We weren't the only ones to notice Steve Stone's cryptic message at the very end of the season's last broadcast. In case you missed it ... poof:
Harrelson: "Steve, it was a fun year to do, and ... (heavy sigh) ... we got close and just couldn't finish it off."
Stone: "A little frustrating at the end, but a lot of good lessons to be learned, and one of them is the clock's ticking. You gotta enjoy what you do."
Harrelson: (long pause) "Alright..."
Following up on his vague comments about his future to Dan Bernstein and Terry Boers on 670 The Score, Matt Spiegel and Dan McNeil followed up on their show Thursday morning. They were absolutely delighted by that sound bite, and followed up by asking Stone about it.
Once again, the interview is strange. At first, he sounded a little more certain of returning to the White Sox booth, but after a series of pointed questions and ... multifaceted ... answers, everybody was back where they started by the final question. The interview starts at 25:00.
Ed Sherman has transcribed the interview's most important parts. Stone is diplomatic about Harrelson, and I can't detect any subtle shots. His tone throughout is measured, noting that they have distinct personalities that might become more disparate when subjected to the stress of a downturn. This is the key line:
For those of us who don’t have those phenomenal highs and exceptional lows, then it becomes a little bit difficult at times to relate.
There are a few parts Sherman didn't cover that are specifically of interest to us, based on our discussions:
*Spiegel asked Stone about Harrelson's absences during and/or after three disheartening losses. Stone said, "I've been around baseball long enough to 1) never question any athlete's injury, and 2) when a broadcaster tells you he's not feeling well, I assume that he's not feeling well." He's fine being the second banana, and he's fine doing play-by-play.
*McNeil tried to put words in Stone's mouth, saying Stone said he was frustrated by Harrelson's tendency to shut down as games get away from the Sox. Stone refused to acknowledge either point, saying whether or not Harrelson "shuts down" is in the eye of the beholder. Like I said, he was diplomatic.
*Responding to a question about tension in the booth, Stone compared Harrelson to Harry Caray. Caray, he said, would intentionally take the opposite stand on an issue from time to time. They'd get in an "argument," and the listeners at home would be roped in by trying to determine who was right. Regarding Harrelson:
"I think sometimes Ken misinterprets. If I don't agree with something he says, sometimes he'll view it more as an attack on either his knowledge or whatever it is."
He chalked it up to two baseball guys having strong opinions on a game that is designed for disagreements. (Stone gives an example that sums up the strides made by Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson: "When people disagree, it's a good thing. 'OK, tell me why you believe that...'")
The end of the interview is killer, and it's worth listening to the whole thing to hear how it was set up:
Spiegel: "... The headline is, you want to be back and expect to be back."
Stone: (brief pause) "I want baseball and broadcasting to be a part of my life as long as I--"
McNeil: "NOW YOU'RE BEING AMBIGUOUS AGAIN!"
Other outlets are starting to pick up on the story.
Mark Gonzales says the Diamondbacks have a strong interest in Stone's availability. He is on a "very short list of candidates" to fill in one of the vacant spots in their booth, after Arizona made official the departures of Daron Sutton (personnel issue; on-air wardrobe?) and Mark Grace (two DUIs in 15 months).
Scot Gregor mulls over a list of replacements should Stone depart. A reader suggests Mike North in the comments, and Gregor doesn't dismiss it, which is frightening.