Hawk Harrelson’s pearls of wisdom

Just a little while ago, in the White Sox versus Nationals game, Chicago announcer Ken Harrelson talked a bit about what he felt was the most overrated thing that has come into baseball in the past 10 years.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking—he was talking about the closer role. You know, the fact that guys get huge contracts because they have a history of pitching one half-way decent inning at the end of a game in which that player’s team is ahead between one and three runs.

No, it wasn’t the closer’s role.

And it was not an overrated statistic. Don’t start thinking it was something like Runs Batted In for a hitter or Wins for a pitcher. No, he didn’t rail against those as being an incomplete way to judge a player because they rely too much on variables that are outside the player’s control.

Remember, it was a concept, not a player. So, those of you screaming, “Joba Chamberlain“, or “Phil Hughes” can calm down. (And, stop screaming stuff at your computer.)

No, it was a broad concept. It was something that “Hawk” sees as a waste of time that many in baseball are overvaluing like crazy right now.


Sabermetrics is the most overrated thing in baseball according to Harrelson.

He made his observation after the Nationals had their pitcher bunt the runner on first over to second. With that sacrifice bunt by the pitcher, an ode to bygone days of baseball, a time when men were men and they chewed tobacco instead of sunflower seeds, Harrelson was reminded of all that is bad in baseball right now and said of sabermetrics, “…it’s gotten a lot of people fired, because it didn’t work.”

His color man, Steve Stone, noted that while maybe some people have been fired, a lot of people right now—people currently working in baseball—actually have their jobs because of their ability to understand sabermetrics. Harrelson conceded a little and said that sabermetrics could be an “element” that could be used in the game. Then he went on to tell us, in so many words, that you’re much better off just looking for guys who want to win baseball games, an idea he says that our infatuation with numbers has obscured.

So from that, one might be tempted to look at a team like the White Sox and conclude that if they go on to have a sub-.500 record this season, it won’t be due to any lack of talent that, based on past performance, projection systems like PECOTA could see coming. No. According to Harrelson, a below average season would be due to an overabundance of players who don’t really want to win.

Now, if the White Sox beat PECOTA’s expectations? It won’t be because of Alex Rios having one of his every-other-year- career years which could flip their record by eight games all by itself. It won’t be because they all stay relatively healthy and exceed expectations. No, it will be because they want to win more than the teams they play against.

With it being that simple, I have just finished applying for the head scouting position of every team in baseball. Surely one will see that my resume, which consists only of one sentence, makes me worthy of a job over some sabermetric dweeb. The resume simply states that, “I will find players who say they really, really want to win and our team will be the pants off everyone else and you should really hire me because this will work and using stuff like statistics to evaluate players is the most overrated thing in baseball in past decade.”*

It’s only a matter of time before the phone rings.

*I always use run on sentences on my fake resumes.

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  1. MikeS said...

    I heard that, immediately muted the TV and turned on the radio.

    Hawk is already on record as saying that RBI is the most important stat for hitters which goes along with his “don’t tell me what you hit, tell me when you hit it.” He has also said repeatedly that Wins is the most important stat for pitchers because all the good ones “pitch to the score” which implies that they don’t really try all that hard when they have big leads.

    He hates when White Sox pitchers walk people (“The dreaded leadoff walk!” “C’mon *reliever*, no walks”) but wants the hitters to be aggressive and not waste time working the count.  Pick a lane.

    How hard is it to understand?  Good hitters make fewer outs.  Good pitchers get more hitters out.  If you get nothing but that, you have a good start in sabremetrics.

  2. Carl said...

    After reading this, I feel so sorry for White Sox fans.  I can only imagine what poor Steve Stone has to say when he gets home after a game working with the Hawk.

  3. tink said...

    No worries, I hear that Hawk is lined up to replace another ‘want to win’ man named McCarver.

    In short, I’d gladly put up with Hawk in order to get rid of many of the others.

  4. Aaron said...

    Something like this happened during Arizona’s game last week and Steve Berthume had to kind of correct his fellow commentor.  I don’t recall the guys name, but when a picther laid down a bunt, he said “Many in sabermentric communities would have said that’s a no-no but boy when it works it looks good!”  Many in sabermetrics discredit a bunt by a guy who can already get on base at a high level and I can’t recall anyone ever implying that pitchers bunting is a bad idea, yet this announcer was making it a battle cry for sabermatricians.  It’s good that sabermetrics is becoming more common but it will be widely misunderstood by the public before it is commonplace.

  5. chuck said...


    people who say all bunting is bad are probably the ones who read/saw moneyball, where the a’s believe all bunting is bad.  they, of course, do not have the pitcher bat.

  6. Chris J. said...

    Guys – you missed the best part of Hawk’s brief GM tenure:  He put Carlton Fisk in left field.

  7. Jim said...

    Does anyone know a web site that explains every detail of every metric?  I am interested in the following for each metric:

    a.  Full name and acronym
    b.  How it is figured
    c.  What its use is
    d.  Why anyone should care
    e.  What number/result is good, bad, better, and best/worst

    Thanking you in advance

  8. Fan said...

    Did Hawk actually say “According to Harrelson, a below average season would be due to an overabundance of players who don’t really want to win…”? paraphrased a bit I assumed.

  9. Clayton said...

    This is so absurd.  I don’t like to wish death upon any person but its going to be good for the game in 30 years when these people who refuse to adapt are still around.

    Sheesh, I sound like a liberal.

  10. Jim said...

    Clayton, I wish you were God or at least had His ear.  You say I’m going to live another 30 years.  I guess you liberals are good for something after all.  Thanks!

  11. Sarge6 said...

    “Harrelson . . . briefly left broadcasting during the 1986 season to become the White Sox’s General Manager. During his one season as GM, Harrelson fired field manager Tony La Russa (who was soon hired by the Oakland Athletics) and assistant general manager Dave Dombrowski (who became baseball’s youngest general manager with the Montreal Expos just two years later). Harrelson also traded rookie Bobby Bonilla, later a six-time All-Star, to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher José DeLeón.”

    Note also that on the 1986 White Sox, Hawk rostered a 37-year old George Foster and a 41-year old Steve Carlton. I’m sure they had winning mindsets. Just nothing left in the tank. Sabermetrically speaking.

  12. Sarge6 said...

    Just because I feel like piling on. Hawk’s 1986 White Sox “finished with a record of 72-90, good enough for 5th place in the American League West, 20 games behind the 1st place California Angels.” Guess nobody “wanted to win.”

  13. Jim said...

    Run on sentences with misspellings, of course.

    You won’t get calls because players who want to win don’t exist today.  They just want the money – see Pujols, A.

  14. Dave Cornutt said...

    That’s why we love Hawk.  Because you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth.  Neither does he.

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