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Joe's MLB on TV Report - White Sox

Fifth in a series.

Broadcast: Chicago White Sox on Comcast Sportsnet-Chicago, Minnesota at White Sox, 6/9/08; Announcers: Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, Darrin “DJ” Jackson (Jackson handled play-by-play in the 4th through 6th innings, while Harrelson took the rest of the game)

What can I say? This was, as I expected from a few brief peeks at White Sox telecasts in the past, a debacle.

I can understand that local broadcasters are going to put an emphasis on the team they cover. I can understand that they’re also going to sound happier when their team is doing well, whether it’s because they genuinely feel that way or just because they’re trying to please their audience. However, there are limits.

At least there should be limits. For the duo of Hawk and DJ, such limits do not exist. They used “we” or “us” or “our” (as in “our Sox” or “our guys”) in referring to the White Sox no less than 29 times by my count. Twenty-nine! Plus Harrelson called them “the good guys” twice while referring to Minnesota a time or two as “the Twinkies.” And don’t get me started on the blatant cheerleading…uh oh, it’s too late! (All quotes below, unless otherwise noted, are from Harrelson.)

In Chicago’s 2nd, Jim Thome at bat: “That ball hit hard into left field! Stretch! Stretch!” Not quite enough – it bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double.

Still in the bottom of the 2nd, before a 3-2 pitch to Jermaine Dye: “Ball four base hit right here, 23 (Dye’s number).” Dye singled, Thome scored despite a strong throw home from CF Carlos Gomez. They mentioned a strong throw but gave all the credit to Thome, not mentioning that the throw was a little to the first-base side of the plate. Had it been a more direct throw Thome very well might have been out.

Bottom 3rd, Toby Hall batting: “Start us off, Tobe-meister!” Good grief.

Bottom 3rd, 2-1 count on Thome: “Here it comes, Jimmy. High fast ball.” Before the next pitch: “Here it comes, one more time.”

But before that Thome at bat, another running theme. Paul Konerko was called out on strikes on a pitch on the outside corner. Jackson said Konerko watched it all the way into the catcher’s mitt and decided it wasn’t a strike, and so he agreed with Konerko. Although it’s hard to tell on TV, with the center field camera angle not giving a very accurate view, the pitch was at least borderline, and certainly too close to take.

The rest of the game they complained about the call, especially Harrelson. At least twice when pitches on the outside corner were called balls he said “that’s the same pitch Konerko was called out on.” Any unbiased observer could tell that wasn’t the case. One pitch, especially, was way outside. He said, in the top of the 4th regarding two pitches called balls to Twins hitters in an inning where they scored 3 times: “And for people out there who say ‘don’t get on the umpires,’ the umpires can turn the whole complexion of the ballgame around.” I’d say more of a factor was a foul ball that could’ve been caught by first baseman Konerko, except that he shied away from the stands at the last minute and the ball landed on the flat top of a rotating advertising sign fronting the stands.

After Jackson noted that pitching coach Don Cooper, on the way back to the dugout after talking to White Sox pitcher John Danks, had some words with the home plate umpire, Harrelson bellowed, “He should!” And in the bottom of the 4th: “Well, we’re gonna get some more runs – we just gotta get a consistent called game.”

Meanwhile, back to the non-umpire-related commentary…and yes, I know there’s a lot of this, but I had to suffer through this and I’m not suffering alone. Be glad you only have to read it and not actually hear it…

Top 5th, Minnesota’s Craig Monroe at bat – “Monroe has had his problems with Danks. Hopefully he’ll continue to have his problems.”

Bottom 5th, Jackson’s first words after returning from a studio update are, “We need 5 runs here as we trail by 3.” Then he said that came from the studio guy.

Top 6th , after Danks struck out the final batter of the inning, Jackson said, “Gotta get him some runs.”

Bottom 6th, Konerko at bat: “Here we go, Paulie, get it started.”

Bottom 6th, Minnesota changes pitchers, Jackson reviews Jesse Crain’s stats and adds, “Go get ‘em, guys.” After Jackson mentioned that Dye was 1 for 10 lifetime against Crain, Harrelson said, “Put the hammer down, change things around for yourself, JD.”

Up to this point, one thing that surprised me was that Jackson’s home run call (used twice on Nick Swisher blasts) was just a plain old “going, going, gone.” I was hoping that there would be no homers during Harrelson’s play-by-play innings. I got my wish until the bottom of the 7th, when Hawk really got obnoxious:

  • Referring to the runs/hits/errors totals: “5, 9 and 1 for their guys, 4, 6 and 1 for our guys.”

  • Orlando Cabrera leading off: “There’s a chopper, that’s a fair ball! Yes!”

  • After a hit by Alexei Ramirez: “That’s a bad pitch in that situation – it’s a good pitch for us.”

  • After 2 called strikes to Carlos Quentin: “I got a feeling Carlos had better be swinging at anything close, the way this game has gone behind the plate today.” Oh, we’re back to the umpires…

  • After Quentin hit into a fielder’s choice to tie the game: “Here’s Konerko – don’t stop now.” Konerko connects. Uh oh…“Hit to deep right field! Stretch! Cuddyer back! Stretch!” And the ball disappeared over the fence, bringing on the infamous “You can put it on the boooooooooooard! YES!” with Jackson chiming in on “YES!”

  • Again with the totals: “7, 9 and 1 for us, 5, 9 and 1 for them.”

  • On a 1-1 pitch to Thome called a ball: “Now we got the count.”

  • Before the 3-2 pitch: “Ball four base hit, big man.”

  • After a Nick Swisher swing and miss: “Alright 30, reboot right here, buddy.”

  • Before another 3-2 pitch: “Ball four base hit.”

  • Swisher walked to load the bases and Minnesota changed pitchers again, leading Jackson to exclaim, “And here we go, here we go.”

  • Complaining about the home plate umpire – again -- on a high pitch called a strike to Joe Crede: “He hadn’t been calling it all day.”

  • After Crede struck out for out number two: “Alright, we got the right man at the right place at the right time right now. Toby Hall, 0 for 3. He’s due.”

  • After the first pitch to Hall was a ball: “Yes! 1-0.”

  • Before the next pitch: “Get him right here.”

  • Before the next pitch: “Need you right here, 44. You da man.”

  • When the count went to 3-2: “Right man, right spot, Toby.”

  • After a foul: “Ball four base hit.”

  • Hall swings. “That ball hit deep! Right man, right spot….NO!!” The ball was caught to end the inning. Thank heavens.

Don’t worry, it’s almost over…

Top 8th: “Awwww man, Toby just missed that grand slam, dad gummit!”

Bottom 8th: Konerko at bat with a runner on first and two outs: “First-and-third him, Paulie. Or just take him on outta here.”

Top 9th, Bobby Jenks trying to close it for the Sox, on a 2-2 pitch: “Right here, Bobby, right here.”

The Twins put runners on first and third, no outs. Joe Mauer hit a sharp one-hopper that was caught by Jenks, who threw to SS Cabrera, who threw to first for the double play. Harrelson declared it “a great play by everybody!” Ummm, no, only 3 players at most. And really it was just a very good play by Jenks. It was well-executed but nothing exceptional.

Mercifully, Justin Morneau grounded out to end the game and allow Hawk and DJ to combine for one more “YES!”

Maybe White Sox fans like this stuff. Honestly, if this were my team's broadcast, I think I'd be embarrassed.

There were no missed plays or technical problems, and the Comcast graphics aren’t quite as noisy as the Fox graphics. That’s the only thing keeping this broadcast from being an unqualified failure. Grade: D-minus. -- Joe Guckin