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Hawk Harrelson took on Brian Kenny on MLB Network

Apr 26, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT

hawk harrelson

As advertised, Hawk Harrelson showed up on MLB Network yesterday to take on Brian Kenny in a tete-a-derriere about sabermetrics and advanced analysis. I won’t ruin it for you, but know that Harrelson is not all anti-stats. He has his own metric — tWtW — The Will to Win, which he claims is more important than anything.

Which, fine, if that’s how he thinks baseball works.  All I want is for him to put his money where his mouth is and ask players on a losing team why they don’t have The Will to Win. When they lost it, why they don’t acquire it and why the guys on the other team have more.  If he’s willing to do that, great, I’ll shut up about Hawk for the rest of my days.

If not, I’m gonna assume that he’s full of crap and is using his experience in the game as an appeal to authority to make up for his apparent ignorance about what makes good baseball teams good.


  1. jarathen - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:07 AM

    He’s an ignorant blowhard homer, and broadcast baseball will be better once he is no longer calling games.

    • conjecture101 - Apr 26, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      The guy is extremely entertaining, Brian Kenny even said so. The last thing we need is more emotionless robots calling baseball games.

  2. The Dangerous Mabry - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    That’s just hard to watch. Any time he’s asked a pointed question, he says “Pitching and defense” as if that’s some kind of answer, even when the question is about whether or not you should bunt in a given situation.

    • tuberippin - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      Hey Hawk, what do you think about WAR?

      Hawk: “Pitching and defense.”

      Hey Hawk, what do you think about the gun control debate?

      Hawk: “America.”

      Hey Hawk, what do you want for dinner?

      Hawk: “Food.”

      Hey Hawk, would you say this discussion is hurting your aging brain?


  3. quintjs - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    If you have an opinion fine, but its the reasoning I can’t understand. Wins are important – ‘The only thing that matters is the ‘W”. But the next sentence is ‘the most important thing is to catch the ball’. Which can only mean its the pitchers fault the left fielder dropped the easy fly ball…?

  4. skipperxc - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    You could not pay me enough to listen to Hawk Harrelson analyze. He’s bad enough when he’s just talking — how could his *brain* function any better?

  5. chacochicken - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    He reminds me of my uncle, a self avowed tough guy, who is mister-know-it-all about boxing. Most of the men in my family, including my uncle and I would enter the Toughman competition (usually after a few beers). He would use his intimate knowledge of the sport and get his shit kicked. He would then explain what that guy did wrong despite being on the receiving end of a beating.

  6. Jack Marshall - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    Hawk had the chance to test his theories when he became White Sox GM, and wrecked the team. This makes him even less credible than Harold Reynolds, who has the safety of never having to actually execute his silly fantasies. The amazing and sad thing is that Hawk crashed the plane, and still thinks everyone else should fly blind.

    He was the most engaging player I’ve ever watched in 1968, though. You can’t take that away from him.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      I wonder if he thinks that sabermetrics is what got him fired? I mean, you have to get guys like Tony LaRussa out of your system. Everyone knows that guy has a tWtW of -6.8.

  7. xpensivewinos - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    Who gives a F*** what this brain-dead moron thinks about anything?

    He and Stone should be announcing wrestling matches. How the White Sox or MLB allow those schmucks to announce games is beyond me.

  8. El Bravo - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Pure gold. We need him around just to rag on him. Anyone else notice his arguments are also common Republican talking points?

    • sandrafluke2012 - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:16 AM

      Like, we need to keep spending more to stimulate the economy? Like more people on foodstamps is good? Like I’m not going to hate Obama for being Bush 2?

      Oh wait

      • chacochicken - Apr 26, 2013 at 4:36 PM

        Obama is slightly to the left of Richard Nixon.

  9. hisgirlgotburrelled - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    “The tWtW is going to supercede anything that sabermetrics (garbled words).”
    And my favorite part:
    Kenny: Wouldn’t you want to know if your odds are better in this situation?
    Reynolds and Hawk: No!!

    I would love to hear his take on Felix Hernandez. He must have just been floored by Hernandez’s new contract, and probably can’t get over his Cy Young award with just a 13-12 record. And Cliff Lee’s 2012 season… But now we know what their problem was: real low in the tWtW. Mystery solved.

    • indaburg - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      I watched this live yesterday and your favorite part of he interview was the point where I Iiterally smacked my forehead. I couldn’t believe the love of ignorance. How Hawk’s brain generates enough impulses for him to walk, much less than talk, is a medical mystery.

