White Sox

Hawk Harrelson: 'I’ll never go back to Wrigley Field again. Ever.'

Hawk Harrelson: 'I’ll never go back to Wrigley Field again. Ever.'

BOSTON -- While he holds a sacred place in his heart for Fenway Park, Hawk Harrelson has no love for Wrigley Field.

In what could be his final trip as the White Sox play-by-play man, Harrelson spoke glowingly about Fenway Park and the 1967 Boston Red Sox. A member of that American League pennant-winning team, Harrelson -- who is set to work a 20-game schedule in 2018 after which he’ll retire -- calls the 1967 season the renaissance of New England baseball and the birth of Red Sox Nation.

Harrelson will return to Boston on Aug. 16 to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of a team that featured MVP Carl Yastrzemski and Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg and lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. He also hopes that he can work a return trip into next season’s limited schedule. But Harrelson currently has no plans for a return engagement to Wrigley Field.

“Fenway is just a special place,” Harrelson said. “Look at this ballpark. As we talked about the other day, the only one (visiting clubhouse) worse is Wrigley Field, the two worst clubhouses in baseball for visiting players. I’ll tell you this much, I’ll never go back to Wrigley Field again. We’ve got three games over at their place, and I told Jerry the other day before we came on this trip, I said, ‘I’m not going back to Wrigley Field.’

"He said, ‘Well, you’ve got three games there next year.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m talking with (Bob) Grim. We’re going to get rid of those.’ “Worst press box, worst booths for television. It’s a joke. It really is. And so, Jason (Benetti) is getting ready for those three at Wrigley. I will never step foot in that ballpark again. Ever.”

Harrelson signed with the Red Sox on Aug. 28, 1967, three days after he’d been released by the Kansas City Athletics. He had a career year in 1968, hitting .275/.356/.518 with 35 home runs and 109 RBIs. Traded to Cleveland the following April, Harrelson is still a fan favorite whenever he returns to Fenway. After Saturday’s game, Harrelson was recognized multiple times by fans as he made his way to the visiting clubhouse.

He attributes it to an atmosphere he thinks the 1967 club created and David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez enhanced by ending Boston’s World Series curse in 2004.

“(1967) was the birth of Red Sox Nation,” Harrelson said. “The renaissance of baseball and Yaz -- I love Ted Williams, he was a great, great guy. Arguably, certainly one of, if not the best hitter that ever lived, he and Musial probably. But Ted never had a year like Yaz had in ’67. It was one of those things you really had to see it to believe it.”

As he makes his final tour of the league, Harrelson -- who will mostly work home games and select contests in 2018 -- said he thinks about it being the last time for each. But he’s hopeful he gets one last trip to see the Green Monster.

“We’re going to play it by ear,” Harrelson said. “If I do make a trip it would certainly be Boston. In my playing career, playing in the All-Star Game, the World Series, that certainly supersedes anything else I ever did in my life.”

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching, so why not bring in a guy with a Cy Young Award sitting on his mantle?

Dallas Keuchel is one of the two biggest names on the starting-pitching market this winter, along with Patrick Corbin, who will get more attention — and likely more dollars — because he's two years younger. But Keuchel's the guy with the track record, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 (when he was also a top-five MVP finisher), a two-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of a 3.28 ERA over the past five seasons, during which he helped the Houston Astros transition from rebuilding to one of baseball's perennial contenders. You might have heard something about them winning the World Series in 2017.

It's true that things have been somewhat up and down for Keuchel since his Cy Young win. After posting a 2.48 ERA with a career-high 216 strikeouts in 33 starts during that 2015 season, he had a 4.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 26 starts in 2016, then a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 23 starts in 2017 and a 3.74 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 34 starts last season. But three times in the last five years he's finished with an ERA under 3.00. In other words, he's pretty darn good.

How might he fit with the White Sox? Well, in terms of whether or not he lines up with their long-term plans. Keuchel's older than Corbin, but it's not like he's old. He'll be 31 on Opening Day 2019, and a long-term deal, which he's expected to fetch, would keep him around for another planned transition from rebuilding to contention. Keuchel — a veteran who's accomplished a lot already, including putting a World Series ring on his finger — could be viewed as a Jon Lester type for these rebuilding White Sox, a big name who buys into the front office's long-term plan and helps make those plans become reality.

And there's no doubt the White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this winter. Michael Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the White Sox decided not to pick up James Shields' option for 2019. That leaves two holes in the starting rotation. An addition like Keuchel would be a long-term one, which means the White Sox would opt to make him a safety net for their still-developing fleet of young pitchers and choose not to roll the dice on a homegrown starting staff for 2020. However, if they're confident in a quintet of Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, then maybe they opt for a couple one-year fill-ins in 2019. Keuchel would not be a one-year fill-in.

Keuchel could also fill the role vacated by Shields, a veteran who could help bring along the young guys in an off-the-field mentor role. His experience going through the dark days of a rebuild — he was a member of Astros teams that lost a combined 310 games from 2012 to 2014 — and coming out the other end a world champ would also figure to be of value.

Of course, the White Sox wouldn't be alone in a pursuit of Keuchel, if they were interested. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw signing a new contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's one of the two biggest names on the market when it comes to starting pitchers. The White Sox would likely have to go through the same bidding war and pitch of planned future success they would with other big names like Corbin, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

But there's no doubt Keuchel would be an upgrade to this rotation in 2019 and could provide plenty of value for years beyond.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

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USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.