Before color commentator Steve Stone’s inglorious departure from the Chicago Cubs booth (and subsequent transformation into a squealing douche), he made some starkly critical comments about the team and about the management of the team.

In that way, he changed from the guy commenting on the Cubs, to the guy at the center of the Cubs. The fault, of course, was then manager Dusty Baker’s for allowing Stone’s criticism to become a focus in the clubhouse.

Fast forward five years, and current color man Bob Brenly has become profoundly critical of the struggling Chicago Cubs. And it’s creeping into the clubhouse.

Maybe the players were fortunate they didn’t have to watch their own games during their just-completed trip, where TV analyst Bob Brenly eviscerated the Cubs at times over a lack of “hustle,” a lack of “preparedness” and a lack of “intensity.”

“What will it take to get these guys to start running hard?” Brenly asked aloud in Denver after Ryan Theriot barely scored ahead of Bradley getting thrown out trying to stretch a single. Brenly also suggested a “cattle prod” might do the trick.

Brenly’s blunt analysis is one reason why he’s one of the most popular announcers in Chicago. But it sometimes can rankle players and coaches.

Now, the natural thing to do would be to cite these players and coaches whom Brenly’s commentary has rankled. There doesn’t seem to be an actual, you know, Cub that fits the bill.

Though Brenly’s name was not mentioned, manager Lou Piniella was asked Tuesday if criticism over a “lack of hustle” was valid.

“I don’t know what criticism,” he replied. “I haven’t heard any. I’ve been asked about it before, but you’re asking me now. I think our team plays hard. I don’t have any complaints.”

Theriot said Tuesday he hadn’t heard anything about Brenly’s comments on the team’s lack of preparedness or hustle.

“I have a lot of respect for Bob,” he said. “Obviously, we’re not winning ballgames, and maybe instead of pointing a finger at one particular player, it’s easier to [criticize the team], and probably easier on the players to do that. I know I prepare the same way, and have prepared the same way since 2005. On getaway day, yeah, we didn’t have much intensity that day. I’ll agree with him on that one. It was kind of a lull, a blah feeling.”

“As far as guys not wanting to play, I know everybody is preparing the same way.”

Brenly declined comment on his on-air criticism, letting his words speak for themselves.

“Just doing my job,” he said.

So it actually sounds like the players and coaches for the Chicago Cubs do not have a problem with Brenly’s comments thus far – no one has, for example, sent a message up to the booth to challenge Brenly to a fight, a la Kent Merker.

There can be no doubt that Bob Brenly has been quite right in everything he’s said. This is a listless, thoughtless, mental-error prone, very expensive team.

But where Brenly must be careful: it is not enough to be right. Steve Stone was absolutely right in everything he said. And he was swiftly pushed out the door.

Am I suggesting that Brenly should stop criticizing the Cubs? Of course not. The fans deserve it, and as Brenly said, it’s his job.

But he does have to be careful not to lose the players, because then he becomes the story. And as we saw with Steve Stone, nobody wants that.

Especially management.

  • Aisle 424

    Unless, of course, he sees the Cubs failing to make the playoffs, Lou leaving, and an open managerial position where a voice of opposition to the current regime may do him well. I find the timing of his sudden distaste for things that have been wrong with this team for years very interesting.

  • TTH

    Um, Steve Stone quit on the Cubs. Twice, actually. So let’s not pretend that that bitter, penny pinching hack was some sort of victim. Brenly, unlike Stone, seems to have balls. he won’t say something, then run and quit.
    If he does leave, it will be due to getting a job in management, not as a publicity stunt. Something Stone couldn’t achieve in his wildest dreams.

  • esd2000

    Bob wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t criticize the team for some of the boneheaded plays on the field that we all see. I know I see them. Throwing to the wrong base, pitchers not covering first, swinging at pitches 6 inches off the plate and in the dirt, popups not caught, not taking a base on deep fly balls, not having someone in the bullpen warmed up every time he brings Marmol in since he seems to load the bases in no time. By the way I was more in favor of Brenly instead of Lou back when they hired Lou. I was very impressed with the Dbacks win over the Yanks in the 2001 world series.

    • Ace

      I was not a Brenly supporter back then … but now, I’m open to it.

  • jstraw

    Lou’s full of shit.

    “I don’t know what criticism,” he replied. “I haven’t heard any. I’ve been asked about it before, but you’re asking me now. I think our team plays hard. I don’t have any complaints.”

    We all saw his body language and the look on his face during the very base running shenanigans by Theriot that set Bob off.

    • Ace

      I assume Lou is just trying to prevent a circus a la Baker.

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