In my younger days, I was often taken with the mannerisms of Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, longtime voice of the Chicago White Sox. Let's face it, hearing Harrelson yell out "You can put it on the boarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd... YES!" is often the only reason to check in on the Southsiders every night, and is just a generally cool thing to pop in and say in almost any situation with your friends. "I was sleeping on the flooooooooorrrr.... YES!"
But you get older and you realize certain things. Like the fact that Harrelson is one catchphrase away from being one of the least pleasant broadcasts to listen to in Major League Baseball. He's often entertaining, yes, but it's also often very dull. Plus, this is treading over the obvious, but there's not a more homeristic broadcast in all of the four major sports than Hawk's. I have no problem with a team's broadcast being on the side of that team. That can be good in certain spots, and you are acting as either an employee of the team or an employee of the network that covers it. But, you all know the kind of stuff Harrelson does, referring to players by their first names, openly calling the White Sox "the good guys" and sounding like his dog died whenever another team hits a home run.
Harrelson also, apparently, has it out for the advanced stats community. During his broadcast on Wednesday night, he summed up years and decades of statistical research and advancement in baseball knowledge into 30 words, saying "You know, Sabermetrics in my opinion, in the last decade, has been the most overrated thing to come into baseball. It's got a lotta' people fired, because it didn't work." A full clip of his comments below.
Brian Kenny, host of MLB Now -- a show which puts Kenny's analytics-inclined mind against the "old school" of Harold Reynolds -- rightfully went off on Harrelson. He cited Tampa Bay, Oakland and Boston, all teams who have had varying degrees of success bringing analytics into the sport. Cheekily, in not so many words, pointing out what a homer Harrelson is and denouncing him as "completely wrong."
In my personal opinion, I don't know enough about advanced stats to say whether or not they're over- or underrated in baseball or any other sport, but I'm almost always going to put my faith on the side of knowledge, and in the side of progression. Harrelson's cry of "give me the guys who want to win a baseball game" just sounds like silly, phony old school hooey. Everybody wants to win a baseball game if you're playing in Major League Baseball. Put me on the side of guys like Kenny, who uses evidence and mathematics, and is trying to advance an agenda of bringing the analytical minds to the sports world, which makes things more interesting for us all.
Harrelson should know that his business believes in the same things Kenny does, too. When I spoke to production execs at ESPN and MLB Network level, the usefulness of analytics and advanced stats was not a question of whether or not they were useful, but how they could be used properly in a broadcast. Even on a local level, SNY's Mets reporter Kevin Burkhardt cited Fangraphs in a broadcast this week. So not only is Harrelson falling behind the times from a baseball standpoint, he is doing so, too, as a broadcaster.