What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

1986 – The Greatest Moment In Ken Harrelson’s White Sox History

ken harrelson cartoon

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I love Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson about as much as toothaches and flat beer combined.  But what many people under the age of 40 don’t know is there was once a very special time in White Sux history when “The Hawk” was actually the team’s general manager.

Now to be fair, most of his tenure at the helm was pretty unremarkable, if not moderately successful in terms of player personnel moves.  The Harrelson administration started just before the winter meetings in 1985, but the end came less than a year later, and would be defined by two inexplicable moves.

In December of 1985, Harrelson snagged Bobby Bonilla in the Rule V draft from the Pittsburgh Pirates. For those of you who don’t know, the Rule V draft is like grabbing the card you need off the discard pile in a game of gin. In short, during the annual Rule V draft, teams can select any player from another organization so long as:

  • They signed when they were 19 years of age or older
  • Have played in professional baseball for at least four years OR signed at 18 and have played for five years
  • Are not on a Major League Baseball team’s 40-man roster

Now, to prevent this from becoming simply an exercise in plundering other team’s farm systems, there’s a catch.  A team that selects a player in the Rule V Draft pays $50,000 to the team from which he was selected. The receiving team must then keep the player on the Major League 25-man roster for the entirety of the next season, and the selected player must remain active (not on the disabled list) for a minimum of 90 days. If the player does not remain on the Major League roster, he is offered back to the team from which he was selected for $25,000. If his original team declines, the receiving team may waive the player.

In other words, “The Hawk” sees a budding star in Bonilla and grabs him while he can. Say what you will, that’s a smart move. But then for some reason in July of 1986 with the trade deadline looming, Harrelson trades the 23-year-old Bonilla back to the Pirates for starting pitcher Jose DeLeon.  In other words, The Hawk paid 50 grand to snag a future seven-time All-Star, then gave him away for a guy who was coming off a 19-loss season and notched a 15-17 mark in his year and a half on the South Side.

Again, to be fair, everybody makes mistakes.  But when you pull a move like that right after another huge gaffe, things tend to not work out for you.

ken harrelson and tony larussa

Take a good look at that picture. We all know the old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words, but this one must be worth a million. In order to appreciate it, you have to understand this is at a press conference where it is being announced “The Hawk” is firing a guy he broke into Major League Baseball with on the 1963 with the Kansas City A’s.  I can’t tell you how many questions that picture raises for me.

  • Why is there a St. Louis Cardinals’ logo in the background? How could they have known that would be the team LaRussa would lead to two World Series titles?
  • Why does Harrelson have a look in his eyes suggesting he knows he fucked up firing LaRussa?  It’s not like it would only take three years for LaRussa to guide the Oakland A’;s to a World Series title.
  • Why is “The Hawk” dressed like J.R. Ewing from “Dallas?”

Despite all that, there’s another fun fact about “The Hawk” administration on the South Side.  Many people don’t remember he had a very talented young assistant general manger name Dave Dombrowski.  Harrelson ran him out of town, after which he became the youngest general manager in baseball less than two years later.  In that capacity, he made the Montreal Expos one of the best teams in baseball with a deeply-stocked farm system.  After that, he became a driving force behind turning the expansion Florida Marlins into a World Series champion in less than five years.

Then, Dombrowski took a Detroit Tiger team which lost an American League record 119 games and made them a championship contender in less than three years.  Now, he’s transforming the Boston Red Sox from an old, free-agent, big-money team into a young, home-grown potential contender.

Having said all that, let’s break down the notable moments of Harrelson’s time at the helm:

  • Acquired a future seven-time All-Star, then gave him away for a crap pitcher, who then performed decently once he got out of Chicago.
  • Fired a manager who went on to win six pennants and three World Series titles and is enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Purged a talented young executive who then dramatically improved three other franchises.

Like it or not, that’s the legacy of the Hawkeroo as a general manager.  You can put it on the board…YES!

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

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This entry was posted on July 31, 2016 by in Baseball, Sports and tagged , , .

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