Chuck Garfien

Not next time, this time: Hawk Harrelson needs to be in the Hall of Fame

Not next time, this time: Hawk Harrelson needs to be in the Hall of Fame

"Stretch!"

"Mercy!"

"He gone!"

"Dagummit!"

"Gas!"

"Grab some bench!"

"Sit back, relax and strap it down!"

"You can put it on the board, yes!"

"And this ballgame is ovah!"

No broadcaster in the history of baseball has created more words and catchphrases for the sport than Ken “Hawk” Harrelson.

And it’s not even close.

"Chopper two hopper"

"Right size, wrong shape"

"Grab some bench"

"Rack ‘em up"

"He got a cookie right there"

"Cinch it up and hunker down"

"Don’t stop now boys"

"You can cancel the postgame show"

You could go on and on and on.

As the longtime play-by-play announcer of the White Sox, the distinct language Harrelson invented altered the tectonic plates of broadcasting. His pioneering terminology, both catchy and grandiose, can fill a book. His love for the South Siders ran so deep, he bled White Sox black and white in the booth for 34 years.

And when the winner of the Ford Frick Award is announced on Wednesday at the MLB Winter Meetings, inducting one broadcaster into the Hall of Fame, no offense to the seven other worthy candidates, but that person has to be Hawk Harrelson.

It’s time. It’s past time.

“How he’s not in the Hall of Fame is mind-boggling to me,” former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “I know a lot of the guys who have gone in on the Frick Award, and not that those guys aren’t deserving, but there’s no person on the planet that I know of who has done more not only to promote baseball and to promote baseball on television than him.”

The 78-year-old Harrelson has been a Frick finalist before, in 2007, 2014 and 2017, but he came up short all three times for an award that only once every three years is handed out to a team-specific broadcaster like him.

Did Hawk’s blatant homer-ism rub opposing fans and opposing players the wrong way? Yep. Probably some broadcasters, too. Has that impacted his candidacy for the Frick Award in the past? Probably.

But Harrelson didn’t broadcast games to make friends with other teams. He was there to serve White Sox fans, and whether you loved him or hated him — there’s really no in between with Hawk — his rooting interest for the team that employed him went so deep, the stories and quotes are legendary.

“When we play the Cubs, I want to kick their you-know-whats,” Harrelson told me in a 2017 interview.

How many broadcasters would ever say something like that on the record? I can only think of one: Hawk Harrelson.

When he feared that former White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier broke his jaw diving into the stands for a foul ball in 2016, Harrelson literally left the booth and rushed into the clubhouse for a medical update.

How many broadcasters do you know who would actually leave their post during a game to check on the well-being of one of the players? Again, I can only think of only one: Hawk Harrelson.

He was a homer who cleared the bases every time he stepped up to the microphone, whether the White Sox won or lost.

“Harry Caray is in the Hall of Fame. There wasn’t a bigger homer in the history of the world, right?" Pierzynski said. “Every year that goes by that he doesn’t get in, to me is just a joke.”

It makes sense for Pierzynski to feel this strongly about Harrelson, who’s been a father figure/glorified uncle to Pierzynski since the catcher was a teenager growing up in Orlando, Florida.

But now, sentiment about Harrelson repeatedly getting snubbed for the Hall has been building well outside of Chicago. Support for his candidacy around baseball is getting louder. One might say even raucous, like Hawk himself.

"I know the backroom conversation is, 'But oh, he was such a homer.' Well, isn't that whole doggone point? Isn’t that the idea?” said Matt Vasgersian, the MLB Network host and play-by-play announcer for ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," on a recent edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

“Don’t White Sox fans when they turn on a White Sox game want to know the perspective from their own team? So he would root a little bit, ‘Come on, Robin! Come on, Robin!’ The snotty, persnickety broadcaster who doesn’t think he’s above the fray would say, ‘That’s not the way you’re supposed to play it.’ No, that’s not the way you’re supposed to play it if you’re a national broadcast where you have to do it down the middle. But Hawk works for the White Sox. He was doing the games for White Sox fans, and nobody served their home fans better than Hawk Harrelson, ever. Ever in the history of this.”

Vasgersian doesn’t have any localized skin in the game, oh, like I do. He grew up in Northern California as an Oakland A’s fan. Incidentally, Harrelson lost the Frick award in 2017 to the late Bill King, who called A’s games from 1981 to 2005. Harrelson’s competition this year is Joe Castiglione, Jacques Doucet, Tom Hamilton, Pat Hughes, Ned Martin, Mike Shannon and Dewayne Staats.

