White Sox

Cubs' Len Kasper had big influence on new White Sox announcer Jason Benetti


Cubs' Len Kasper had big influence on new White Sox announcer Jason Benetti

After the White Sox hired him, the first call Jason Benetti made was to his parents, of course, which resulted in nearly an hour of joyous tears from his mother.

But it didn’t take long for the team’s new play-by-play TV announcer to inform Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper of what he describes as “surreal” news.

Following a laborious search that spanned several months and involved calls to numerous candidates and industry insiders -- Kasper included -- the White Sox announced Wednesday that Benetti would split broadcast duties next season with veteran announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson.

Headed into his 32nd season with the White Sox, Harrelson -- who along with analyst Steve Stone received a multi-year contract extension -- has reduced his workload and will call 81 games, with all but three coming on the road.

Benetti, a Homewood-Flossmoor High School grad who grew up a White Sox fan, is set to call 81 games, including 78 at home. After he spoke to White Sox vice president of sales and marketing Brooks Boyer early in the process, Kasper believes the team made the correct call.

“They got it totally right,” Kasper said. “He’s got a great voice, great delivery, incredibly intellectual, willing to learn. He’s just a great, great human being.

“It won’t take long for White Sox fans really to grab on to Jason and his quirky sense of humor. He grew up here and he was a White Sox fan. It’s not just that he’s a really good broadcaster, but this means a lot to him on a personal level.”

A graduate of Syracuse University and the Wake Forest School of Law, Benetti has nearly six seasons as an announcer for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. Since 2011, Benetti, 32, has also announced college sports at ESPN.

[MORE: White Sox hire Benetti as new play-by-play announcer, extend Harrelson, Stone]

When the White Sox first contacted him, Benetti, who emulated the swing of Frank Thomas in backyard Whiffle Ball games -- “not very well,” he said -- and was a big Robin Ventura fan, tried not to get his hopes up. He didn’t want to focus too much on what he thought was a long shot. But as he realized his chances were strong, Benetti remembers thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh. This might actually happen.’

“When I was a kid, my parents would just sometimes on a whim just say, ‘We are going to go to a Sox game,” Benetti said. “To sit in the booth the other day was bizarre to see the field from that angle. It’s awesome. It’s really awesome. It means the world to me.”

So does his relationship with Kasper, one of several broadcasting mentors along with Bob Costas, Ian Eagle and Sean McDonough. The two first exchanged emails in January 2011. But Benetti, who was born with cerebral palsy, was particularly intrigued by Kasper’s June 2014 story about dealing with anxiety.

“I wrote him a letter about it and I sent him a tape and he’s written me back with specific feedback and encouraged me to aim higher,” Benetti said.

When Boyer called in October, Kasper, one of several broadcasters queried, had Benetti at the top of his list.

But he wasn’t alone. And although being a White Sox fan wasn’t a prerequisite, it didn’t hurt Benetti’s chances, either.

“Jason was on almost every single one of those lists,” Boyer said. “When you look at work ethic and the passion for connecting with fans, all the things that kind of checked our box, Jason has them all.”

One aspect Benetti is expected to bring is an understanding for advanced metrics, which Kasper has encouraged -- “He’s not afraid to use statistics that need a little explaining,” Benetti said. Benetti hopes to mix metrics into the conversation while also relying on the analysis and storytelling ability of his partner, Stone. How Benetti works has impressed Kasper from the outset.

“I heard his work and just thought he was immediately good,” Kasper said. “I hear from a lot of young broadcasters and some are good, some are developing, some you’re trying to kind of find what it is you really like. With him it’s just instant. I just thought he was a big league talent from Day One.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Following their introduction, Kasper has invited the young broadcaster to the ballpark several times and has constantly pushed him to “aim higher,” Benetti said. Though he didn’t expect the news, Kasper isn’t surprised.

“When he called the other day and told me this is going to happen, I felt as happy for him as I did for myself when I got different jobs along the way,” Kasper said.

Of course, he’s happy, Benetti said.

“He has made it clear that I am buying dinner the first time,” Benetti said. “He is somebody that has basically said, ‘Be you and do great work and here is how I would like to help.’ So I owe him more than he even knows.”

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka


Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?


Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.