In defense of Hawk Harrelson

White Sox TV broadcaster (on WGN and Comcast SportsNet) Ken "Hawk" Harrelson called the game as he saw it, and for that Major League Baseball is thinking about punishing him. For MLB, those bringing us the game should see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

Harrelson's supposed sin came when he criticized home plate umpire Lance Barrett for his inconsistency in calling balls and strikes during Friday night's  game and for his ejection of White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski and later White Sox manager Robin Ventura

Harrelson said:

"This is absolutely ridiculous. ... This might be as bad a two innings as I've ever seen from a guy behind the plate ... so he's bad, so he throws out our catcher and our manager because he's brutal.''

"Lance Barrett has just stunk the joint up is all he's done. That's all he's done."

But that's not all. Check out the video above, in which he says some umpires (guess who) has no business being in baseball because they have no idea what this game is about. And more. His point is that Major League players can live with any calls, as long as they are consistent for both teams.

Whether the Hawk is right or wrong in his criticism, his frankness and insightfulness is why some of us White Sox fans tune in.

Others are grated by his sayings ("Can of corn," "You can put it on the board, yes," "don't stop now boys," "we've got a man there," "when this ball comes down this ballgame is oooover," "mercy," "stretch"  etc.) but everyone has familiar sayings. (Harry Caray: "He popped it up." and Jack Brickhouse's "Hey, hey.) None of that is grounds for reprimand.

Some commentators called Harrelson's outburst "childish." (See Yahoo! Sports Kevin Kaduk), but that's not the issue either. And there's this criticism for his "ego-maniacal blather" on Heave the Hawk and for possibly being the worst announcer in all of baseball.

But this is not a question of his being a "homer" as we can read on Chicagoist.com.

The central question is whether the viewers are being served. And whether he can be muzzled for his remarks, as passionate as they are. (The irony here is that for all the upset he has caused among the White Sox owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, and American League officials, you won't find another announcer who supports his team like Harrelson.)

There is a built-in conflict of interest when the announcers are hired by the team, the league, the owners or the broadcaster (when the team owner is part owner of the TV station). The real answer is for an independent broadcaster to hire an independent announcer who, like newspaper reporters, owe nothing to the team, owners, league and so forth. The economics of baseball, being as mysterious as the God particle, this may or may not be economically possible--at least that's probably what we'd be told. But as long as there is no other option, the broadcasters should give the announcers free rein, and call crappy umpiring for what it is.

Instead of coming down on Harrelson, the league would serve itself better by coming down on those crappy umpires.

Harrelson has had other reprimands for speaking his mind, but he previously said that they wouldn't change his style of broadcasting. He said:

"If I do that, I'll quit," Harrelson said before he went to the microphone for the Sox-Mariners game.

Here is another rant, against umpire Joe West:

Hawk previously said  it won't happen again. But I say, don't quit now, Hawk.

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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