Of all the color announcers that broadcast this great game of baseball, I firmly believe that Steve Stone is the best there is. His baseball intellect is one of the sharpest in the game and he consistently makes brilliant, insightful comments throughout every Cubs game in which he sits in the booth.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that many in the Cubs front office are upset about Stone’s recent criticism of the team. Here’s a sampling of Stone’s remarks:
“You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. Let me tell you something, guys, the truth of this situation is [this is] an extremely talented bunch of guys who want to look at all directions except where they should really look, and kind of make excuses for what happened.”
“At the end of the day, boys, you don’t tell me how rough the water is, you bring in the ship. The best eight [teams] go on, the other teams go home. This team should have won the Wild Card [playoff berth] by six, seven games. No doubt about it. They have the talent to do that. They’re life-and-death right now.”
That’s pretty darn harsh. Both Dustry Baker and Jim Hendry have gone on record as calling these remarks outright personal attacks. There are three points I’d like to address.
For one, Stone’s remarks are one hundred percent spot-on. As much as it pains me to say it, this is perhaps the most underachieving team in the league. After all the trade winds subsided this winter, Cubs fans and media outlets everywhere looked at this Cubs roster and saw the best starting pitching staff in baseball and a potentially dominant offensive lineup. That they didn’t run away with the Central Division was certainly disappointing, but that they didn’t just waltz into the playoffs was just plain shocking. Sure, they’ve had their share of injuries, but there’s been little difference in the performance of this team when they’ve been shorthanded and when they’ve been healthy.
Second, these comments are not personal attacks, any way you slice it. Sure, they are directed at people, but a criticism of the performance of a sports team and its staff by a sports broadcaster is about as professional as it gets. It may be unfavorable to the individuals on the receiving end, and they may take offense to it, but there’s nothing personal about it. It’s like a hard slide into second base to break up a double play; you don’t necessarily have anything against the shortstop, but you’re going to make it as hard as possible for him to throw out the guy at first because that’s what it takes to be a good ballplayer. As a broadcaster, you may have nothing against the individuals on the team, but you can’t sugarcoat or ignore their poor performance — that’s what it takes to be a good broadcaster.
And finally, to publically complain about Stone’s comments only proves his point – this team complains to no end. The job of the Cubs players and staff is to play and make decisions about the game. If they find some merit in what a member of the media has to say, they should take it to heart and try to fix it. If they disagree with them, they should shrug it off. It’s that simple. No complaining, no excuses, just play the game.
Update 10/2/04 5:45 PM: If you’re interested in hearing the whole Steve Stone interview, WGN Radio has added that segment to their audio archives. Listen to it here.