But this year, people are treating the Cubs differently. Try as they might, no one can find a serious flaw in this well-oiled machine.
Well, those people don’t know Dick. Dick Stockton, that is.
Stockton is a familiar (ugly) face to most Midwesterners, who have grown up with him as the voice of the random NFC Central/North game that you watched on any given Sunday. And to say he has lost something off his fastball the past couple of years is an understatement.
A couple of years ago during a Bears game, Stockton applied this memorable call to a field goal at the end of the first half: “IT’S LONG ENOUGH!…” at which point you saw the ball harmlessly fall into the end zone at least a yard shy of the crossbar. Hearing him call a game has become akin to watching Tim Wakefield try to make a living throwing heaters — only Wakefield has the sense to never try such a thing.
As you might imagine, I was less than thrilled last October when Stockton drew the assignment behind the mic when the Cubs faced the D’backs in the playoffs. Hell, I didn’t even knew he called baseball. But senility knows no sporting boundaries, and that was never more apparent than when he referred to Aramis Ramirez as Rodrigo Ramirez at one point in the series.
Naturally, what bothered me more was the fact that Cubs were unable to win a single game in the series. To pin such a thing on Dick Stockton would be silliness, though. It was merely an aberration. A coincidence that had much more to do with terrible hitting than terrible announcing.
After Saturday’s loss to the Phillies, I’m not so sure. Things were setting up nicely for the Cubs, who were riding high on a seven-game win streak. Theodore Roosevelt Lilly was taking the hill and figuring to neutralize the left-handed power in the Philadelphia lineup. Furthermore, the Phils had Brett Myers pitching, and he’s typically only good at beating overmatched opponents like the Nationals, Pirates and his wife.
But I forgot about the X-Factor. Being a Fox national game of the week — but not THE game of the week — it was none other than Dick Stockton in the booth. And after Saturday’s loss, the Cubs dropped to 0-3 in games called by Stockton this season. At least if my memory serves me correctly.
According to my charts, that gives the Cubs a six-game losing streak in games announced by Stockton. And that’s before confirming the unsubstantiated rumors that he called Game 7 of the 1945 World Series. (Sure, he only would have been 3 at the time, but there was a war on. You never know.)
So as Cub fans try to break down how the team matches up against each prospective playoff opponent, just keep in mind that the biggest name to fear may be the one in the broadcast booth.