It’s a well known fact that Chicago White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson is as old school as it gets. All of those stories that begin with “Back in my day” and “I remember when “Yaz” (aka Carl Yastrzemski) did this or that" give us a pretty clear view of his perspective on the game and how he believes it should be played and managed.
With that in mind, it came as no surprise when Harrelson (and partner Steve Stone) expressed their opposition to the whole sabermetrics movement right around the time Moneyball hit theatres in 2011. It should also come as no surprise that he took the opportunity to reaffirm his disdain during Wednesday's broadcast of the White Sox-Nationals game in Washington.
Harrelson's comments this time were fueled by an article that ran in the USA Today on Tuesday discussing team chemistry in baseball. Like 2011, he was pretty straight forward in his criticisms of the statheads, and perhaps even a little over the top. Here are just a few examples from Wednesday.
"Sabermetrics, in my opinion, over the last decade, the last ten years, has been the most overrated thing to come into baseball."
"It got a lot of people fired... because it didn't work."
"Just give me some guys who want to win baseball games."
These are popular phrases among old school and casual fans. You rarely something that strong (or misguided) from someone still in the game, however, but I don't think Hawk really much cares.
Naturally, his comments drew the ire of sabermetrics' staunchest supporters, which include MLB Network's Brian Kenny. Kenny just happens to have a new show on the network called MLB Now — along with proud old school supporter Harold Reynolds — in which the value of sabermetrics are discussed and debated every day (somehow). When Harrelson's comments were brought up, Kenny unleashed his own rant towards the nine-year veteran and former White Sox general manager, concluding his diatribe with an invitation for Harrelson to come on the show.
Please, please let that happen. Watching those two go back-and-forth on a topic they're obviously very passionate about could end up being the most memorable segment in the network's four plus year history.
As for who's side I'd take, I'll admit I was one of the slower ones to accept sabermetrics in baseball. I always have believed in and still do believe in the "eye test" and "what you see is usually what you get" but to completely ignore the information and advanced knowledge sabermetrics can provide at this stage in the game is ignorance plain and simple.
You need a little of everything to make it work. You still need top notch scouting up and down the organization. You still need sound talent evaluators at every level. And you definitely need to have a firm understanding that the numbers do tell an important story. Maybe not the entire story, but enough that their inclusion in your talent evaluation process is vital.
That doesn't mean you have to like them or like that people who never played game may know more about about it than you do. But you simply have to find a way to accept their importance. Perhaps a meeting with Brian Kenny would do the trick for Mr. Harrelson, though I certainly wouldn't hold my breath.
Big BLS H/N: Deadspin