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The Departure of Steve Stone

I have some Royals-related news to discuss, but I’m going to put that off for tomorrow’s entry. There’s some talk that Mark Teahen’s Arizona Fall League performance might have improved his odds of being the opening day third baseman, which could sway Allard Baird’s decision to sign (or not sign) a guy like Russell Branyan or a less-expensive Joe Randa as a stopgap solution. I have some thoughts on that, but today, Steve Stone
resigning his color commentary duties for the Chicago Cubs
struck me on at least a couple of levels.

If any of you don’t know why Stone probably resigned, here’s a little bit of background information: Throughout his tenure as an analyst, Stone has been known to tick Cubs players and coaches off with some regularity because of his blunt and opinionated commentary. Basically, Stone’s never been afraid to call out his former team on the air when they play terrible baseball. A few Cubs took exception to this – Kent Mercker reportedly called the broadcast booth to voice his complaint – and fired their shots right back at Stone. Things boiled over when Stone, clearly upset with the Cubs’ collapse in the National League Wild Card race, made the following post-game comment on WGN Radio on September 30:
"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.

"This team should have won the Wild Card by six, seven games. No doubt about it. They have the talent to do that."
Those remarks earned Stone a meeting with Dusty Baker and GM Jim Hendry, although the nature of the conversation that took place in the meeting will probably never be known. Reports indicated, however, that Baker and Hendry took Stone’s comments personally, and wanted to tell him how they felt. Everything seemed to be fine: Stone, Baker, and Hendry all claimed that their differences had been worked out, and WGN even picked up the 2005 option on Stone’s contract.

But here we are eight weeks later, and Stone’s decided that he wants to pursue other opportunities. I don’t think this was your classic resign-or-be-fired tool that’s used by so many professional and college sports teams, but it’s pretty clear that Stone felt some sort of pressure to get out because of the controversy he caused. It’s really sad that in today’s society, having a differing opinion to an extreme degree is something that’s frowned upon. In the case of the 2004 Chicago Cubs, Stoney was right: The Cubs players and coaches had no one else but themselves to blame for missing out on the playoffs. Judging from the reactions of guys like Kent Mercker, their players knew they weren’t doing their jobs, and just didn’t like hearing about it from an announcer.

The other side of this is that Stone’s now free to see what jobs are out there in baseball. I’d be thrilled to have him in the Royals’ broadcast booth or, in an even better world, on the field, perhaps as the bench coach. The man knows his baseball, and would probably make a fine bench coach. Whether he ends up on TV or in a dugout somewhere, I know he’ll continue to be one of the finest and most intelligent people in the game today. Now if we could just stop being so damn picky …
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