      • hisgirlgotburrelled - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:30 PM

        That’s exactly what I thought ‘they just said they’d rather be ignorant, and did it emphatically.’

      • jwbiii - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        It’s a wonder he can even feed himself.

  10. andreweac - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    To paraphrase Mickey Hatcher “sabermetrics are a false stat.”

    • jarathen - Apr 26, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      Says the guy who got fired because he couldn’t get Albert Pujols to hit the ball.

  11. ch0psuey - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    I can’t stand either of these guys. Now Harold, he’s the man.

  12. sandrafluke2012 - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Hawk would rather have Jeter. Kenny would rather have Arod. Hawk was right because Jeter made Yankees a winner. I trust a former player

    • butchhuskey - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      Being a former player means you have the physical gifts to play the game. It does not mean you have the ability to competently analyze or fully comprehend the complexities of the sport.

  13. tc4306 - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Yeah, for sure, a bunch of arrogant stat heads are going to know a lot more about what it takes to be successful than a guy who had a successful 9 year MLB career. After all, if you know wOBA and WAR, you know that it is important to give extra credence to a single in the late innings of a close game that MIGHT produce a run while at the same time totally ignoring any hit that drives in an ACTUAL run. What could possibly be wrong with that type of thinking?

    • js20011041 - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      Most of sabermetrics has very little significance to the players on the field. Knowing that pitcher wins are an essentially meaningless stat does nothing for the pitcher on the mound. Managing and player procurement, however, is another story. For a GM, it’s kinda sorta important to know that if you’re going after a free agent pitcher in the offseason, maybe you want to dig a little deeper than his win loss record.

  14. billybawl - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    He’s just bitter because he had a career WAR of 6.6, and 5.0 of those came from the 1968 Bosox.

  15. mudhead123 - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    Don’t Luke Hawk at all, but Kenny is a total nerd who never played baseball. Don’t care about his opinion at all. And Hawk is just an idiot

    • schm1471 - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:20 PM

      Great points.

    • jwbiii - Apr 26, 2013 at 5:46 PM

      Just out of curiosity what former ballplayers who write do you like to read? Doug Glanville and Dirk Hayhurst write well (more or less) but they don’t really write anything you might call analysis. R.A. Dickey writes well but he doesn’t really write about baseball. I enjoyed Ted Williams’ books, but I’m mnot sure how much of them he actually wrote. Branch Rickey used to write about baseball, but that was 60 years ago and is kind of antithetical to your point.

  16. Taz - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    I’m astonished that in 2013 people still adhere to the misnomer that is Pitcher Wins. Here’s a hypothetical for anyone who still believes in this:

    A closer comes in and blows the save. In the next half-inning, his team rallies and the closer is credited with the win.

    So, is this a good thing? He got a win. The most important thing is the W, and he got that. Does this magically turn it into a good outing?

    The thing is, you don’t WANT your closer getting a Win. You want the TEAM to get a win, and that is the difference between a pitcher “win” and a real win, and that’s why it’s a misnomer.

    Chew on this: there is no other positive statistic that you can get by doing the opposite of your job. A home run is a home run no matter if it was a bomb or a Yankee Stadium right field job. But even if you didn’t hit it as far as others, there is no negative to your homer. It will always be a positive. A walk will always be a walk, and you did it by walking. A hit will always be a hit.

    Hell, even pitcher wins for a starter: you can have a crappy game, but as long as you keep your opponent scoring less than your own team, you’re credited with the win. It’s not great, but it is what it is.

    But here is an example of a pitcher win that you can get by NOT doing your job. By blowing the game, you’ve put yourself in line for the win on the backs of your team’s offense. How can you value this “stat?” You’re assigning something to a single player that has been earned by the entire team. And, as evidenced by the example above, you can earn it by being the only guy on the team who is doing the opposite of his job.

    I can’t think of a single other statistic that has that quality to it. Pitcher wins are nonsense, and the only reason they get any attention is that their name is “Win.” Call it anything else, call it something more appropriate, and you won’t see it defended the same way.

  17. rbj1 - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    From now on, I’m just going to evaluate players on their tWtW quotient.

    As for the first rule of baseball being “catch the ball”
    1.00—Objectives of the Game.
    Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each, under direction of a
    manager, played on an enclosed field in accordance with these rules, under jurisdiction of
    one or more umpires.
    The objective of each team is to win by scoring more runs than the opponent.
    The winner of the game shall be that team which shall have scored, in accordance
    with these rules, the greater number of runs at the conclusion of a regulation game.

