Realignment with Cubs in same division as White Sox more than fine with Steve Stone
For the White Sox, ‘‘there’s nothing better than beating the Cubs,’’ the Sox broadcaster says.
The latest plan floated out there to bring baseball back this season would divide MLB’s 30 teams into three divisions of 10 each. The Central Division would include the White Sox and Cubs.
Count Steve Stone as all in for that one.
“I would absolutely love to see the Cubs and Sox in the same division,” Stone said. “I would like to see them play 40 times a year because there would be nothing like beating the Cubs 35 times.”
Also count Stone, who would be entering his 13th season as a Sox broadcaster, among those in the Sox family who savor wins over the Cubs as the best of the rest. Stone pitched for the Sox in 1973, for the Cubs from 1974 to ’76 and for the Sox again in 1977 and ’78 before winning the American League
Cy Young Award with the Orioles in 1980.
After broadcasting Cubs games for 20 seasons, Stone would leave under less-than-pleasant terms after the 2004 season and join the Sox’ radio booth as an analyst in 2008. He moved to the TV side in 2009 and has been there since, first alongside Ken Harrelson, then next to Jason Benetti.
Stone likes the idea of the Sox playing at Guaranteed Rate Field, even if it means playing without fans as society rides out the coronavirus. Road trips to nearby cities such as Milwaukee and St. Louis in a division, as is being considered, would be welcome.
Stone said he loves the matchups in a division that would contain the Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Indians, Twins, Royals, Tigers and Braves.
If a 100-game schedule is played, as is hoped for perhaps starting in late June or early July, that could entail about 11 games against each team.
“I’m in favor of anything that starts baseball again,” he said. “Whatever they decide, we’ll just make it work. Not only for the people who make money from the game, but the country needs a diversion from some of the dire news coming on a daily basis. If this is the way to get it back, I’m all for it.’’
Stone likes this plan because it “provides followers of the Sox a good measuring stick because there are some pretty good teams in that division.”
Expansion appears to be in the works for baseball in the not-too-distant future, and when that happens, realignment should accompany it along geographic lines, Stone said.
“If this is a preview of things to come, that’s fine,” he said.
As for games in empty stadiums, Stone and Harrelson know what that’s like, having called the Sox’ game in Baltimore that was played with no fans five years ago this week. Civil unrest in the streets nearby forced MLB to have the game, an 8-2 Sox loss, played in relative quiet.
“Will it be different? Undoubtedly,” Stone said. “I thought Hawk and I and the whole crew would be the only people to work an official game with no people in the stands, but it looks like that will not be the case.
“What I don’t buy is players saying they won’t be able to play as well with no fans in the stands. Any player who says that, it’s an excuse. This game leaves no excuses. It’s a tough game, an everyday grind played by tough men. Of course it’s going to be different. There are 50 excuses out there if you want to grab one.
“In a major-league game that counts toward postseason play and their all-time numbers, it’s the ones with weak minds that aren’t able to play as hard. The guys leaving it all out on the field, those are the players you want on your team.”
Stone, who lives in the Phoenix area, doesn’t see the plan, discussed weeks ago, that would quarantine players in Phoenix and play most, if not all, games in the desert happening. He said any plan must have safety as the top priority.
But a plan — and more will be discussed — is needed, not only for the industry but for the fans.
“People need a lot of things, but one of the things they need is baseball,” he said. “I would assume they’re going to make every effort to go ahead and do it.
“Baseball with no fans is better than no baseball.”