Steve Stone's contract runs through the 2014 season with a club option for 2015, so asking him about his future in September 2012 seems a mite premature.
But Dan Bernstein and Terry Boers might have known something we didn't, as Lil Jimmy pointed out here, and Fornelli here. At the end of their Friday interview with Stone on 670 The Score, Bernstein asked a pretty plain question: "Do you plan to be back next year?"
Stone's answer was anything but direct. "Well, you know, it's very strange ..." he started. The answer didn't have an end. It took the scenic route, with Stone talking about his love for the game, his love for Chicago, his need to have a baseball job "in some form," something about green bananas ... neither Bernstein nor Terry Boers knew exactly what to make of it. Which, I guess, means you can make something of it.
You can listen to the interview here, with Bernstein's big question starting at 16:06:
In the middle of his evasive maneuvers, this segment stuck out to me the most:
Stone: Occasionally, you have things that happen. Hawk got sick yesterday -- apparently, he was really sick, because to miss a game down the stretch for him is a very difficult situation--
Boers: He picked a good one to miss, though.
Stone: Well, as it turned out, Mike Huff stepped in. He did a really nice job--
Boers: He did.
Stone: And I thought that he gave a lot of insight, we were able to have a conversational play-by-play, which I love, which I thought was pretty nice...
It's no secret that Harrelson and Stone have little to say to each other. Joe Posnanski took a snapshot of silence from Wednesday night's game, but the banter fails to flow even in happier times. For instance, from this Chicago Magazine article about Harrelson:
Harrelson and Stone are cordial and professional but say little between innings and almost never look at each other. Stone—who has a long and distinguished resumé, including working with legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray—has seemed to many the perfect foil for Harrelson. His knowledge of the game and his personality are equally strong; he can stand up to the occasionally withering challenges of the Hawk.
And there has been even less for the duo to explore as of late. With little to distinguish one loss from another, Harrelson spends more time lamenting than discussing or illustrating. Walks always come around to score. The Sox can't come up with the big hit. They can't even drive the runner in from third with a strategic out. Their bloop hits fall, and ours don't. The ump took a run off the board. He doesn't invite anybody else to respond, whether supplementing or rejecting his claims. They just hang there. So there's nothing for Stone to say in response, which is how we get near silence for innings at a time.
I wondered on Friday whether the season had taken a toll on Harrelson. It's also possible that Harrelson has taken a toll on Stone, more so than usual. Whether Stone is leaving or merely leaving open the possibility of leaving, the present situation sounds untenable, both to him and viewers at home.
I don't know what Friday night's victory sounded in the booth because I went to the game. The result was a refreshing change of pace, but so was the mood. The game looks a little different when there isn't a voice -- or silence -- casting a pall over the proceedings.
The media will likely shrug at the attendance total (just over 25,000), but the crowd had plenty of life, especially considering the circumstances and the game's inauspicious start. The outfield section was pretty well populated for Hispanic Heritage Night, enough to start the wave and several chants -- a "Let's go White Sox!" here, a "Si se puede!" there, and, of course, "Detroit sucks!" after Minnesota's victory went up on the big board. When the offense finally began to roll a little, the fans were ready to receive it.