Hawk Harrelson is Spiro Agnew

Close your eyes and repeat after me:

“Hawk’s views on advanced stats don’t matter…”

“Hawk’s views on advanced stats don’t matter…”

“Hawk’s views on advanced stats don’t matter…”

“Hawk’s views on advanced stats don’t matter…”

“Hawk’s views on advanced stats don’t matter…”

Because they don’t.

Ken Harrelson is not the General Manager.  He’s not the Manager.  He’s not a member of the coaching staff.  He has no connection to baseball operations in any way, shape, or form.  He’s on TV.  He’s on at 7:00 PM most nights, and if the game is over in nine innings, he’s off the air by 10.  It’s a sweet gig.

I did not watch Hawk’s shouting match with Brian Kenny on the MLB Network.  I avoid cable news screaming matches, and this had all the makings of a CNN shoutfest.  It’s the baseball equivalent of having Ted Nugent argue with a militant vegetarian.  Both sides are wedded to their point of view.  There’s nothing to learn from the exchange of ideas.

I wrote this before, and I’ll write it again.  Hawk Harrelson is an old man.  He’s 71.  The odds of a 71-year-old ex-baseball player embracing advanced stats are less than zero.  Go ahead, start cold calling the guys on this list and see if they are OK with the ideas put forth in “Moneyball.”  What are Boog Powell’s views on SABRmetrics?  Pete Rose?  Gene Brabender?  Wilbur Wood?  Chances are, they will all give you the same song-and-dance about intangibles.

The reaction to the interview broke down along predictable lines.  Younger fans who grew up in the post-“Moneyball” era view Hawk as an embarrassing old man spouting tired tropes about “The Will to Win.”  But, I’m guessing there is a large group of older fans who take Hawk’s side and wanted to know why the mean ol’ nerd was yelling at the nice old man from TV.

In a way, Hawk is Spiro Agnew.  Instead of speaking for the so-called “Silent Majority,” Hawk is the mouthpiece for the people who still refer to stat-geeks as “propellerheads.”  Spiro Agnew was picked as Richard Nixon’s running mate in 1968 because he appealed to the meat-and-potatoes suburban families who did not like the longhairs and the peaceniks and the east coast elitists telling them how to live.  The Democrats could run an ad with a man laughing at the idea of Spiro Agnew being president, but those voters felt the Democrats were laughing at them as well.

Hawk is speaking for the people who enjoy Larry the Cable Guy.  Hawk is speaking for the people who watched “According to Jim.”  Hawk is speaking for fans of the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”  Hawk is speaking for the people who love MichaelBay movies.

It’s not popular opinion amongst baseball writers, but a lot of people feel the same way as Hawk.  The good news is that they are fans.  The only thing they control is how much money they spend on baseball.  The war over stats is over, and the stats won.

I sincerely hope the Sox pull out of their funk, because I miss the fun Hawk Harrelson who is happiest when the White Sox are doing well.  My fear is that he will turn into Charlie Daniels; another southerner who turned into a crabby old man with the passage of time.

I can’t hear “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” without being reminded of the fact that Daniels is now an old crank.  I want Hawk to drop the anti-stats crusade because it adds unnecessary snarl to what are the autumn years of his career.

Meanwhile….(to use a Hawkism)…Jim Margalus at South Side Sox suspects the fix was in, and the Hawk was trying to invent a marketing slogan during his TV appearance.

“It wouldn't surprise me if Harrelson happily entered the fray because he came up with a concept the Sox found appealing. Harrelson has nothing to lose. He made up his mind about Moneyball well before Michael Lewis had the idea to write about it. That "MLB Now" segment is just a way to pass the time for 15 minutes. If what he thinks he's saying is true, he'll throw it out there as fact, and the Sox can circle the wagons around him and hope it turns into a rallying cry.”

The quick turnaround on "The Will to Win" merch. was pretty suspicious.

That would require some four-dimensional thinking on the part of Hawk.  If that truly was his intention, he’s smarter than most people think.

Filed under: #TWTW, Broadcasters

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  • Hawk has been saying "Billy Beane has won nothing" for about a decade now. Apparently missed that Theo Epstein won twice in Boston (although Theo is not going to win in the conceivable future). But this didn't start with Moneyball.

    And Hawk speaks for only one person--Jerry Reinsdorf. Apparently he got the word this year to say in every game "we haven't had a bad umped one this year." Didn't even complain much when a Sox batter was called out on a way outside pitch (according to PitchTrax) yesterday.

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