MLB Arizona Diamondbacks

Keith Moreland, not Rick Sutcliffe, gets my endorsement as Chicago Cubs radio voice

Our good friend Bruce Levine, writing for the Chicago outpost of the World Wide Leader, offered up seemingly an entire nine-man lineup of candidates to succeed the late Ron Santo to team with Pat Hughes in the Chicago Cubs radio booth.

Lots of smoke, but is there really fire? The two Ricks in that group, Sutcliffe and Monday, have firm Cubs connections. Yet unless they have a radical change of heart, neither is coming to Chicago.

Sutcliffe would be a sensational choice as Hughes’ partner. Big Red was a towering figure in Cubs history as the ’84 Cy Young Award winner. He loves Chicago. Whenever he works a Cubs game, Sutcliffe walks into the Cubs’ team kitchen like he’s still the ace pitcher and Yosh Kawano is still picking up the worn jocks. But he also loves the flexibility his ESPN schedule gives him. He only has to commit to baseball announcing a few days each week. Sutcliffe is a fine color announcer who might be worn down by the 162-game schedule that Hughes himself always says is a tough grind. He’d also take a lower profile on the radio compared to his bully pulpit on video.

Monday is a Los Angeles native who has come home and is very comfortable as a Dodgers announcer.  He’s in tall cotton alternating with the legendary Vin Scully, who probably will be in his final season at 83. Monday himself is 65. He’s like Prince Charles, aging into his dotage waiting to succeed the Queen. With a finite number of years left himself, it’s doubtful Monday would move back to Chicago to take a second-banana role with Hughes.

Other names tossed out by our good friend Bruce included Randy Hundley, Dave Otto and Gary “Sarge” Matthews.  Hundley is 68 and probably won’t want the long grind again. Otto has proven he’s fine as a several-times-a-year sub, but doesn’t have the spark or big name to carry the load the whole way. Plus he already had a stint almost 10 years ago alternating with the failed Joe Carter as Chip Caray’s TV partners in the two-year Steve Stone interregnum. Sarge coveted the Cubs’ color analyst job as far back as 1988, a year after he retired. Yet even though he’s a Chicago resident, he’s sitting pretty as analyst for a powerful Phillies franchise that’s already been crowned 2011 World Series champs with the addition of Cliff Lee to a starting rotation of aces. Sarge does TV and doesn’t have to work the entire game — we had a laugh-filled mid-game lunchroom session at Wrigley Field last season — so why do real hard work for a living.

Which leads us to Bobby Keith Moreland, better known to Cubs fans as just Keith. Like Matthews and Sutcliffe heroes of the ’84 Cubs, part of Moreland bleeds Cubbie blue. He knows the franchise and Wrigley Field situation cold. Moreland acquitted himself well in fill-in work on both radio and TV the past two years. His Texas drawl would expertly play off Hughes’ erudite San Jose tones. The only question is would Moreland give up his University of Texas football/baseball broadcasts? I believe his [picappgallerysingle id="1774109"]answer would be to book the first flight from Austin to Chicago.

The WGN folks should work from Moreland backwards as they pick their candidate. If Bob Brenly’s job was open, then there’d be a national land rush with possibly a change of mind from Sutcliffe — the Cubs TV crew does not work every game given Fox and ESPN telecasts — and the possible entrance of Mark Grace into the derby. Radio is different. You need a grinder, and Moreland fits that description better than anyone.