White Sox fans aren't the only ones thrilled by Rick Hahn's wheeling and dealing. Hawk Harrelson is also on board, so much so that he's discarded the idea of a reduced broadcast schedule.
"I looked at the schedule 15, 20, 30 times," Harrelson said Monday. "I narrowed it down to about 120 games but now that’s out the window."
While Harrelson, 73, was finishing up his 30th season in the Sox booth in 2014, he began to consider cutting some road games from his schedule, citing missed family time, especially with his grandchildren. It’s a step broadcasters often make at the end of their careers.
"I was thinking about cutting my season short this year and now with all that’s going on I don’t think I’m going to do it," Harrelson said. "It’s going to be a great year, a fun year to watch and when it gets like that I don’t care if you do 162 or 192. It’s fun to watch."
This isn't good news for those who were hoping for a regular third wheel, an insurgent who could nudge the broadcast forward without knocking down the established hierarchy that so many people -- from Jerry Reinsdorf down to a sizable chunk of the fan base -- prefer.
But it seems like the broadcast could be at a crossroads regardless.
For one, Steve Stone is in the final year of his contract. He publicly flirted with stepping out toward the end of the 2012 season before deciding to honor the rest of his contract, and it doesn't seem like his relationship with Harrelson has improved all that much. The loyalty Reinsdorf engenders is one reason Stone would return, but I can't think of another, unless he really likes working in Chicago.
Moreover, this season should be a litmus test for what Harrelson has become. Two years of losing baseball has taken a toll on the television product, because it's quite apparent that the broadcast quality hinges on how interesting the Sox are on a given day.
Harrelson doesn't prepare enough to fill airtime in the event of bad baseball. If the action isn't worth talking about, he either resorts to well-worn theses (the biggest development in the last 50 years is that baseball is a battle of the bullpens...), or he doesn't talk at all.
It's clear that his moods and tastes decide what lives or dies. Stone enjoys talking about leaguewide happenings and can have conversations with anybody who cares, but Harrelson doesn't. And remember when Stone said the broadcasts were going to delve into sabermetrics? I think they mentioned Robinson Cano's WAR once. Outside of that, they only stuck to a couple items that confirmed Harrelson's beliefs (Alexei Ramirez's out of zone plays was one).
As a result, it's been two years of laborious listening, independent of the score. We're not the ones screwing up, but we're the ones getting the same old lectures, and that isn't fair.
But Harrelson is still a lot of fun when the game compels him to deliver spontaneous, live observations, and so the hope is that this rapid-fire sequence of moves provides him enough talent to keep his interest. If this season wears him out, then there's nowhere the broadcast can go but down.