Terrerobytes: Recalibrating the aim of White Sox broadcasts

Bob Levey

Plus: Marcus Semien's brush with greatness, Josh Phegley has a lot on his plate, and Chris Sale is a bag of something

The last thing anybody needs is another dissertation on Hawk Harrelson, but Jim Angio brought me into it. (Skip down to the other Terrerobytes if that's not a good enough reason for you; there's other stuff to talk about, too.)

Paul Sullivan talked to the White Sox's telecast director in an article about the Chicago teams' broadcast strategies while playing out the string:

Angio's broadcasts focus on Harrelson, who is in his 29th season in the Sox booth and sometimes is bigger than the game itself. In a season like this, Harrelson can get so frustrated he clams up and goes under a cone of silence.

"That's his M.O.," Angio said with a laugh. "I would never say the broadcast goes as Hawk goes, but he wears his emotions on his sleeve. All of a sudden, if the team goes into a little bit of a funk or slump, Hawk will just become quiet and he'll state it like, 'Oh, boy…' Then he'll sigh. And Sox fans love it.

"They know he's not going to sugarcoat it. And when the Sox are on a high note, there is no bigger cheerleader or rooter for the Sox than Hawk. We try to react to that."

The timing of this article is funny to me personally, because when the White Sox play the Orioles, I always pick the Gary Thorne-Jim Palmer pairing on MASN. Palmer's a Hall of Famer and a product of the Oriole Way, so he has quite a bit of leeway when it comes to criticizing the on-field product. He uses that leverage when he needs to (not as much these days), but without histrionics. The fact that he's saying it is damning enough, so he doesn't need to dwell on a point or hammer it repeatedly.

He also seems to read up on the league, and his analysis of White Sox players is closer to the specifics than most. Basically, I like broadcasters and analysts to be curious about what they're watching (see Ron Darling on Hector Santiago), and that's not exactly a trait of Harrelson. The close-mindedness becomes exacerbated when every game is the same, because it further rounds down his field of applicable prejudgments and truisms.

I get the feeling Steve Stone feels the same way, mainly because of how energized he sounded when calling the two games with Tom Paciorek. He's sitting on a lot of knowledge of the league and its current events, but it seldom leads to interesting discourse with the regular arrangement. If he introduces a topic, it's often shoved hamfistedly through the Hawk prism of preexisting conclusions, or it's ignored. And Hawk doesn't ask for Stone's opinion as much as he leads the witness.

When Stone got a chance to take the lead and had a broadcasting veteran who could carry his half of a lively conversation (Paciorek; no offense to Mike Huff), the range of topics opened up, and I spent the broadcast listening intently instead of reflexively completing sentences. Those two games showed me what I could be listening to during a lost season, which made the return to normal a little more frustrating than usual.

Granted, Harrelson still has his moments. Sullivan cited Hawk's description of the fourth inning of Monday's game ("The most embarrassing inning I have ever called"), and that's an example of a good, blunt, vivid, in-the-moment call. Problem is, a monotonous season like this one isn't a good fit for a broadcaster who operates on a visceral level, because everything numbs everybody after a certain point. He's disengaged, and so I'm disengaged from the call. At this point, it's less broadcasting and more live lamenting, and why am I being lectured to repeatedly, because I didn't do anything wrong.

Terrerobytes

These do not involve Hawk Harrelson.

Based on Joe McEwing's quotes, it sounds like the Sox think Marcus Semien's defensive tendencies are better suited to third base than shortstop. Speaking of shortstops, coming through with his first major-league hit at Yankee Stadium offered additional perks, such as congratulations from Derek Jeter, one of Semien's favorite players growing up:

"Kind of interacted with him a couple of times," Semien said. "That was pretty cool. … He just said ‘Congrats,’ and kind of joked and said ‘It’s that easy, huh?’ And then he just ran off. Pretty excited about that."

I liked Daryl Van Schouwen's lede:

Josh Phegley’s every move is being watched as he tries to prove he’s starting-catcher material.

The White Sox would like to see more hits. They’d like to see fewer passed balls. And some pitchers wouldn’t mind seeing him call a few more pitches that work to their strengths rather than stick exclusively to what the scouting report shows about hitters’ weaknesses.

Other than that, the demands aren’t too high.

Regarding the former White Sox starting catcher, Tyler Flowers, exploratory surgery on his shoulder resulted in the best news possible -- no structural damage, just the removal of damaged tissue from his rotator cuff and labrum. He's expected to need 2-3 months to recovery, when the initial estimate suggested 3-6 months.

Now, the question is whether Flowers will get the opportunity to learn from his injury. Robin Ventura said Flowers didn't communicate the level of pain he experienced, which is an understandable instinct, but the cover-up is always worse, etc.

Chris Jaffe salutes Carlos May and delves into the story of the clutchest performance in White Sox history, according to Win Probability Added.

Grant Brisbee tries figuring out which pitchers in their early 20s will be pitching into their 40s, based on a formula that makes sense to him:

The short list of criteria: frame, deception/uniqueness, ability to survive a velocity drop. Being left-handed doesn't hurt, but LaTroy Hawkins and Rivera prove it isn't necessary.

That means the Sox could have a candidate, right?

Chris Sale is a bag of lawnmower blades in a duffel bag of skin. He's out.

But what a caring bag of lawnmower blades!

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