I don't blame any Cubs fan for being as disappointed in Bob Brenly's departure as in the 101-loss season the team just suffered. The latter was expected.
We have a much more intimate relationship with those behind the microphones for our baseball teams than the other sports. For six months, on an almost daily basis, baseball announcers become our companions.
They are guests in our living rooms. Our cars. Our headphones.
It makes sense that the phone lines have been burning up on sports radio since Brenly announced he's out Wednesday afternoon. The former catcher and Diamondbacks manager, alongside play-by-play man Len Kasper, successfully forged a solid bond with consumers of Cubs baseball for the past eight years.
The duo was informative, enthusiastic, honest and, amid plenty of bad baseball, deftly took the chatter outside of baseball and into pop culture. I'm not certain there ever has been a baseball tandem (pick a sport, really) that came as close to being "cool" as Kasper and Brenly did.
The Diamondbacks on Thursday hired Brenly to be their TV analyst. Brenly will join ESPN host Steve Berthiaume. Arizona recently terminated its relationship with Mark Grace after Grace's second arrest for driving while impaired.
Quick hits on candidates to succeed Brenly:
•Steve Stone, White Sox analyst. Stone has two years left on his deal, but has been forthright publicly about his dissatisfaction with Hawk Harrelson. When asked directly if he's open-minded to returning to the North Side, Stone gave me an uncharacteristic "no comment." Translation? He's interested.
The egos Stone bruised when he dared to question Dusty Baker's baseball acumen in 2004 are gone so his return isn't out of the question. Late Thursday, Stone was leading a Tribune online poll, garnering roughly 30 percent of more than 7,000 votes.
•Rick Sutcliffe, ESPN analyst. Still a fan favorite, Sutcliffe was nipping at Stone's heels in fan voting, receiving 28 percent of the votes.
When reached by the Trib's Paul Sullivan, Sutcliffe sounded flippant about the opportunity, noting that twice before the Cubs had courted him for the booth, in between "I don't knows" on whether the job appealed to him.
•Kerry Wood, former Cubs pitcher. Though he's on the Cubs short list, he told WGN-AM's David Kaplan Thursday he has "no interest" in the opening. The job is too big for a rookie broadcaster, especially one who's not overly thoughtful or gregarious.
No surprise, however, that 19 percent of pollsters favor Wood. And if Tom Ricketts got his way last winter by saddling Dale Sveum with a $3 million mascot, he easily could flex his muscle and keep his 1998 bleacher memories alive by handing Wood the headset.
•Todd Hollandsworth, Comcast studio analyst. Described by Kaplan as freakishly well-prepared and coachable, Hollandsworth makes up for a lack of "Q rating" with energy and honesty. I could root for a guy like Hollandsworth, whose studio work is solid. Only 7 percent of voters prefer the former Cubs outfielder.
•Steve Lyons, FOX analyst. Lacks a connection to the team, but so did Brenly. Lyons doesn't do it for me. I'm not alone. He got 3 percent of the vote.
There are others who will be interviewed — likely including Grace — but the aforementioned are the favorites. Whomever the Cubs and their television outlets select, that companionship and "trust" Brenly provided won't appear overnight.
Just what a Cubs fan wants to hear again — be patient.
Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.