The White Sox swept the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum for the first time since 1997, and Aaron Rowand wanted a little bit of credit.
Aaron Rowand may or may not have noted his 3-0 record as #WhiteSox TV analyst when he entered the clubhouse.— Dan Hayes (@CSNHayes) May 17, 2015
Rowand sat in for Steve Stone during the series, and it was a pairing I hoped to hear at some point over the weekend, as Harrelson hasn't worked next to a guy that young in recent memory (Stone, Darrin Jackson, Tom Paciorek, Mike Huff, Jack McDowell, Frank Thomas ... am I missing anybody?).
Unfortunately, Extra Innings gave me Oakland's feed all weekend.
Fortunately, Oakland had a similar setup with their booth, and I gained an understanding of the potential of such a pairing while listening to Glen Kuiper and Eric Chavez.
Chavez signed on to serve as a color commentator for 20 games this year, with longtime analyst Ray Fosse still handling the bulk of the schedule (126 games). He sounded like a new guy in terms of inflection -- his voice was pretty flat, and his promotional readings lacked a promotional intonation.
However, he also sounded like a guy who had played the game recently. If he didn't have first-hand experience with the players or coaches involved, he came off as a guy who did his research, and who paid attention. And so I paid attention, and a couple of the things I found interesting turned into sidebars from Chicago reporters.
Chavez overlapped with Eaton in AZ; said he and AJ Pollock worked on touching (or just missing) the very front of the bag in the spring.— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) May 16, 2015
Turned into this:
Adam Eaton didn't have normal white scuff mark on shoe from front of bag, something works on. H/t: @SouthSideSox http://t.co/z6a51cJjj1— Dan Hayes (@CSNHayes) May 17, 2015
"(Chavez) shouldn’t be giving away my secrets," Eaton said with a laugh. "Before replay, realistically I would never even hit the bag. I would hit the front of the bag and drag my toe over it because from an umpire’s perspective, he’s 10, 15 feet behind the bag, all he sees is my foot hit something and in Triple-A there was quite a few times where I wouldn’t hit the bag and I’d be safe by a half-step. But now with replay you still have to hit the bag … Really I just try to nudge the front of the bag and then drag my foot over the top of it.
"It does make a difference."
And then there's Geovany Soto, who has had Sox fans wondering why he topples over when throwing the ball back to the pitcher. I've been asked numerous times as a P.O. Sox question, and I could never find a definitive answer. My best guess is the same thing BuehrleMan mentioned in 2013 when he first noticed Soto's habit -- that he had the yips at some point, and his double-clutch and dirt rub were actions that somehow took the focus off the task of returning the ball to the mound.
It caught Chavez's eye -- noting that Alexei Ramirez often took a step to back up the pitcher on Soto's return tosses -- and he drew the same conclusion (although he calls the yips "The Thing").
Part 1 of Chavez on Soto's routine. pic.twitter.com/3Sx45cX9w2— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) May 16, 2015
While we wait for the review, Part 2 of Chavez on Soto's routine. pic.twitter.com/RoD6HNBKoY— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) May 16, 2015
Which turned into this:
What's up with Geovany Soto's post-pitch routine? Eric Chavez thinks Soto has the yips. Soto says it's just a habit. http://t.co/XT8mGGGEh6— David Just (@davidjustCST) May 17, 2015
Tip of the hat to @SouthSideSox for pulling Chavez's comments from last night's telecast.— David Just (@davidjustCST) May 17, 2015
Soto described the motion as a "habit" and nothing more. Asked if there was any truth to Chavez’s comments about the "yips," Soto said: "No, I don’t think so."
The rest of his routine, he said, is just clearing pebbles away from the plate to prevent the ball from taking a bad bounce.
I don't quite buy that -- it doesn't cover the double-clutching and wrong-foot-forward throwing that preceded Soto's surgery -- but it sounds like Just pried as much as he could within the bounds of decency, and now we have an impasse on record at the very least.
It should be odd that I learned as much unique information about White Sox players from three Oakland broadcasts as I learn from the White Sox booth in three weeks. But, as I mentioned with the comparison between the Sox booth and Baltimore's team, Harrelson and Stone use fewer words than just about every other pairing I've heard.
That's why I was intrigued by pairing Harrelson with a recently retired player in Rowand. The general sense I get from conversations is that Rowand started out extremely stiff in the first game, but he had a much better sense of the flow by the end of the series.
So, my three questions for you:
No. 1: Do you agree or disagree with that sentiment?
No. 2: Did Harrelson show an interest in what Rowand had to say (setting him up, asking for elaboration, etc.)?
No. 3: Does Rowand (or another recently retired player) as a semi-frequent alternative analyst make sense, if we assume Harrelson is a given?
That last idea seems more and more reasonable to me, especially hearing a guy like Chavez, who talked mechanics (the line between playing a hop and letting a hop play him) while weaving in sabermetrics (exit velocity). Stone's contract up at the end of the year, and given that he reluctantly chose to see the current deal through to its the end, it's not a given that he'd strike up another one.
Whether Stone returns, or whether the Sox need to hire a replacement, it seems like a regular third wheel would be the best way to present fresh information and analysis despite the inherent obstacles.