Is Brantley next in Reds radio booth?
Former relief pitcher interested in job
By Marc Lancaster
Post staff reporter
If the Reds intend to hire a former player to sit alongside Marty Brennaman in the radio booth, they'll have at least one eminently qualified candidate.
Jeff Brantley, a longtime major league reliever and ESPN analyst the past five years, is interested in the job and some involved with the search believe he may be the Reds' best choice to replace Steve Stewart.
"If that situation presents itself, especially working with Marty, it'd be something I'd definitely have to consider," Brantley said Monday.
The 43-year-old spent four of his 14 big-league seasons (1994-97) in Cincinnati. He led the National League with 44 saves in 1996 and was named the NL's Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year that season. He finished his career with 172 saves.
Brantley retired after being released by the Texas Rangers in May 2001 and began working with ESPN later that year.
Brantley's contract with the television network expires after this season, and he isn't planning to return. That would allow him to step in with the Reds, bringing more broadcasting experience than any of the other ex-players whose names have been bandied about since Stewart was told last month that his contract wouldn't be renewed.
Reds chief operating officer John Allen said at the time that the team isn't locking itself into replacing Stewart with a former player, but the general consensus from inside the organization is that would be the preferred route.
The idea is that someone who has played the game would be able to provide more expertise and first-person anecdotes than a professional broadcaster. But the breakdown of duties on the Reds' radio broadcasts makes it necessary that whoever is hired be able to do more than fill in the gaps.
Brennaman will continue to call six innings of action, but Stewart's replacement will be on the hook for three innings of play-by-play. That requirement could eliminate any number of ex-Reds who may be interested, because the job is a lot tougher than it sounds - especially alongside Brennaman's Hall of Fame stylings.
Brantley, though, would welcome the challenge. He said Cincinnati was his favorite place to play among the five big-league cities he called home. One of the reasons for that was a longstanding allegiance to the Reds from his days growing up in Alabama.
"They were my favorite team when I was growing up," said Brantley. "Don Gullett was my hero. It took me a couple months to be able to tell him (after joining the Reds when Gullett was pitching coach) because I didn't want to sound like a brown-noser."
Once the Reds determine who will step into the chair that for so long belonged to Joe Nuxhall, their next task will be working out a succession plan for Brennaman. He said upon signing his current contract, which expires after next season, that he would seek one more deal - probably for three seasons - before hanging it up as a full-time announcer.
When that day rolls around, the Reds will have much bigger shoes to fill, but finding stability in the booth with this hire would help ease the transition.