Deshaies takes position as Cubs' TV color analyst
Former Astros broadcaster accepts four-year offer to join Kasper
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- During his career as a Major League pitcher and later as a Houston Astros broadcaster, Jim Deshaies always identified Chicago as his favorite road destination.
Beginning in 2013, Deshaies can start calling the Windy City home.
Deshaies has accepted a four-year offer from WGN to be the color commentator for the Chicago Cubs telecasts. "J.D." replaces longtime Cubs announcer Bob Brenly, who in October accepted a similar job with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Deshaies will pair with Cubs play-by-play television voice Len Kasper.
Deshaies was introduced to the media at a news conference Wednesday morning at Wrigley Field's United Club.
"We're very fortunate, along with our fan base, to welcome Jim as the next television analyst of the Chicago Cubs," said Crane Kenney, president of business operations, Chicago Cubs, in a statement. "Jim expressed an incredible appreciation for Cubs baseball, the history of Wrigley Field, the strength of our fan base, his predecessors in the broadcast booth and opportunity to carry the tradition forward. He is a student of the game who incorporates his firsthand knowledge, stories and humor into the broadcast, and we're excited to see him in the booth with Len."Deshaies, who had been a part of the Astros' broadcast team since 1997, was contacted by WGN officials in October and later flew to Chicago to meet with network executives from both WGN and Comcast SportsNet Chicago. He also met with representatives from the Cubs.
A CSN Chicago report originally identified Dan Plesac, Rick Sutcliffe, Eric Karros, Gary Matthews and Todd Hollandsworth as targeted interviewees. Deshaies' name emerged later and, at one time, he was considered by some as a long shot to land the job, only because it was widely assumed WGN preferred to have a former Cub as its color commentator (although Brenly had no previous history with the Cubs, either).
But Deshaies may have been WGN's preferred choice all along. Somewhat of a cult favorite among Astros fans, Deshaies long ago established himself, along with his TV partner, Bill Brown, as a trusted and entertaining source of baseball analysis in Houston. The news of Deshaies' possible defection to Chicago created a small firestorm among dismayed fans on the Internet. A combination of Deshaies' strong interview with network and club executives, the outcry from the Houston fan base and support from Kasper may have swung the pendulum in Deshaies' favor earlier than expected.
WGN seemingly moved quickly with an offer. The Astros expressed to Deshaies their hope he would remain in Houston, and they presented what has been categorized by sources as a fair market-value offer.
"We value Jim highly and did everything in our power to retain him," Astros president and CEO George Postolos said. "While we are sorry to see him go, we respect his decision. We appreciate his many years as an Astros player and broadcaster and wish him well."The decision wasn't easy. Houston has been a second home for the Massena, N.Y., native for a long time, dating back to the 1980s when Deshaies -- who debuted in 1984 with the Yankees -- played his rookie season with the '86 NL West champion Astros. He retired in 1995 and two years later joined the Astros broadcast team. He and his family later moved to Houston full-time, and he and his wife, Lori, raised their three daughters in the Bayou City.
In other words, there's some history there.
"I've always been an Astros guy," Deshaies said. "It's tough to leave after 16 years. I've spent most of my baseball life here. It's hard to leave. But as a baseball guy, it's kind of hard to turn down the job. It's a very difficult situation to turn down. I love Wrigley. I love the city."
Deshaies, who pitched for six teams over a 12-year Major League career, is well respected for his extensive knowledge and keen insights, but it was his quick wit that won Astros fans over more than a decade ago. He's an easy conversationalist and is known to keep things entertaining during tough stretches. Brenly, popular with the Cubs fan base, had a similar reputation. The parallels between the two broadcasters may have been a big selling point as WGN searched for a new color man.
The "Brownie and J.D." tandem has been deeply embedded in the hearts of Astros fans over the years. Brown's straight-man persona blended perfectly with Deshaies' goofy, loose demeanor, and the two created a following in Houston that will be hard to replicate. The Astros even gave away Brownie and J.D. bobbleheads during the 2011 season.
Both men expressed sadness to be ending their long run as broadcast partners.
"People don't understand, you're with this guy every day," Brown said. "He's like a brother to you. In our booth, it was such a great deal. You can't replicate this. It takes years to get to this point. It's never going to be that good again. That's why I'm so emotional about this."
Deshaies said he learned a lot from Brown over the years, which he feels helped prepare him for the next chapter.
"I think I'm in a good position now," Deshaies said. "It's going to be tough to leave Brownie. We've been a tandem a long time. He's talking about scaling back some and that makes it easier to leave. He's been a great partner."
Deshaies does know Wrigley Field. His last game as a pitcher came against the Cubs on July 30, 1995, at Wrigley. Brian McRae doubled to lead off and, one out later, scored on Mark Grace's RBI single. One out later, Todd Zeile hit a two-run homer on a 3-2 pitch for a 3-0 Cubs lead. Jose Hernandez led off the Chicago second with a home run to left and, one out later, Deshaies walked Jim Bullinger, and McRae then singled to left. Deshaies was pulled after 1 1/3 innings, and that was his final start.
Two months ago, Deshaies ended the season presuming he'd be transitioning, along with the rest of the Astros organization, to new beginnings in the American League. Instead, he'll get a fresh start with a team he knows well, in a ballpark he's visited dozens of times, in the same division he's worked for 16 seasons.
Only now, Chicago is no longer a destination spot. Beginning next season, he'll be home.