Monday, June 21, 2010

Even Ron Santo Cutting Back on Watching the Cubs

Ron Santo has announced that he will not be traveling with the Cubs to broadcast the games in Seattle this week, and that he will be reducing his travel schedule next year to games in the Midwest.  I'm really glad for a few reasons.

For one, I kind of miss actual analysis from the color commentator.  Granted, it can be happily distracting to have Pat and Ron start talking in-depth about tuna fish sandwiches, the Andy Griffith show, Ron's toupee, or any number of other non-baseball topics, but generally, I'd like to have some insight as to why things are unfolding on the baseball diamond as they are.  You don't get that much with Ron on his best days.

When he's not at his best, he's not sure who's batting, what position they play, or whether they are any good at being a baseball player.  Sometimes he misses entire batters' outcomes and has to ask Pat how that runner got on first, or when that second out happened.

There was a time when even that was just fine.  Ron filled the role of being a fan in the booth.  During big moments, he would yell with joy or cry out in agony and it was what we were all feeling, so it was entertaining.  His "OH NOOOOOOOOOO!!!" as Brant Brown dropped a third out in Milwaukee as the bases cleared for a walk-off win for the Brewers is forever etched into my memory.

Likewise, him imploring Alex Gonzalez to run faster around the bases as the ball rolled into the left-center gap before Gonzalez eventually slid safely in to home with a walk-off win against the Cardinals was typical of his happy moments.  It was exciting.  It was fun.  You didn't care that he didn't know how many outs there were or that the opponents had changed pitchers two innings ago.

But as the agony of the years since 2003 has worn on all of us, the moments of joy from Ron are fewer and further between.  He will still yell out an "ALRIGHT!" after an early RBI gives the Cubs the lead, or a pitcher works out of an early jam, but the declarations are given more as if saying, "Alright, the Cubs have the lead... for now!  Hopefully they don't mess it up!"

Meanwhile, if things start poorly for the Cubs (as they do more often than not lately), Ron is reduced to not much more than moans, groans, and "Awww jeez"es.  Again, like us, he can't believe how poor this team really is, and its killing him.  Unfortunately, listening to a man having his heart pulled out of his chest on live radio every day starts to get depressing on its own.  It is difficult to just try to appreciate a baseball game for the sake of baseball as Ron seemingly goes into labor shortly after the first pitch of every game.

There was a time when I preferred Pat and Ron over Chip's suckitude and Stone's growing douchebaggery, and that stayed true as Len's vanilla style didn't do much to engage me and Bob wasn't a heck of a lot more interesting.  But now, Len has grown a bit more into the role, and I can at least yell at Bob when he endlessly criticizes Soriano even after he does someting good.  Meanwhile on the radio, Pat heroically tries to describe the scene on the field in between declarations of "Gosh!", "Man oh man", "JEEEEEZ!!!", and other unrecognizable sounds that sound more and more disturbingly like Gollum coming from his broadcast partner.

It will be good to have Ron in the booth for some games next year, but it will also be nice to be able to start filling that role with an heir apparent.  It was nice when Keith Moreland filled in for Ron earlier this year because he seemed to work well with Pat, had a casual style, but sometimes talked about things like defensive positioning, pitch sequences, and hitting mechanics.  Those are things that are currently conspicuously missing from the WGN radio broadcasts.  I'm sure the fans will call for a return of someone like Mark Grace, but they would do very well to have more of Moreland in the future.

Lastly, the main reason I'm happy for Santo's reduced schedule is that it increases the likelihood that his time on earth can be extended a bit longer than if he kept up such a crazy schedule as a full-time announcer.  He has done more with his health issues than most perfectly healthy people can even imagine, but a human body can only take so much, and his has been breaking down more regularly lately.  Hopefully, the Cubs can figure out a way to get the Cubs to the promised land before Ron eventually leaves us and he can join the booth for a clinching game.

The way it is going, Ron better plan on sticking around for a good long while for that to happen.


Mercurial Outfielder said...

I only like this if it means Keith Moreland is stepping in. All the other alternative--Sirrott, Otto, Hollandsworth--are just as horrid as Santo.

Aisle 424 said...

MO, I will never listen to the WGN radio broadcasts if Sirott is given an expanded role. He is horrible and he makes me hate Bob Sirott for being related to him and making it possible for Judd to be employed as a broadcaster.

Otto and Hollandsworth are basically what you get with most former athlete commentators. I can deal with them as long as Pat stays in the booth doing the play-by-play. He makes anybody sound better, but Moreland would be the top choice of the obvious candidates.

Anonymous said...

Agreed on Moreland. I liked the guy as a player, but I love him as a broadcaster.

It bums me out a great deal about Ron though. Not so much that he's cutting back, but because he's getting up there in age and he still isn't in the Hall. Plus all of the health issues will inevitably keep getting worse, which is sad.

Aisle 424 said...

Ronnie is pretty resilient. I'm convinced that the Cubs retired his number in 2003 because they weren't sure how much longer he would be around. Seven years later, he's just starting to take it a bit easier. He'll probably still broadcast at least 100-120 games next year.

Cubs Magic Number said...

It's become something of a trend to bash Ron's performance in the booth these days without acknowledging the man and his contribution to Cubdom. You found a nice balance.

Now. How do we start a Moreland For The Booth campaign?

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