LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Anyone else jazzed for a potential Red Line World Series?
On the North Side of town, the Cubs’ championship window is wide open and figures to be for some time. On the South Side, a lengthy list of highly ranked prospects has White Sox fans dreaming of a lengthy stay among baseball’s top teams.
One notable Chicago baseball figure who thinks the Windy City’s on the cusp of a golden age of baseball on both sides of town? Hawk Harrelson.
Despite his repeated pledges to never again set foot inside Wrigley Field, the longtime White Sox announcer — who’s embarking on his final season in the broadcast booth — had some high praise for the Cubs. And of course he’s as excited about the White Sox rebuilding efforts as anyone.
“Last month we were at an induction into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame. (Cubs chairman) Tom Ricketts was there. I congratulated him on winning a world championship. I also told him in two years from now our club is going to have a lot of fun playing his,” Harrelson said Monday at baseball’s Winter Meetings. “Because they’re not going anywhere, they’re good. That makes it good for us because it makes us have to get better. And when you have to get better you work a little harder, subconsciously or consciously. That’s the way sports is. Inner drive, and getting that adrenaline flowing.
“Chicago fans are going to have a wonderful next decade in baseball.”
The famously tangent-prone Harrelson touched on a wide array of topics in a crowded lobby at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, including baseball’s future and how one recent restructuring proposal could have the Cubs and White Sox playing in the same division.
“We’re going to see a reorganization in baseball, and it’s actually going to be, in my opinion, for decades and decades, a tremendous boon,” he said. “But the end result will take something away from it, where we’re going to be playing the Cubs 18 times a year. … That’s going to happen. It’s not going to happen for a long time yet, but it will happen.”
He also had glowing words for managers on both sides of town, channeling his “Ricky’s boys don’t quit!” mantra from 2017 by talking about how hard both the White Sox and Cubs players play for their respective managers.
“The mark of a good manager is not wins and losses. A mark of the good manager is these,” Harrelson said, pointing to his eyes. “How hard do they play for him? And we’ve got two terrific managers in Chicago in Rick Renteria and Joe Maddon. You saw how hard our guys played this year. We only won, what, 67 games this year? You see how Maddon’s guys play for him. They never quit. Our guys don’t quit. Now we’re outgunned, outmanned. But playing hard?”
It should come as no surprise that Harrelson is one of the biggest advocates and supporters of the White Sox rebuilding effort, and he added Monday that he’s never seen a rebuild get off to as fast a start as Rick Hahn has with the White Sox. But Harrelson has also lauded Renteria as the right manager for the job on the South Side.
As part of an analysis on the ever-growing number of players from Spanish-speaking countries in the game, he cited Renteria as the model for the future of managing.
“You’re going to see more and more Latin managers come into this game because nothing is going to be lost in translation,” he said. “I am so happy that we have Rick Renteria at the helm. I saw a thing last year, I could kick myself for not taking a photo of it. In Minnesota, there was (Avisail Garcia), (Jose) Abreu, (Leury) Garcia and Rick Renteria sitting around the table in the food room. They were laughing their behinds off. They were having such a good time talking about baseball and having good times, and you just don’t see those three guys in that mode. And Rick had them in stitches, speaking Spanish, of course. And then when he had his meetings in spring training, half of it was in English and half was in Spanish. So that is a trend.”
For a team so focused on the future, the man who’s seen it all — a man who hopes to be in baseball for parts of eight decades — sees not just a future contender but the future of the game in what is brewing on the South Side.