“I’m not anti anybody else, I’m just so much pro Hawk than I am anybody else,” Vasgersian said. “It gets me when anyone else gets in before Hawk.”

Vasgersian is so fired up about Harrelson’s case this year, he’s making it a personal mission to get Hawk into the Hall. The winner is announced Dec. 11.

“I’ve actually taken this pursuit, this quest, to the committee itself and members of the committee. Give me the names, give me the phone numbers. I'd like to have conversations with each of them and figure out why the vote doesn't go Hawk's way as it should have for a long number of years,”  Vasgersian explained. “I don't think any of them would be honest with me because they know the next morning on (MLB Network’s) 'Hot Stove' if the vote doesn’t go Hawk’s way, I’ll out them. I will name names. I'm just so fed up with him not getting this award."

The voting committee consists of the 11 living Frick Award recipients, among them Marty Brennaman, Bob Costas, Tim McCarver, Jon Miller, Eric Nadel, Vin Scully and Bob Uecker. Plus, four broadcast historians/columnists.

Harrelson’s impact in the booth could often be heard in the White Sox clubhouse, where players like Pierzynski, Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko would use catchphrases like “he gone,” “stretch,” “mercy,” and “dagummit” in everyday life, unrelated to baseball. They still do. They’re not the only ones.

“My wife says, ‘He gone,’” Vesgersian said. “Hawk’s vernacular has bled into the nomenclature of life. He’s made more of an impact that way than any other broadcaster that’s even in the Hall of Fame currently. I get so wound up about it, the fact that he’s been on the ballot, he’s been eligible for this very prestigious honor before and for whatever reason, the committee thinks it’s more appropriate to put a guy who’s been dead for 60 years in the Hall of Fame now as opposed to getting Hawk in. He should’ve been in the inaugural class in the Frick wing, as far as I’m concerned.”

Besides Harrelson’s catchphrases, there are also the memorable nicknames he created for White Sox players that in some cases became more popular than the actual names of the players themselves.

— “Big Hurt” (Frank Thomas)

— “Little Hurt (Craig Grebeck)

— “Black Jack”  (Jack McDowell)

— “El Caballo” (Carlos Lee)

— “The Cuban Missle” (Alexei Ramirez)

— “One Dog” (Lance Johnson)

— “The Milkman” (Herbert Perry)

— “The Deacon” (Warren Newson)

He even gave me a nickname: “Our Chuck.” It follows me wherever I go.

“I think all that you can really ask for any broadcaster is to leave his mark on the game, and Hawk certainly did leave his mark on the game,” said Steve Stone — “The Stone Pony” — Harrelson’s broadcast partner from 2009 to 2018. “The one thing that you ask of a broadcaster is the exact same thing that Howard Cosell had, which was regardless of what your feelings are, on either side of the equation, you can’t be ambivalent. When you bring up Hawk Harrelson’s name, nobody is ambivalent. He has his ardent supporters, he has his detractors, but he has an opinion. If that’s the case, then you’ve done your job. I think for many, many years, Hawk did his job. I think he’s well deserving of the Ford Frick.”

Stone added, “I think his chances are good. I think this is his best chance yet.”

White Sox fans can only hope.

In a 2017 interview, I asked Harrelson if it hurts that he’s not in the Hall of Fame. He said no. I don’t believe him.

Pierzynski, who was sitting next to Harrelson, interjected, “It hurts me!”

“I want it for my children and my grandchildren.” That’s all Harrelson would say about the honor. Harrelson politely declined to be interviewed for this story. He’s choosing to stay silent about the Ford Frick Award until the recipient is announced.

“I want it so he’ll give a speech, because the speech will be epic,” Pierzynski said.

Dadgum right it will be.

Now that he’s retired, Harrelson’s legacy in the booth is one that should not only be honored, but finally appreciated throughout the game of baseball.

How unique was Hawk Harrelson? Ask yourself this: Who’s the next Hawk? It’s a simple answer. That person doesn’t exist. There will never be anyone like him ever again in baseball.

