Brenly keeps close watch on NLDS
Cubs broadcaster, ex-D-backs skipper working ALDS for TBS
CLEVELAND -- Bob Brenly knows a thing or two about exciting postseason baseball played in Arizona, having served as the manager for the Diamondbacks during their lone World Series championship in 2001.
Brenly also has expert knowledge of the Cubs, the Diamondbacks' present National League Division Series opponent, having just finished his third year as the North Siders' television analyst. Yet, Brenly currently finds himself in Cleveland, joining Chip Caray and Tony Gwynn as part of TBS' three-man broadcast team for the Indians-Yankees series.
Although he has been sitting four time zones away, Brenly still has kept as close of a watch as possible on the series out West, now moving to Chicago. And Brenly does not seem completely surprised by Arizona's opening two victories.
"Well, I didn't expect the Cubs to lose, but the games have gone the way I expected them to go," Brenly said prior to Friday night's broadcast at Jacobs Field. "The Cubs are all about power.
"If they don't hit home runs, they are going to have a hard time scoring runs. The Diamondbacks are exactly the opposite. Even though they do hit home runs, they are a team that has gotten exactly where they are by manufacturing. Hit and running, stealing bases, bunts, taking advantage of every opportunity they have.
"The biggest surprise is Arizona's pitching staff shut down the Cubs. Brandon Webb is Brandon Webb, and he has a Cy Young for that reason. The Cubs just haven't made a lot of noise, especially the guys at the top, who figure to be carrying the team."
When looking at the current Arizona roster, Brenly doesn't see many familiar faces from his managerial days. Webb pitched for Brenly in 2003, the same year when Jose Valverde joined the Diamondbacks.
Bob Melvin, who has done such a tremendous job melding a young group of players as Arizona's manager, also served as Brenly's bench coach for a couple of seasons.
"We were friends long before, and we will be friends long after our baseball careers are done," Brenly said of his bond with Melvin. "But there are not too many guys left over there I still know."
Of course, Brenly's knowledge of the Cubs is far more current. He watched Lou Piniella take this team from worst to first in the same season, during his first year at the helm of this ballclub. Brenly also watched Piniella come under fire Wednesday night, when he removed ace hurler Carlos Zambrano after 85 pitches in Game 1 of the series in order to have him fresh for a Game 4 start on three days' rest.
Critics stated keeping Zambrano in a game tied at 1 could have possibly prevented a Game 4 from ever taking place. The decision backfired, as Mark Reynolds launched the game-winning home run for Arizona as the first batter reliever Carlos Marmol faced. So, what was Brenly's take on the situation?
"Unfortunately, that happens, but I can't disagree with the move," Brenly said. "It's one of those moves where you can't win as a manager. If you leave Zambrano in and he gives it up, you should have taken him out. You know you have a good bullpen, but you go to this good bullpen and they blow up. Well, then you should have left your starter in.
"For me, if there's any question of taking him out the next inning, the question is why not pinch-hit the inning before when Zambrano was up with the bases loaded. I know Carlos is a good hitter for a pitcher, but I would have to believe you would rather have Daryle Ward up to drive in runs. I question that more than the move itself."
Even though they sit in an 0-2 hole and face elimination Saturday evening, Brenly believes the Cubs still have a chance to bounce back. He watched the Cubs' season-long climb to the top of the National League Central and pointed out how this group has showed remarkable resiliency every time it has been counted out.
But as the Cubs fight for playoff survival, Brenly will be preparing for Game 3 of the AL Division Series in New York. He still will be paying attention to this other series, although he refuses to reveal where his allegiance falls.
"I do have a preference, but I'll keep it to myself. Just walk right on the fence on this one," Brenly said with a laugh of the Cubs-Diamondbacks series. "The Cubs' work is cut out for them.
"They are going home where they have played really good in the second half of the season, and Wrigley Field should be rocking. As good as the young kids were in the desert for Arizona, in their comfort zone, it's a little different animal working out at Wrigley in front of a hostile crowd."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.