White Sox play-by-play voice Ken Harrelson was profiled in Tuesday’s New York Times by Ben Strauss, with the Hawk’s tendency to sneer at sabermetrics (“an approach that could alternately be described as endearing or absurd”) being the focal point of the article. While Strauss calls Harrelson’s pronouncements, “Internet catnip”, even a defender like Bob Costas admits, “he’s not Vin Scully or Ernie Harwell”.
Harrelson maintains that he does, in fact, like numbers and that sabermetrics does have a valued place in baseball, but that he would prefer it be a role much more limited that it is now and that too much deference is being paid in general to numbers crunching. He called its rise over the last decade “the biggest joke I’ve ever seen.”
“Look down there at a guy like Gordon Beckham,” he said, peering down at the White Sox’ second baseman. “If you got someone who gets a chance to take him out on a double play — like me — I’m not going to take him out, I’m going to take him out into left field.
“So if the shortstop bobbles the ball, and I have a chance to get him, he knows that. Gordon will get busted and he’ll take the hit. There’s no number to define that in a player.”
“If I’m listening to the White Sox play the Indians, I’m listening for Hawk to tell a great story about Charlie Finley,” said Costas, who narrated an MLB Network documentary about Harrelson. “Or the time he was sitting with Mickey Mantle at an L.A. hotel and Marlon Brando walks in.
“If a guy doesn’t know what WAR is but he’s got good baseball war stories, I’ll take the trade-off.”