Even though his replacement, my colleague Jason Benetti, is one of the best play-by-play announcers working today, no matter how great Benetti is — and he is great — Harrelson was such a trailblazer. His words still echo on the South Side in the minds of White Sox fans when Jose Abreu goes deep: “You can put it on the board, yes!" And when Lucas Giolito records a strikeout: “He gone!” It will take decades for that to go away.

In that 2017 interview, I asked Harrelson, when all is said and done, how he’d like to be remembered. His answer was pure Hawk and truly encapsulates what the iconic White Sox broadcaster was all about.

“When they put me six feet under and they get the gravestone, I want a few things on it,” he said. “I want, ‘Here’s a guy who loved baseball. Here’s a guy who loved his White Sox. He gone!’”

You want that on your gravestone?

“I want that on my gravestone: He gone!”

But before that day comes, one line needs to be added, not just to the headstone, but to Harrelson’s legacy.

Hall of Fame broadcaster.

His name should be forever enshrined in Cooperstown. It’s up to the voting committee to make it happen.

Not next time. This time. What Hawk Harrelson gave the game of baseball is something to be remembered for all time.

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Sox Drawer: Moving on from J.D. Martinez, trading for Mookie Betts and more from the hot stove

Sox Drawer: Moving on from J.D. Martinez, trading for Mookie Betts and more from the hot stove

All right, the World Series is over. Free agency is underway. The Hot Stove is here. Let’s begin by sending clairvoyant messages to all 30 teams, the players and their agents to make this a swift, exciting and piping-hot offseason, especially when it comes to your White Sox.

Unfortunately, the first day of free agency was a downer for many of you who were hoping the White Sox would sign a certain Red Sox DH by the name of J.D. Martinez. There were many questions about him and the White Sox DH conundrum, plus Nicholas Castellanos, Starling Marte, Eloy Jimenez, my all-time favorite White Sox player and this unexpected inquiry: Is Prince Fielder coming out of retirement to sign with the White Sox?

You never know what you’re going to get inside the Sox Drawer. Let’s get to it.

Is it OK to cry about J.D. Martinez? — @Angel121695

I hear ya, Angel. Martinez stunned many White Sox fans on Monday when he decided not to opt out of his contract with the Red Sox. He’d be a perfect fit for the White Sox, who got the least DH production of any AL team last season (.208/.285/.362). Martinez would be a huge upgrade on the field and in the clubhouse with the young hitters. If he did opt out, there certainly wasn’t a guarantee that he’d sign with the White Sox. Rick Hahn hasn’t said a word about Martinez publicly, but considering the White Sox need and Martinez possibly becoming available, it didn’t take much to link the two together. I’ve got some tissues for you if you need them. Though Martinez opting in for 2020 doesn’t mean there’s a zero-percent chance he can’t end up with the White Sox. More on that in a moment.

Get the Boston reporters back on the podcast and explain themselves. — @mtmill10

Seriously. The Martinez-to-the-White Sox fervor seemed to really take off after we had John Tomase from NBC Sports Boston on the White Sox Talk Podcast.

With so few teams needing a DH, I had been skeptical that Martinez would actually opt out of his contract. He appeared to have very little leverage and too much to risk by becoming a free agent in this market. But Tomase, who covers the Red Sox, said on the podcast that Martinez was “gone, G-O-N-E” from Boston, and he predicted that he’d end up signing with the White Sox. Yeah, I fell for it.

However, Tomase wasn’t the only Red Sox writer who said that Martinez would leave Boston. In early October, the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham wrote, “Say goodbye to Martinez. It was a good two seasons (in Boston).” He added that the White Sox “are a good bet” to sign him. Yeah, I fell for that, too.

Do you see (Mookie) Betts or J.D. Martinez as realistic trade targets as the other Sox cut payroll?  — @akleinerman

Who would you rather trade for? Mookie or Martinez? Also, what would it cost to get one of them? — @lito2313​​​​​​​

The fallout from Martinez opting in for 2020 has a bunch of tentacles that could potentially affect many players and many teams, including the White Sox. Red Sox ownership has stated their need to cut payroll to get under the luxury tax this offseason. Martinez opting in for $23.5 million doesn’t exactly help them out in that regard. Nor would keeping Betts, who is projected to earn $27.7 million in arbitration and has one year left of team control before he hits free agency. New Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has to play a game of payroll Tetris as he looks to shed salary and field a competitive team at the same time.

