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.

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