White Sox

As Hawk Harrelson ends legendary tenure, Jason Benetti gets to be voice of White Sox rebuild

As Hawk Harrelson ends legendary tenure, Jason Benetti gets to be voice of White Sox rebuild

The news that 2018 will be Hawk Harrelson’s final season in the White Sox broadcast booth dominated attention Wednesday night on the South Side.

But along with that comes the news that Jason Benetti received a multi-year extension with the team, and once Harrelson’s time officially ends next season, it will be Benetti who will be the play-by-play voice of the White Sox rebuild.

Benetti is already in his second season calling White Sox games, something he's alluded to as a dream job. But as the franchise begins a new chapter on the field, a new chapter in the broadcast booth will still be in its first few years.

“I am excited to see this team grow, I really am,” Benetti said while talking to the media Wednesday. “This is unbelievable timing considering the guys in that spring training clubhouse for the first time are there right around when I got there, so I can watch them as they grow as the fans will and get to know them from Day 1 and to do that with this new batch of players is an outstanding opportunity.”

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Of course, Benetti, who grew up watching the White Sox play, talked about his fellow broadcasts, Harrelson and Steve Stone as joys to work with. And he continued to reflect, much as he did ahead of last season, on what a special opportunity this is for him.

“This is amazing,” he said. “And to do it in conjunction with Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone, guys you’ve watched for years and know what they do and there is a part of them inside of you, it’s pretty cool.

“Like I said when I got the job, the odds of something like this happening even for five games are so infinitesimally small that if you pin your life hopes to something like that you’re probably going to be disappointed. But yeah there is a piece of me that says you never think that this is going to happen, you actually lose the idea that it could happen considering what you see as an adult. And somehow it did.”

For the White Sox fan base as a whole, Harrelson’s exit will be bittersweet. There are many who loved laughing along with a man who is an entertainer as much as a play-by-play man. There are many who didn’t necessarily love his style, something that doesn’t bother Harrelson, who laughed Wednesday about receiving fan mail telling him that he stinks.

Count Benetti as a fan, though, someone who learned an important lesson from Harrelson that he’s applied to his own broadcasting career.

“The learning started years ago just watching baseball games. I used to go around elementary school doing a Hawk impersonation. I can (now), but I won’t,” he said to laughs. “He’s such a wonderful entertainer and person who loves the game so much, and to not feel that as a kid would mean I had a heart of stone. He is such an entertainer and lover of the game. To grow up watching Hawk made me realize you can have fun on the air and enjoy the game for what it is and beyond.”

Plenty of reasons to #VoteMcCann, but White Sox catcher should be an All Star regardless of election outcome

Plenty of reasons to #VoteMcCann, but White Sox catcher should be an All Star regardless of election outcome

James McCann should be an All Star. That's not me advocating a position as much as it is stating a fact: Barring something crazy, McCann should be a member of the American League roster next month in Cleveland.

Whether McCann is starting behind the plate or he'll get his turn in one of the later innings is in the hands of baseball fans, with the polls currently open for them to choose a starter between him, Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees and Robinson Chirinos of the Houston Astros. Sanchez is probably the favorite to win the most votes. He has the first-place Yankees' worldwide fan base behind him, as well as 23 home runs and 52 RBIs.

But McCann has his own stellar case to start, in the midst of a, frankly, out-of-nowhere campaign of spectacular proportions. He entered Wednesday afternoon's game against the Boston Red Sox with a .326/.387/.508 slash line to go along with everything else he's done for this team.

McCann did a little more to add to his case Wednesday, picking up a pair of hits against Chris Sale, one of which was mashed over the Green Monster for a third-inning home run in the White Sox win on getaway day.

"He's the best catcher in the American League," White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said during Wednesday's broadcast. He's a tad biased, of course, but it doesn't mean he's necessarily wrong. "So I think that's all you have to really say. Offensive numbers, how much he's helped this team from a leadership standpoint, he checks all the boxes. He deserves to be starting the All-Star Game."