Betts is a 27-year-old superstar who plays right field, and it just so happens that the White Sox need one of those. The White Sox could try to acquire Betts like they reportedly attempted to do with Manny Machado two winters ago, giving him a season to feel comfortable with the team and then attempt to sign him to a long-term deal when he becomes a free agent after next season. It’s a big one-year risk to make, but if he’s someone the White Sox are targeting for their future, then it would make sense to go down that road. What would it take to acquire Betts? I don’t have the answer, but considering you’d be giving the Red Sox huge salary relief, the cost might not be as crazy as you think. That said, there could be some serious competition around the league for Betts, which would drive up the price. Though this wasn’t the case when the Orioles listened to offers for Machado, didn’t like what they heard and ultimately chose to keep him.

As for Martinez, his situation might be more complicated. Since he has another opportunity to opt out of his contract after next season and his salary drops by more than $4 million in 2021 and 2022, are you acquiring him for one year or three? Maybe a team trying to trade for him puts conditions in the deal, adding players to be named later if Martinez doesn’t opt out and plays all three years with his new team.

The Red Sox also have high-priced pitchers with bad contracts, including David Price and Nathan Eovaldi. Jackie Bradley, Jr had a rough season offensively. He has one year left before free agency. Some kind of roster shuffle is coming. It behooves the White Sox to sniff around what’s happening with the Red Sox, because they’re a good match for each other: The Red Sox need payroll relief, while the White Sox have money to spend and would like to take the next step in 2020.

We broke down the entire Martinez situation on the latest White Sox Talk Podcast.

I’m actually curious about the “process” of a player becoming a DH and becoming comfortable in that role. Edwin (Encarnacion) and J.D. played the field at one point and had to learn to just hit, so what does it take? Seems like Edwin is the only FA that one would call a full-time DH. — @bmarsh442003​​​​​​​

From players I’ve spoken to about it — Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, Harold Baines, Yonder Alonso — they’ve all said that there’s much more to being a DH than just going up to the plate and hitting. It’s definitely a skill, and it’s not for everybody. The biggest key is the hitter’s mental approach, being able to stay focused on the game and remain engaged while sitting on the bench, sometimes for an hour between at-bats. That’s why most players prefer to be at a position in the field than be the regular DH. If there’s one common link to all the great DH’s we’ve seen, they’ve all had a special mental tool that allowed them to thrive, even though they were only at the plate for a few minutes during a three-hour game.

Check out these career stats as a DH. You might see a pattern here as you get toward the bottom.

— Thomas: .275/.394/.505 in 1,310 games

— Baines: .291/.370/.467 in 1,643 games

— Konerko: .274/.350/.454 in 345 games

— Thome: .264/.391/.531 in 817 games

— Dunn: .200/.316/.401 in 361 games

— LaRoche: .187/.275/.285 in 81 games

— Alonso: .170/.294/.314 in 49 games

And here are the career DH stats for Martinez and Encarnacion, which helps explain why they would be good fits for the White Sox.

— Martinez: .288/.360/.537 in 238 games

— Encarnacion: .268/.365/.518 in 723 games

Based on the White Sox needs in pitching, what pitcher in your view has the postseason experience, play on the mound and skills to be a good leader and player for a young White Sox rotation? White Sox Talk Podcast is awesome!! — @WilliamDFarlow​​​​​​​

Thanks for listening to the podcast, William. I’ve got two pitchers who check all those boxes, are free agents and would be great fits with the White Sox: Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel.

Bumgarner was a playoff horse for the Giants, throwing 102.1 postseason innings by the time he was 26 years old. He was the World Series MVP in 2014. He’s 30 now. Maybe not the same pitcher he was in his 20s, but neither was Jon Lester when he signed his long-term deal with the Cubs at age 30. That’s worked out pretty well.

Keuchel is another southpaw who has Bumgarner’s leadership qualities and knows exactly what it takes to go from a rebuild to a World Series title since he did it with the Astros.

Of course, Gerrit Cole wouldn’t be a bad choice, either.

Do you think Nick Castellanos can be a great long-term fit in right field even with his questionable defense? — @MakowskiMatthew​​​​​​​

I’d have to say no. The White Sox already have Eloy Jimenez in left field. He finished with minus-11 Defensive Runs Saved in 2019, fourth worst among major league left fielders, better only than Dwight Smith Jr., Shi-Soo Choo and Justin Upton. Castellanos finished with minus-9 DRS, which was fourth worst among major league right fielders, better only than Randal Grichuk, Franmil Reyes and Melky Cabrera. That’s not a good combination defensively and would put a lot of pressure on rookie Luis Robert in center field.

