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