    Don’t see anything about catching the ball there.

    • pdowdy83 - Apr 26, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      You forgot to look in the unwritten rule book for that one. Hawk only subscribes to that one since he clearly prefers ignorance over knowledge.

  18. ezthinking - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    This ‘debate’ was a pointless exercise as neither man could intelligently make their point.

    Brian needed a point to his argument. His “you must believe in advanced stats” is not a real valid point because it doesn’t address the “then what.” A decision still has to be made, the stats can’t always make the decision for you. His ‘more info is good’ was a nice start, but then … finish the thought, don’t just berate someone for not agreeing with you.

    Hawk’s point seemed to be that too much information clouds judgment, but then he wanders into the wilderness of his mind with TWTW and the like. He needed to make more of a ‘throw the stats out when “x” argument.” Instead he took us back to Charlie Sheen “winning” moment.

    Lose – lose.

  19. cur68 - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    Oh crap. I think Harrelson has something of a point. I wonder if I’m drunk? Anyways he make a very muddled, very good point. A point which he doesn’t explain properly nor does he have in the appropriate context, but its a good point.

    You can get overwhelmed with information. Its true. You can. Its why algorithms exist for diagnosing who should or should not me treated for heart attack in the Emergency Room. Those algorithms are there to help focus on the important information and filter out the noise. They work. Very well.

    The trouble with Hawk is that he thinks that there isn’t enough time to asses the information and decide. Unlike a hectic Emerge and a blossoming MI, baseball DOES allow you the time to asses and decide. The only time where too much information is the problem is when you are mid-play and you have to decide where the best play is. That’s not a managerial decision, that’s a player decision. Its in-the-moment, too, like a war game exercise. Managerial decisions are thought out and considered and take into account the odds. Its poker playing, not war gaming. You shouldn’t play poker on instinct and you shouldn’t engage in active war with a slow considered approach to real-time decisions.

    Anyhow, he’s got the wrong context for his “instinct” argument.

    • moogro - Apr 26, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      Me brain hurts. And it hurt me instincts too.

  20. scoocha - Apr 26, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    Harrelson was horrible, but Kenny just as bad. Neither of them had any real incisive points.

  21. moogro - Apr 26, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    Wait a minute. People are starting to rag on Brian for not making points, when he was in the equivalent of a bar conversation with an unlistening, rambling drunk who is trying to run out the clock with their own voice. That’s no fault of his.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Apr 26, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      This is true. As a wiser man than I once said “Never argue with an idiot. They’ll bring you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

  22. flamethrower101 - Apr 26, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    The more I think about it, the more I think Hawk may have a point. I mean, UnderArmour developed an exercise system that claims to measure WILLPOWER, so perhaps there is a way to measure The Will To Win. But then, Hawk would probably argue that the metrics UnderArmour used are flawed & useless.

  23. frank35sox - Apr 26, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    I’m a Sox fan, and even I hate Hawk, but that adjusted stats for the 2000 Rockies BS is in a whole ‘nother category of stupid. Measuring things that are actually happening is one thing; making up stuff is another.

  24. tjg25 - Apr 26, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    So you only know what makes good teams good if you buy sabermetrics? Really? Those A’s are going to need to build an addition to hold all their championship trophies.

  25. chilguy - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:46 AM

    Living in Chicago, I have the chance to see a lot of the Sox on TV (usually around 100 games a season, for the past 18 years). I simply cannot stand to listen to Len Kasper and whomever he’s paired with. There’s just something about him that grates on my nerves, so watching the Cubs is essentially out of the question, even when they play the Cardinals.

    Harrelson and Steve Stone are a nice pairing. I don’t care that Hawk’s a homer (after all, he does work for the team, and nobody complained when Harry Caray was an even bigger homer) — he’s passionate about the team and quite entertaining, while Stone combines knowledge, and criticism. What I find especially interesting, getting back to the homer charge, is that he too, often lapses into the “we” and “us” — which you never heard from him during his days on the Cubs’ telecast, even though he comes by it honestly, because he grew up in Chicago and spent significant parts of his playing career (three seasons each) pitching for BOTH teams.

    As for the sabremetrics, I think statistics are fine, to a point — I keep a scorecard (on my iPad) of every game I watch or attend, but I also think there’s such a thing as overkill, and we reached that stage a long time ago. To me, when it’s all said and done, there’s one one statistic that matters, and that’s the final score.

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