Castellanos would be better served, long term, as a DH. For his career, he’s hit .283/.301/.494 as a DH. Though I’m not sure he’s ready to play that position full time at 28 years old. My guess is he’ll sign with a team that already has a good defensive left fielder and center fielder and is willing to sacrifice the limitations of Castellanos in right for the production he’ll bring to the plate.

By the way, Yolmer Sanchez had 11 DRS in 2019, tops among American League second basemen. DRS doesn’t tell the whole story about a player defensively, but it’s one stat to look at. Sanchez won his first career Gold Glove. Congrats to Yolmer!

How drunk are the people in charge of the Rookie of the Year voting to allow Brandon Lowe over Eloy Jimenez? Yikes. That is brutal. — @Donopolis1​​​​​​​

Not sure, but they better not have been driving after making that vote.

That or they didn’t look hard enough at Jimenez, or didn’t realize that Lowe played only six games the entire second half of the season due to injury. Or they punished Jimenez for his defense, which seems extreme for a Rookie of the Year Award.

Lowe did have a great first half, with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs for the Rays, earning him a spot on the All-Star team. But when it comes to rookies with limited playing experience, I like to see them actually play, especially as the season goes on.

In the month of September, Jimenez was one of the best hitters in the majors, slashing .340/.383/.710. He finished the season with 31 home runs, one of only 11 players ever to hit 30 or more home runs in their debut season. (Thanks to Chris Kamka for that stat.) The baseball might have helped boost that home-run total a bit, but then it also helped the 5-foot-10 Lowe crank 17 dingers of his own.

In the end, it won’t matter. Yordan Alvarez is going to run away with the award. He was a beast after getting called up (.313/.412/.655). But how about some respect for Jimenez? As I tweeted when the news came out, “You gotta be bleeping me!”

Should we expect another slow offseason with free agent signings? — @Philip_12

Fingers crossed it won’t be. The last two winters have been painstakingly slow. I wish I could say things will be different this time around. It’s so much better for the game when the hot stove actually is that in November and December and we see a flurry of moves during the Winter Meetings (which take place Dec. 9 through Dec. 12 in San Diego). Nobody knows for sure what to expect. The league is looking at ways to incentivize teams to spend early. Easier said than done.

What gives me hope that it might be a more active winter is the sheer number of teams that seem to be trying to add and improve, maybe twice the amount from last year. With more teams in the picture competing for free agents and making trades, there’s a chance we’ll see more wheeling and dealing sooner rather than later.

Make a trade for Starling Marte since Pittsburgh exercised his option? — @KMcCar91​​​​​​​

Marte has never played right field (577 games in left, 359 in center), but I assume he could move over and be fine. He’s 31, has two years remaining on his contract, and the Pirates are a mess, currently without a GM. Depending on who they hire and what direction they want to go in, Marte could be on the trading block. I like him.

What do you think the rotation will look like? — @NateWags11​​​​​​​

Here’s what I’m thinking (and hoping):

1. Free-agent pitcher to be named later
2. Lucas Giolito
3. Dylan Cease
4. Michael Kopech
5. Reynaldo Lopez or free-agent pitcher to be named later

Favorite White Sox player ever? — @Bradley_Brodksy​​​​​​​

It’s too tough to go with one favorite. How about I go by decade in my lifetime with personal honorable mentions because I like them almost as much.

1970s: Chet Lemon (Bill Melton)

1980s: Harold Baines (Julio Cruz)

1990s: Frank Thomas (Bo Jackson and “The Deacon” Warren Newson)

2000s: Mark Buehrle (Paul Konerko and Juan Uribe)

2010s: Jose Abreu (Eloy Jimenez)

And finally ...

Hey Chuck, I know a lot of people that know a lot of people. Word in the clubhouse right now, something about Prince Fielder being interested in coming back and possibly playing a year with our South Siders. What do you think? — @BrodnerDan

If true, this would be something, a medical and baseball miracle. Fielder hasn’t played since July 2016 after needing a second cervical fusion in his neck. He later announced he would no longer be able to play the game and retired. Not sure what people you know, but that would be an interesting scoop, to say the least. Oh, and it would possibly solve the White Sox hole at DH.

