, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the word you used. You used a word. I knew what it meant. I’m guessing about 90% of the people here knew what it meant. When I commented indicating that I agreed (which, in case you don’t get it, means that I knew what it meant, otherwise how could I agree?) you decided to define it for me. When I again commented, again repeating that I knew what it meant, you were sure to define it yet again. That’s the condescending part, not the use of the word in the first place. Get to know some of us, Brad, we’re very well educated, have very good jobs, and we don’t need to be schooled. Even the people who don’t know what the word means are capable of using a dictionary, or asking Hey Brad, what does that mean?

      • Brad Lyerla

        It was my fault because I had been unclear. I was using prosaic in a specific way. That’s why I brought it back to talking about poetry vs prose. You seemed to take my meaning as the broader sense of prosaic, ordinary or unimaginative. That applies to Len too, but I did not mean it that way. So I clarified.
        But why is everyone so touchy?

      • Eddie Von White

        I think it has something to do with human nature. Touchy is usually funny in retrospect. I know I’m laughing.

      • Seymour Butts

        I was not laughing about “touchy” when I was growing up Catholic.

      • cap’n realist

        Cripes

      • It’s the elitism. You called it yourself. (And yes, I know what it means, without looking it up.)

      • Sherm

        DCA. (Defending Champs Anxiety)

        If the season doesn’t start soon? We’ll start eating each other.

    • Bryzzo1744

      Len never asks the tough questions. If Steve Stone was still calling games, guarantee you he would have asked that.

  • chrismartin17

    Well, that didn’t go as planned.

    • No worries Chris. We still love you even if we don’t love Len!

    • Doc Raker

      Excellent job Chris- I have discussed how I dislike Len as a broadcaster for a long time. With the advent of out of market broadcast access I really started to pay attention to what kind of broadcast I like. Many of us just accept our teams broadcasters as good because they broadcast our favorite team but when I listened to different broadcast I realized there is a difference and i definitely had favorites. My point to people is listen to other broadcast and ask yourself if Len is really insightful or enjoyable relative to other broadcasts. To each his own, you like Len great, I do not and this is a blog that talks about Cubs baseball so critiquing the Cubs broadcast is in play.

      I think your post is great, it gives us an opportunity to debate the finer points of a broadcast. Maybe there are more people out there that have my opinion and if the opinion becomes more vocal maybe the Cubs make a change in the future.

      I don’t hate and disliking a broadcaster is not hate, it is my opinion. Here’s to Len blowing up big on the music scene and going on a world tour ASAP.

    • Seymour Butts

      It never does…that’s the beauty of it. Thanks Joe.

    • Sherm

      It was AWESOME. 70 comments or so. That’s a win. Whether or not it’s directly related to your post isn’t relevant. You were the catalyst to conversation which is always the goal.

  • chrismartin17
    • Brad Lyerla

      Chris, there is a lot of bullying on this site. All in good humor, of course.

      • Sherm

        “Be kind” – me, Jan. 1, 2017

        Okay kids. Everyone shake hands and make up right away or no one gets dessert

  • Doc Raker

    Do you know why Steve Stone was fired? Because he criticized the Cubs down the stretch in 2004. Dusty Baker and some players, Ken Mercer, complained. Mercer actually called the broadcast booth during a game to complain about Stone’s comments about how good the opposing pitcher was. “Hey man, knock it off you are making us look bad.”

    So the evolution of an honest insightful broadcaster to a corporate shill was deliberate and willful which degrades the game and the broadcast in my opinion.

  • Sherm

    For the record? I don’t hate or even really dislike Len Kasper. I really dislike Joe Buck, but that’s another post.

    I’m a big fan of movie and music trivia. It really doesn’t bother me when he talks music. I find it entertaining that it’s probably rankling Raker and that we’ll probably hear about here before long.

    I agree with Raker 100% though, on one thing. Insight is lacking, and even though I do like JD, I think that as a team they fail to provide enough. Len is the play by play guy. JD is color. Len’s play by play is fairly dull. THIS Cub team is anything BUT dull. JD’s color is good…but not enough of it to fill the voids, and to challenge the long time fan. Their job is to entertain and educate ALL fans, regardless if it is those watching their first game ever or 5000th so a degree of “here’s what you see” is necessary…but needs to be mixed up with enough challenging insight and stats and stories to keep the diehard fan interested, entertained and engaged.

    My 2 rmb

    • Some fascinating banter from this afternoon.
      Len: So I have a question for you!
      JD: What’s that?
      Len: Are you a New ORleans guy or a New OrLEANS guy?
      JD: Let’s all get in the car and go to New ORleans. So I guess I’m a New ORleans guy.
      Len: New ORleans
      JD: Or, I can go to N’Awlens
      Len: True!
      JD: Or maybe just NOLA, that’s another one we can use
      Len: Oh, NOLA
      Liz: Excuse me while I pop my own eardrums on purpose.

      • cap’n realist

        Clearly part of the Jazzfest discussion. New Orleans doesn’t even have an MLB franchise, so
        it makes perfect sense that’s what Len and JD would be discussing.