McCann has been a hell of a find for the White Sox. When they added him in December, it appeared they were simply acquiring a veteran bridge, and a backup at that, to get them to highly rated catching prospect Zack Collins. Instead, McCann has performed so well that he's being penciled in by fans and onlookers as the team's catcher moving forward. At 29 years old, that's hardly outrageous, and he's still arbitration eligible following this season, making it very easy for the White Sox to bring him back for 2020.

And why wouldn't they? He's made a shocking improvement to the offensive numbers he put up in five years with the division-rival Detroit Tigers, a half-decade during which he hit only 240/.288/.366. It goes without saying that whatever McCann did this offseason worked.

"It's something I've worked for," McCann said last week at Wrigley Field. "It's something, as a little boy, you dream of, and as you get older you work for it. It's a culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication.

"After a down year offensively last year, I got to do some soul searching, and the biggest thing for me was not trying to be someone that I wasn't. And it sounds simple, sounds silly, but literally just trying to be who James McCann is and not trying to be someone else."

Who James McCann is has been a middle-of-the-order hitter for these White Sox and a game-changer behind the plate. It didn't take long for manager Rick Renteria to make #CleanupManJamesMcCann a thing, and it took a similarly brief amount of time for Renteria to give the majority of the catching duties to McCann in his timeshare with Welington Castillo.

While McCann's offensive presence has been great, his ability to do what Castillo couldn't during the latter's 80-game steroid suspension last season has been perhaps McCann's greatest contribution. He's excelled working with the pitching staff, specifically Giolito, whose turnaround from the statistical worst pitcher in the game to one of the best has been the biggest story of the team's season to this point.

"I have nothing but fantastic things to say about him," Giolito said last week. "He's done a great job this year. Looking forward to him being an All Star. There's not enough good things I can say about what he does defensively and offensively for us."

McCann often deflects the credit heaped onto him by Giolito back to the pitcher. But certainly that part of the White Sox acquisition of the veteran backstop in the offseason has come to fruition. The offense? General manager Rick Hahn has said multiple times that McCann has exceeded their expectations in that department.

"Obviously I played against them for five years, so they'd seen me quite a bit," McCann said last week. "I just turned 29, which I guess in the game of baseball some people think is old now, but in all reality I feel like I'm just coming into my prime. I hope that's the way the organization looks at me.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity, and I've really enjoyed my time here."

That opportunity has yielded an All-Star first half for McCann. See you in Cleveland, James.

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Jose Abreu flips the score, beats the Red Sox with a ninth-inning home run

Jose Abreu flips the score, beats the Red Sox with a ninth-inning home run

Alex Colome blew his first save of the season in the eighth inning, and the White Sox seemed destined for a deflating loss that would have had them swept out of Fenway Park.

Jose Abreu had different plans.

Down a run with one out in the top of the ninth, Abreu battled Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes in a 10-pitch at-bat. The 10th of those pitches was sent over the Green Monster for a score-flipping, two-run homer that took a 7-6 loss to an 8-7 lead.


It was the second ball Abreu blasted over the Monster in this series. He smacked one off the National Car Rental sign Monday night. This one did even more damage and traveled completely outside of Fenway Park, to boot.

That 8-7 lead turned into an 8-7 win when Colome shut the door in the bottom of the ninth.

Abreu doesn't have the same averages he has throughout his immensely productive big league career, the owner of a .255/.295/.493 slash line coming into Wednesday's game. But he's back on track from a power perspective after last season's injury-plagues season, with 19 homers and 59 RBIs. The four runs he drove in Wednesday's three-hit effort brought him to that 19-59 total that's a special numerical combination to White Sox fans. As of this writing, Abreu is one off the league-leading 60 RBIs of Seattle's Domingo Santana.

Abreu's heroics prevented the White Sox losing streak from sliding to five. It also continued a nice bounce-back season for him that has proven he's still capable of doing plenty of damage and could keep him around on the South Side into the future. He's slated to hit free agency at the end of the 2019 campaign, but general manager Rick Hahn has made it sound like Abreu is part of the team's plans moving forward.

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