Prince Fielder, at 35, making a comeback with the White Sox? I wouldn’t mind covering that story in spring training. Any chance you’re related to Wetbutt23?

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Sox Drawer: When will White Sox spend big on premium free agents?

Sox Drawer: When will White Sox spend big on premium free agents?

Here in White Sox Country, we are counting the hours until the World Series ends and the offseason begins. No surprise, I received lots of questions this week about free-agent targets, plus a certain trade possibility with an AL Central rival, prospects to watch in 2020 and more. Here we go.

What is the one move the Sox can do in the offseason to become a playoff team this year? — @timdiscman83

Even before making a single addition in the offseason, several White Sox players were already using the word “playoffs” when talking about next season. That’s certainly their goal. Though I think they need some help from outside the organization to realistically make that happen, and I’m not sure one single player will be the difference in the White Sox getting to the playoffs or not.

That said, add Gerrit Cole to this pitching staff with Lucas Giolito behind him, and the White Sox playoff chances are a whole lot better. But all signs point to Cole joining a team in Southern California, where he’s from. He’ll also likely get the largest contract ever for a pitcher, possibly around eight years and $300 million. Is it time the White Sox consider signing pitchers of Cole’s talent to deals well beyond their comfort zone? We did an entire podcast about this very topic.

If not Cole, I think J.D. Martinez can be that kind of difference-maker, not just for what he’d bring to the White Sox offensively, but the mentorship role he’d play in the clubhouse. He helped out young hitting stars like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts in Boston. He could do the same with Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson. Sign me up for that.

Aren’t Abreu and J.D. Martinez the same player? Just trying to understand why fans want both. Both 32, both horrible at defense, and both are DH as their careers progress. If you had your choice for one, which one would you choose? — @Kevinwhitesoxf1

All good points, Kevin. I’ve actually had the DH conundrum on my mind, as well. Assuming the White Sox resign Abreu for two or three more years, and with 2019 first-round pick Andrew Vaughn projected to be their first baseman of the future, Abreu figures to eventually transition to more time at DH in either 2021 or 2022. So, where does that leave Martinez, who’d be a DH with the White Sox and could occasionally play in the outfield? He played 15 games in left field and 24 games in right field last season with the Red Sox, but you’d expect those numbers to decline as time goes on. It would be up to Rick Renteria to mix and match. Maybe Vaughn plays some outfield? To me, these are “problems” you deal with if you can add a special bat and player like Martinez.

By the way, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner reportedly met with agent Scott Boras about Martinez over dinner recently. Martinez can opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract once the World Series ends. He’ll have five days to notify the Red Sox of his decision. Principal owner John Henry told MassLive.com, “We really don’t know. We’ll find out very soon.”

John Tomase of NBC Sports Boston had his own prediction for Martinez on the White Sox Talk Podcast: “He is gone. G-O-N-E. There’s really no question that he’s going to opt out.”

He also predicted that Martinez will end up with the White Sox. We’ll see.

What are the odds we’ll see this? (@sportsgraphics3) — @joebermudez36

I’ll say 3-1.

I’m not asking this to be snarky. I sincerely want your opinion. Do you think that Rick, Kenny, and Jerry realize that the fan base is essentially standing around with their arms crossed waiting for the moment when this organization will spend big time money on a premium free agent? — @HalloweenHalpin

Rick Hahn has spoken several times about squashing the narratives that have been out there about the White Sox. Since taking over as general manager in 2013, he’s knocked down a few of the long-held beliefs: that they wouldn’t spend big on international free agents (they signed Abreu and Luis Robert), that they wouldn’t go through a rebuild (they did), that they wouldn’t make a trade with the Cubs (Jose Quintana for Jimenez and Dylan Cease).

But yes, there’s one big hurdle left, and that’s signing that high-cost, premium free agent. The front office did attempt to sign Manny Machado last offseason. We know how that ended. And judging by what Hahn told us on the podcast this summer, they’re well aware of the angst among White Sox fans and they’re out to change it. Here’s what Hahn said when we asked about the perception that the White Sox won’t sign a free-agent pitcher to a long-term contract:

“Whatever remaining narratives that the White Sox will never do are going to exist until we friggin’ do it, so I get that. That’s fine. ‘The White Sox are never going to sign a top-of-the-market free agent.’ Well, we didn’t this offseason, so that one’s going to live another 12 months at least. Just like with the other ones, all I know is the focus is to put us in the best position to win multiple championships. The things that line up towards doing that are the things we’re going to pursue. I don’t expect people to believe that or accept that until it happens, so that’s fine."

