Random Musings from Wrigley Field's Upper Deck

Friday, October 29, 2004

Steve Stone wasn't forced out.

Yeah, sure. In a technical sense, he resigned - the team didn't fire him. But that's not the point. Of course the team wanted him back. Who wouldn't want to bring back a whipping boy for your overpaid crybabies to beat up on, especially when there's a team option allowing you to bring him back on your own terms?

The real question is this: why did Steve Stone feel that he needed to leave? He was constantly harassed for simply doing his job. He was physically threatened by players who were "aggressively violent." And the other players, Dusty Baker, Jim Hendry, and Andy McPhail stood by and let it happen. There was no way that was going to stop next year. So Steve Stone had to leave. I would have too - no job is worth being threatened with bodily harm by your coworkers while management allows the situation to deteriorate to and past that point.

The Tribune can do all the damage control they want, but I'm not buying, and neither should any clear-thinking person.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Steve Stone resigned today.

I can't even describe the depths to which this has pushed me. At this point, I feel as if I might never watch another Cubs game. Let's face it: we aren't fans of the Cubs because they play well - it's great when they do, but we can't expect it, and our devotion to the team comes from something else. Some of it is Wrigley Field, the old-school stadium and one of the true cathedrals of sports. But mostly, it's about what the Cubs stand for. They are an old-fashioned team, and they remind us of a more innocent time when we could root for a team just because they were the home-town guys who represented us, gracious in victory and in defeat alike.

But the Cubs don't have that any more. They are nothing more than a bunch of overpaid, spoiled thugs. Alou and Mercker disagreed with some of Stone's analysis, which could potentially be understood if Stone was wrong but cannot be explained given that Steve Stone is, bar none, the very best sports commentator ever to walk the face of the earth. They confronted him on the team plane, and they threatened him with bodily violence. Those aren't the actions of professionals - they are the actions of schoolyard bullies and thugs.

Dusty Baker didn't protect Steve Stone. Nor did he step into the middle to resolve the situation without violence. For all he cared, his players could have killed Stone and torn him limb from limb, eating his still-beating heart and drinking his still-warm blood from his empty skull. That's not what a professional manager would do - that's what a crazed warlord or thug would do.

The rest of the team didn't do anything to stop the escalation or ease the tension. Not worthless prima donna Sammy Sosa. Not ineffective player representative Mark Prior. Not failed team leader Aramis Ramirez. These are people who saw the situation develop, who determined which side had more power, and who decided to side with the more powerful people in order not to make waves. I find it very difficult to have any respect for any of these people. Don't get me wrong - they're marvelous athletes who accomplish things I could never dream of, even in their worst seasons. But they're horrible people.

When I was growing up, I was one of the smart kids, the guy who was picked on and even beat up regularly just for being smart and consequently (in the logic of the playground) weak. I figured that, once I grew up, I would find that this behavior was limited to the young and stupid. But it isn't. Steve Stone is the smart, insightful guy. Alou and Mercker are the bullies. Dusty Baker is the teacher who refuses to step in because he is afraid of pissing off the strong children in his class. And the rest of the team is the rest of the class, who validate the bullies' position by ensuring that the weaker members of the class never are allowed to fight back. I for one refuse to be part of any organization that supports such backward and immature attitudes.

If the team wants to win me back, they need to do something massive - soon. Here are some suggestions:
1. Fire Dusty Baker, then have him and his family tortured to death.
2. Replace every single member of the team with all-star players.

Yeah, there's no number 3. That's pretty much it. That, or go out and win 120 games and the World Series next year. Give me some halfway-decent athletic results to root for, and I can live with the complete lack of anything else. Those are the options: remove the taint and re-establish that the team is made up of gentlemen, or stop playing like a 6-year-old tee ball team.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Wendell Kim has been fired as the Cubs' third-base coach. He was not moved to first base, as many had predicted; instead, he was unceremoniously dumped, and I think we can all agree that he deserved no better.

In the same story, we also get the good news that Gary Matthews has been replaced as Cubs hitting coach by Gene Clines. (They are swapping places, essentially.) This is a great move, since the Cubs' woes can be traced directly to their absolute inability to hit situationally. Hopefully, Clines won't be contaminated with Dusty's hit-a-homerun-at-all-costs approach.

The rest of the coaching staff will apparently remain the same.

Monday, October 04, 2004

For the first time in my life, I'm embarrassed to be a Cubs fan.

It's not the season-ending collapse of truly historic proportions, although that's something I hope I can forget ever happened.

It's the absolutely shameful way that the Cubs players and management have treated Steve Stone. For the last 20 years, through good seasons and bad, except for a brief hiatus to deal with some medical issues, Stone has been a consistently bright spot in watching the Cubs. For those of us who didn't go to a lot of games, he's been the voice of the team.

As one of my fellow Cubs bloggers said, at least once per game, Stone just makes you shake your head by predicting exactly what will happen and then (after it happens) telling you why it happened. For someone like me, to whom much of the game of baseball is still a mystery, this power is nothing short of black magic. I've never seen any broadcaster who can do the same thing to the same degree as consistently, and I've watched teams fairly regularly in every place I've lived, including Boston, Houston, Denver, and Seattle (not to mention 30 years of living and dying with the Cubs).

But the Cubs don't appreciate Steve Stone's skill. They don't understand that, to an entire generation of fans, he is the voice of the team. And they don't care that much of the respect he has earned comes from knowing the game intimately and being able to tell when people are playing well and when they're not. Steve Stone, just like every broadcaster since the dawn of the radio age, has absolutely no effect on what actually happens on the field. And every human being with half a brain in his head understands that fact. (I guess that explains why Kent Mercker doesn't get it - his brain surgery a couple years back must have removed more than half his brain.)

But the players don't understand this. Mercker and Alou are whiners, and we're better off without them. Anyone who refuses to look at himself to explain why he's playing poorly, who blames his lousy performance on someone who hasn't set foot on a baseball field in over 20 years, doesn't deserve our respect, our money, or our tears when he dies broken down in a gutter somewhere. Anyone who threatens with bodily harm a broadcaster for merely doing his job (as, reportedly, three players and a coach did on the team's charter plane during the season) is nothing more than a thug and a criminal. Anyone who calls a reporter and analyst on the carpet and threatens his job because he refuses to put a happy face on a terrible situation is suffering delusions that can lead to no good.

It's this simple: if the situation comes down to Alou or Mercker vs. Stone, there is only one right choice. Alou and Mercker are absolutely worthless, both as ball players and as human beings. Steve Stone is without a doubt the greatest color commentator the Cubs have ever had and is among the absolute best ever to have held the position in the entire world of professional sports. To force him to leave would be to commit a gross miscarriage of justice. To lose him would be a crying shame. If the Tribune company can't see what a huge asset they have and do what it takes to keep him on the payroll, I desperately hope that he takes the best position he can find, as a pitching coach, manager, general manager, owner, or broadcaster. And I hope to God that his new employers appreciate him more than the slimeballs he works for here.

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