Telling It Like It Ain't

Steve Stone should have known something was amiss when the Chicago Cubs' player representative handed him a written script to use while calling last Friday's game against the Astros. The first few lines went like this...

>>Caray: (55 degrees with rain and all) Well folks, it's a beautiful day for baseball, the sun is shining and our beloved Cubs are ready to take the field behind today's starting pitcher, Kerry Wood.

>>Stone: Little known fact, Chippy... Moises Alou donates thousands of dollars to charity and always makes time to sign autographs before the game.

>>Caray: Thanks for the information, Stoney, although I'm not sure what that has to do with today's... OW! What the heck was that?

>>Stone: New policy, Chippy. Electro shock treatment is applied by Kent Mercker any time we say something that doesn't make Cub players look good.

>>Caray: But Kent, don't you have to be in the bullpen getting ready in case you are needed to pitch?

>>Mercker: This is more important.

>>Caray: Okay, well Kerry Wood's opponent on the mound today is Roy Oswalt, who comes in with a record of 14-9 and – OW! Why did you shock me again?

>>Mercker: You are supposed to refer to all opposing players as talentless losers. And here is Roy Oswalt's real record this year. (Kent hands Chip a sheet of paper)

>>Caray: (reading paper) And so apparently Roy Oswalt's record this year is now 3-150 with an earned run average of 74.12. This doesn't make any sense. The Astros haven't even played 150 games, so there is no way Oswalt could have lost that many – OW! Ok, sorry, sorry.

>>Stone: (sneezes) OW! What was that for?

>>Kent: No sneezing.

You get the picture.

The Cubs announcing duo, accustomed to reporting news, has become quite the controversial item itself lately among Cub players. During a Friday afternoon affair with the Astros back on August 27, LHP Kent Mercker phoned the press box to chide Chip Caray for heaping too much praise upon Houston starter Roy Oswalt. This incident comes on the heels of a publicized demand in early August by unidentified Cub players that the announcing duo of Steve Stone and Caray not be allowed to fly on the team's charter plane.

The players later amended this demand by saying that Stone and Caray could fly on the plane, but only if they sat way down in the cargo area and were locked in portable cages. You know, the ones used for domestic animals.

And only recently did we learn that after the players' bold generosity toward the announcing duo, Mercker recently berated Stone in front of teammates while the veteran Cubs broadcaster was off in a corner, minding his own business and reading a book.

Every fan wants an announcing team that blends objectivity with carefully-placed rah-rah cheerleading and a home team bias. When the umpire makes a bad call that goes against the Cubs, of course I don't want our commentator to belch, "Well folks, that call could have gone either way."

No, I want Stone to say, "The ump really blew that one; I don't know what he was looking at."

This does not mean, however, that I want announcers to blame the umpires, the opposition, or the Commissioner's office for everything that goes wrong on the field.

Some, not all, Cub players have taken this ‘woe is me' approach to the season and resent Stone and Caray for suggesting that the Cubs' erratic performance this year might actually be the result of [drum roll please]... the Cubs' erratic performance.

Simply put, Stone is the best color man in baseball. Who else can make predictions like "Look for Jose Macias to hit a bunt 10 feet up the third base line on the next pitch, which will probably be an 87 MPH curveball that grazes the outside corner," and be right 99 percent of the time?

I fear that this barrage of undeserved controversy may entice him back to the serene links of the Arizona golf courses.

And Caray, though a little heavy with the clichés, knows the game and calls it well.

We as fans have listened to Stone and Caray enough this year to know that they have been objective when it was appropriate to be objective, angry when it was appropriate to be angry, and critical when it was appropriate to be critical.

Cub fans are intelligent and will not buy the kind of sugar-coated game calling it appears some players would like us to hear.

My hope is that Cub players can put this blame game behind them for the remainder of the season, so that the sour taste they are leaving with fans does not translate into another bitter ending.

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