Other than Luis Robert and Dane Dunning, who among the top 25 White Sox prospects has a realistic chance of moving up a level next spring to show that they can be a part of the rebuild? — @chris_brown1

I’d say Luis Basabe, Luis Gonzalez, Gavin Sheets and Tyler Johnson are other top-30 prospects to watch in terms of knocking on the door in 2020. Also, Bernardo Flores and Zack Burdi.

I’m particularly interested in Basabe, the third player the White Sox got back in the Chris Sale trade. After breaking his hamate bone during spring training, he came back to Birmingham, but his power didn’t return. He hit only three home runs in 291 plate appearances and slugged .336. Hand and wrist injuries are awful for hitters. See Robert two seasons ago. Fully healthy in 2018, Basabe homered in the Futures Game on a 102-mph pitch from Reds top pitching prospect Hunter Greene. World manager David Ortiz said about Basabe, “I saw a guy hit a 102-mph fastball like it was nothing. That’s fun to watch.” I think Basabe will be fun to watch in 2020. He’ll probably start in Birmingham, but I could see him finding his way to the majors.

As for prospects outside of the top 30, I gotta go with my boy Yermin Mercedes, who slashed .310/.386/.647 in 220 plate appearances at Charlotte.

Yermin. Mercedes. Podcast. — @Wheres_Bald0

I hear ya.

Who will be this offseason’s D.J. LeMahieu? What are the chances of the White Sox both identifying and signing this type of player (as opposed to spending the entire offseason chasing a player who has no intention of coming to the South Side)? — @Blue_in_Green59

With LeMahieu, I’m assuming you’re talking about a free agent who is undervalued offensively (he was great on my fantasy team this season), plays multiple positions and has incredible makeup. The Yankees signed LeMahieu to a two-year, $24 million contract last winter and definitely got their money's worth. A good comp and good match for the White Sox, in my opinion, is Mike Moustakas. He hit 35 homers last season, slashing .254/.329/.516 for the Brewers. He had a career-high 53 walks, which would have led the White Sox. He’s a left-handed bat. He can be insurance at second base just in case Nick Madrigal isn’t ready. He can be the DH if they don’t get Martinez. He can play third base if Yoan Moncada gets hurt. He’s 31 like LeMahieu. He knows the AL Central from his time with the Royals. The Brewers love him. Also, free agency hasn’t been kind to Moustakas, whose agent is Scott Boras. He first had to swallow hard and re-sign back with the Royals for $6.5 million in 2018. Then last winter, he only received a one-year, $10 million deal with the Brewers. Getting a versatile, lefty power bat who’s won a World Series on a two-year, $20 million deal like Moustakas? I’m good with that.

Can we sign Castellanos? — @Osbourne_Black

I’m good with that, too.

Are you ready to jump on the Jorge Soler to Chicago rocketship — @BryanRobinson86

Interesting. Honestly, if I’m the Royals, I’m trading Soler this winter. Period. After not playing more than 101 major league games in a season in his career, the injury-plagued Soler somehow played all 162 in 2019 and demolished baseballs all over the country. He led the American League with 48 home runs. He even drew 78 walks (with a league-high 178 strikeouts). I’m not sure what the baseball will be like in 2020, but with Soler set to become a free agent in two years and the Royals nowhere near contending in that time, I’d deal him now. His value and potential return in a trade will never be any higher. To the White Sox? It’s tempting. I’d definitely listen. Did I just write that?

Can you ask about a Juice Bar at the Park? — @bary_nicole

They’re popping up everywhere. Plus, more and more fans seem to want healthier options at the ballpark. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Is Tom Brady the best QB of all time? — @NonCents2130

Yes. Just ahead of Jim McMahon. Don’t bother looking up the stats. There are absolutely no numbers to back that up. 

Give Jimenez more rides to the game! — @durag97

Done!

Why isn't my girlfriend returning my calls? — @19rummyray19

This is the Sox Drawer.

And finally ... 

Over 80 wins in 2020 or under? — @up_grc1986

Even before they’ve made a move this offseason, it’s tough to give you a definitive answer. But being the eternal optimist that I am, I’m going with the over!

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