GLENDALE, Ariz — Hawk Harrelson tells it like it is. We've known this for years, decades.
So ask the longtime White Sox broadcaster about the team's performance in 2013 when it finished in last place with a 63-99 record and Harrelson won't hold back.
He can't help himself.
"Everything in baseball is contagious. Our attitude last year sucked. That’s the only way to put it," Harrelson said by phone as he prepares for his 55th spring training.
Last season might have ended four months ago, but Hawk is still feeling the pain.
"That was the worst performing team I have ever seen that I have been associated with as a player and as an announcer. The fans saw the same thing that you and I saw every day," he said. "It was the worst season I ever experienced. It was just a nightmare. That’s what it was — just a nightmare."
When Hawk gets upset about a bad call or a tough loss, he'll often say on the air, "I wish I could cuss right now." He did plenty of it talking about the White Sox.
"Give me some guys who want to win a [bleeping] baseball game. I don’t care what kind of athlete they are. I’m tired of saying, ‘We’ve got the best athlete.’ I’m tired of hearing that. I want some baseball players. Those are guys who want to go out and win a [bleeping] game, and they’re willing to do what it takes to win a game. They’re willing to bust their ass. They’re willing to get 27 outs."
Harrelson believes 2014 will be different, thanks to the influx of talent signed or acquired by second-year general manager Rick Hahn, who in the last seven months has added a young nucleus of hitters led by Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson.
"What Rick Hahn has done has been just terrific. Just absolutely terrific. He has turned the perception around coming off the worst year I have ever experienced in my 54 years in the game." Harrelson said. "You can never go wrong by going out and getting good, young players. That’s what he’s done. We have some very good, young talent on that ballclub. That’s one reason I’m excited to go to spring training."
Harrelson made news last season when he went on MLB Network to rail against the computer-based system of sabermetrics. Hawk's not exactly a fan. In his interview with host Brian Kenny, he came up with his own statistic for successful baseball: TWTW — the will to win.
What Hawk needs now is a name for his other big statistical intangible: team chemistry.
"I heard one manager who is no longer managing say last year in an interview that chemistry in baseball doesn’t mean anything. Well, he was so full of [bleep] it’s unbelievable. Chemistry in baseball today is more important than it’s ever been. I’d rather have a club with decent talent and great chemistry than a team with great talent and no chemistry. I think we’re going to have great chemistry. You can do that with good, young players."
Last year at SoxFest, Harrelson told a crowd of Sox fans that it was going to be a fun season.
"Obviously, that didn't happen," he said.
So at this year's festivities he refrained from making any sort of prediction, especially since he believes that Hahn still has a couple more moves to make.
"I’m not going to say what they are because it’s just my opinion," Harrelson said. "And I think he will make them. I haven’t talked to him about it. And when he does, it’s going to be a very fun-filled 2014 for our fans. Does that mean we can beat Detroit? Does that mean we’ll beat Kansas City? We haven’t beaten them the last five or six years. I just think with all the young talent we’ve got, it’s going to be a fun year."