The Cubs have been all over the news the past few weeks, with good reason.
There's been a huge change at the top for the North Siders with Theo Epstein & Co. taking control of a franchise in dire need of new direction.
It has been all Cubs all the time lately, so let's take a break and make room for some Hawk Talk.
The White Sox have made some big moves of their own in the wake of a disappointing 79-83 season.
Manager Ozzie Guillen has relocated to the Miami Marlins, with another former standout player — Robin Ventura — taking over despite having no experience at any level.
We caught up recently with longtime Sox TV broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson at his winter home in Orlando, Fla., to talk some White Sox business. Hawk reluctantly talked about his brief stint as Sox general manager in 1986 and his decision to fire manager Tony La Russa, who went on to win a World Series championship with the Oakland A's and two more titles with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Hawk didn't stop there. He had plenty of strong opinions about the present-day White Sox, so sit back, relax and strap it down. That's Hawk-speak for enjoy the question-and-answer session:
Q: You signed a four-year contract at the end of the season that will carry you through your 74th birthday. Is there another deal after that?
A: I would certainly hope so. If I had my druthers I'd just like to die in the booth. That would be my ultimate way to go. I love what I do now more than I ever have.
It's just amazing after all the years I've spent in this game, 52 of them. There was a time, seven or eight years, ago, when I was thinking about retiring. My wife (Aris) and I had a long talk about it. After we had the talk it left my mind and I just have never revisited it. It's something I want to do as long as I possibly can.
Q: Is Ventura a good choice to replace Guillen as White Sox manager?
A: I think he's going to be fantastic. Let's face it, Ozzie never had any managing experience either. If we didn't lose Frank (Thomas) and Maggs (Magglio Ordonez) in his first year (2004), we probably would have won it all. And we did win it all in '05. X's and O's today and running the baseball game are lesser evils.
There are a lot of people who can run a baseball game, and run a good baseball game. There are fans who can run a game. I have people that text me during the game saying, ‘How the (heck) can he do that?' And they were right.
Running the game ... the age-old question about managers is, would you rather have a good manager from the first pitch of the game to the last pitch of the game, or would you rather have a good manager from the last pitch of the game to the first game of the next game?
Give me the second one, especially in today's culture. The last 30, 40, 50 years, the culture of the game has changed.
Q: What about Ventura having no coaching or managing experience on any professional level?
A: Robin Ventura, I'm not going to say for the first four or five years ... for the last nine or 10 years of his playing career he was a second manager on the field. To me, it's absolutely (b.s.) when people say hiring Robin was a bad move.
(Sox general manager) Kenny (Williams) told me before he hired Robin that he was going to hire a guy and he was going to get hammered in the press. But Kenny's got as much stones as any general manager I have ever seen. He knew he was going to get hammered and he still made the move. I guarantee you, in my opinion, it's going to be a fantastic move.
Q: Was it time for Ozzie to go?
A: Yeah. Yeah.
Q: What are your thoughts on Adam Dunn?
A: I think he's going to give us two shocks. One shock was in 2011 and the next shock is going to be in 2012. I think he's going to come back and have a (heck) of a year. The last day of the season, we talked for a little bit and after that conversation I told my wife, she asked me: ‘Do you think he can come back?'
I said, ‘Honey, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll bet you a dozen golf balls right now Adam's the Comeback Player of the Year. You could read it in his eyes. It was just like reading a book through his eyes ... ‘I will be back, I will be back, I will be back.'
We've never seen a disaster like him. I've seen implosions in golf, like Greg Norman at the Masters, where you just couldn't believe what you were seeing. That was only a week, four days. (Dunn) was for six months. Nobody in baseball has ever seen anything like that.
Q: How badly did Dunn drag down the White Sox?
A: If he was Albert Belle, it wouldn't have affected us as much. Adam's such a terrific guy and a good teammate. We all suffered with him, fans as well. I'll tell you what, as much as I was optimistic last year talent wise, I'll tell you this. My wife came out for spring training and with about a week to go, she was going back to Orlando. I was taking her back to the airport she said, ‘Honey, what do you think they're going to do this year?'
I said, ‘I'll tell you what I think they're going to do. This club has got a chance to be the most talented ballclub that you and I have ever been associated with.' And I said, ‘I don't think it's going to get it done.'
She said, ‘What? Why?' And I said, ‘I'll tell you why. Last year (2010) we had a lot of talent on this club and we had a bad spring. We were flat coming out of spring training and we stayed flat all year long.'
I said, ‘This year it's the same thing. We are flatter coming out of spring than we were last year, and I don't see us coming out of it.' And dad-gum it, I was right. We were flat and as the season went on, we got flatter.
Thank God for Paul Konerko. If we didn't have Paul Konerko, with the year he had with absolutely no protection behind him, we would have finished in last place.
With all that talent we had, with all that good pitching we had ... in my 36 years of broadcasting now, the two most disappointing seasons I've ever suffered through were '84 and this past year.
“To me, from a baseball standpoint, they were two devastating baseball seasons. This year was terrible to watch. I'll tell you what, if I would have been a fan after a while I wouldn't have watched. It was watching the same thing, the same mistakes, terrible outfield play, bad base running, on and on and on.
Q: Will the dugout change help the Sox?
A: Now there's a change, and everything we say positive about Robin, about the new guy, it's like a reflection on the old guy. I'm not trying to do that. I love Ozzie, I love his family and I always will. But Ozzie was just not Ozzie the last couple years. He'll go down there and do a (heck) of a job with the Marlins.
Q: Is free-agent Mark Buehrle coming back?
A: I hope he does. He could become another Jamie Moyer, only better in my opinion. If he wants to, he can pitch for another eight or nine years. I still think Mark has a chance to go to the Hall of Fame, I really do.
One of my all-time favorite teammates, Catfish Hunter, didn't have as good as stuff as Buehrle and he's in Cooperstown.
Of all the thousands of players and people I've met in the game of baseball in 52 years, Catfish Hunter, Mark Buehrle, Robin Ventura, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, they are in my top 10 of all-time favorites. They are special, and that's a reason Robin is going to be a terrific manager. He's going to be fantastic from the last pitch of the game to the first pitch of the next game.
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