Reading the stories and watching the footage from Jason Benetti's media tour on Wednesday, he sounds like a guy who earned the job of calling the games for his childhood team.
- Benetti, who is on a multiyear deal, will work 81 games -- 78 home dates, and a three-game series in Toronto April 25-27
- Hawk Harrelson will work the other 81 dates, and is also back on a multiyear deal.
- Steve Stone is in it to win it, working with both broadcasters on ... a multiyear deal.
... and Benetti was the center of attention of a situation he says he still has a difficult time grasping:
"I like to bring everything. Everything possible,’’ Benetti said. "[Metrics are] something Steve and I talked about, when we have a chance we will do it.
"[Statistics are a] component but also some of the best parts of baseball broadcasts is there is a story. And Steve has played with so many players, you have to find creative ways to have him tell those stories and trace back to what he has done. And so I like having a good time and talking about other stuff as well, if there is stuff of interest going on. If it’s a blowout game, we’ll bring that in. To disregard anything that could be relevant is not something I like to do.’’
In the interview with Chuck Garfien embedded above, he said that it'll be his job to inform viewers about advanced statistics, but it's also on him to keep learning about them, and using them to find out more about how players work.
Man, it's going to be strange to hear a broadcaster who is actively interested in finding out things he doesn't yet know.
For his part, Harrelson is handling the transition with his own kind of honesty. He pretty much admitted that he felt as bad as he sounded last year, so much so that the "multi" part of the deal is kinda immaterial:
"It’s a contract, that, as I told [Sox vice president for sales and marketing Brooks Boyer] and [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf], it might be at the end of the season where I say ‘Hey, I’ve had enough,’’ Harrelson told the Sun-Times Wednesday. "I hope that’s not the case because that means our team didn’t do well again. If I have to go through another season like we did last year, that would probably be enough — no, you can count me out."
I'm eager to hear whether the limited opportunities to call a game perks up Harrelson in the upcoming season, regardless of the score or situation. While he forced me to mute my TV way too many times last year, I'll acknowledge that he wouldn't be so frustrating to listen to if there weren't a unique and effective broadcaster lurking somewhere underneath the crust.
As far as we can deduce from this distance, the White Sox are going about their business as if arb-year contracts have not been settled. Brett Lawrie joins Zach Putnam, Dan Jennings and Avisail Garcia as players set to swap figures before a potential hearing that they'll never hear, in all likelihood.
Periodic outfielder update: At ESPN.com, Jerry Crasnick looked into Justin Upton's sluggish free agency, talking to a number of people around baseball to figure out what's stalling the process. Crasnick reports the story into circles, saying Upton's reputation precedes him, but in ways that don't lineup with what his direct superiors the last two years say. A sample:
Is it fair to hold youthful indiscretions against players throughout their careers? Upton, by most accounts, has worked hard to maintain an even keel, yet now, he's being penalized for a different reason. He's soft-spoken and reserved by nature, and some talent evaluators equate that with a lack of passion. That perception was evident in November, when ESPN.com surveyed 34 front-office people and scouts, and 20 chose Heyward over Upton head-to-head.
"Heyward plays harder, and he affects the whole team by making others better with his [hard-nosed] defense and aggressive play," a National League scout said. Another personnel man called Upton a "tremendous talent" who "coasts" at times.
Those opinions aren't necessarily shared by Upton's former coaches and managers, who say he routinely runs out balls and plays with effort. Tellingly, Upton's 2015 season ended four games early when he almost knocked himself out chasing down a ball into the left-field corner. The Padres were 15 games out of first place in the National League West at the time.
Ken Rosenthal approaches the topic in a different way, using the Phillies as an example. They could use an outfielder, especially one who is in his 20s. However, he says that one protected draft pick may not be enough to entice them to invest now, given how teams have used that pool money in previous years:
In 2012, the Astros signed the No. 1 overall pick, shortstop Carlos Correa, for $4.8 million, well below MLB's assigned $7.2 million figure. They then signed the 41st overall choice, right-hander Lance McCullers, for $2.5 million, well above the $1.258 recommendation.
Last year the Astros were at it again. They went more than $1.5 million below slot for the No. 2 overall pick, LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, and about a combined $400,000 below on the No. 5 overall pick, high-school outfielder Kyle Tucker and No. 46 pick, Cal State-Fullerton right-hander Thomas Eshelman.
High-school outfielder Daz Cameron at No. 37 for $4 million -- more than $2.4 million above the recommended number.