Upset with a one-sided beanball war that resulted in only a White Sox player getting ejected, broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson completely lost his mind. It was more of the sort of rah-rah-Sox stuff we've all come to expect from Harrelson, but there was extraordinary vehemence and venom in this particular outburst, and it quickly became national news. So it wasn't long before the commissioner caught wind.
Yesterday, Harrelson met with Bud Selig and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf over his Wednesday comments. Nobody's going to talk about exactly what was discussed, but to hear Hawk tell it, it sounds like it was a thorough chewing-out:
"I talked to Bud Selig yesterday," Harrelson told ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine on Friday morning. "We had a talk. Actually, Bud talked and I listened. If it was a prize fight, they would have stopped it in the first round.
"I also talked to Jerry, and I listened to him as well. That's all I really have to say."
The homer announcer is an interesting concept. Every team has them to some extent, not out of a lack of professionalism, but due to the fact that you can't watch 162 games a year, every year, without coming to sympathize with your subjects. When your team wins, your job becomes easier and more enjoyable. It's tough to stay objective. (And who says you have to? Just when was it decided that play-by-play and color guys had to be impartial robots, passing on facts and statistics without a trace of humanity? The obnoxious homer announcer acts not at a remove from his audience, but as a proxy for the fans—who, after all, are obnoxious homers.)
It's unlikely that Selig and Reinsdorf spent much time on this media-philosophical question, especially given that most Sox fans like Harrelson. Instead the commish probably focused on one aspect of Harrelson's rant: his criticism of umpires. It's been an especially rough year for umpires. The last thing MLB needs is an announcer yelling that "they have got some guys in this league that have no business umpiring. They have no business umpiring because they don't know what the game of baseball is about."
Maybe Harrelson overreacted, but it's important to reiterate here that criticizing umpires is okay. It's a good thing. It's exactly what Jim Leyland was pleading for—there should be consequences for umpires when they screw up, including but not limited to being called out publicly. And while it might be true that the 85 or so MLB umpires are the 85 best baseball umpires working in American today, some of them are still pretty terrible. Accountability should be encouraged, even if it's a raving Hawk Harrelson cartoon bringing them to account.