Cubs find quality in Deshaies, welcome him to team
Enjoying success in Astros' booth, former lefty plans to bring fun, insight to North Side
CHICAGO -- Jim Deshaies was getting a rental car Tuesday, when an employee recognized his name after hearing Deshaies give a radio interview about becoming the Cubs' new television analyst.
"'You've got to be critical,'" Deshaies on Wednesday recalled the employee saying, before adding, "This is the cool thing about Chicago: everybody's into the Cubs."
Deshaies, who pitched 10-plus years in the Majors, was officially introduced Wednesday at Wrigley Field as the Cubs' new television analyst, after spending the past 16 years in Houston -- where he also spent most of his playing career.
Agreeing to a four-year deal with WGN-TV and the Cubs, Deshaies joins the Cubs' broadcast team alongside play-by-play announcer Len Kasper. Deshaies replaces long-time analyst Bob Brenly, who left in October for a similar position in Arizona.
"It's so much fun to be in a city where baseball is relevant, regardless of the season the team is having," Deshaies said. "This place is a baseball-mad environment. The Astro guy had a hard time leaving Houston, but the baseball guy said this is the place to be."
Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said broadcasters across the country showed interest in the opening. Kenney and the rest of the hiring team wanted somebody who knew the National League, understood the importance and traditions of the Cubs and Wrigley Field, and could follow the Cubs' legacy of "great, insightful, colorful, humorous analysts."
Kenney believes he found all of those qualities in Deshaies.
"Anybody who knows Jim's work would agree with us that his work is just absolutely at the top of the game," Kenney said.
Steve Farber, acting general manager of WGN-TV, agreed.
"Like Len, Jim brings enthusiasm, passion and knowledge to the booth, as well as a sense of humor when it's appropriate," Farber said.
Deshaies, a left-hander who was 84-95 with a 4.14 ERA in his career, admits he's "very left-handed," and gave fair warning of his goofiness.
"Chicago is a hardcore baseball town, I don't know how much goofy they'll take," Deshaies said. "But from what I've heard from Len and Bob, they've assured me goofy works if you do it right. So get ready for goofy. But get ready for some serious baseball, too."
Deshaies said as a player and a broadcaster, Chicago and Wrigley Field always have been his favorite road city and ballpark, and he's excited for the chance to call both home. He and his family -- wife Lori and daughters Libby, Molly and Kelly -- will move north from Texas after his youngest graduates high school this spring.
Deshaies' love and passion for Chicago and Wrigley Field remained even though the Friendly Confines were never that to the lefty. An "extreme fly-ball pitcher," Deshaies could never tame the windy conditions at Wrigley, posting a 6.98 career ERA there. It also was where he made his final career start.
Deshaies said he walked to Wrigley in July 1995 with his career flat-lining and his turn in the Phillies rotation due up on a hot day with the wind blowing out. He knew it was about to end.
"It was the most surreal feeling because I said, 'My career is going to end today.' I knew it. I said, 'This is not going to go well, they're going to release me. I'm done, I'm toast,'" Deshaies said. "At least I was a good scout, because I nailed it."
Two years later, Deshaies joined the Astros' booth and endeared himself to Astros fans and those in the broadcasting community, winning the 2010 Lone Star Emmy for Broadcast Excellence.
He called a perfect game this past season, when San Francisco's Matt Cain tossed his against Houston in June, and also was in the booth for two of the most dominant pitching performances in Cubs history: Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game in 1998 and Carlos Zambrano's 2008 no-hitter, both of which came against the Astros.
Now in Chicago, he's looking forward to watching the Cubs' high-ceiling young players grow along with the millions who tune in locally and nationally. Despite the bigger market, Deshaies said he's excited for the challenge and plans to continue to bring goofiness and insight to viewers.
"For me, we're informing people, we're entertaining people -- at the end of the day, it's an entertainment business -- you want people to tune in," Deshaies said. "It's a day-after-day soap opera, and you want them to have fun and go along for the ride."