Jason Benetti has been the voice of the White Sox since 2016. When he first entered the booth, he was faced with the tall task of replacing baseball icon Ken “Hawk” Harrelson. Benetti has not only filled his shoes but has also become one of the hottest play-by-play commodities on television. The Braves were reportedly eyeing his services once Chip Caray decided to take his talents to St. Louis to become the voice of the Cardinals.
On top of his duties with the White Sox Benetti has received assignments with ESPN, NBC, Fox, and the Big 10 Network. In 2022 Fox Sports hired him to do college football and basketball, some nationally televised MLB games as some NFL games. Simply put, he is one of the best in the business. For the White Sox picking up his multi-year option is a no-brainer.
However, fans began to get concerned when the process dragged along throughout the offseason. Last week the team finally announced that both Benetti and Steve Stone would be returning for their eighth and 16th seasons with the team, putting any concerns to rest. However, Benetti was surprised with how the negotiations played out.
“The really good news is we got somewhere good,” Benetti told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It was kind of a pain, really. There were some things that I thought were silly, and I’m sure they thought some of the stuff that I was talking about might’ve been silly. But we got there in the end.”
White Sox senior vice president Brooks Boyer saw things differently.
“I don’t think there were any complications to it,” Boyer said. “It really wasn’t much of a negotiation because we had picked up the option. It was just ironing out how we put the national schedule in our local schedule. So there really wasn’t anything that sticks out that was bothersome to me.”
The biggest tie-up was about Benetti’s other commitments during the baseball season. Last year he was the lead play-by-play man for Peacock’s MLB coverage on top of his college football and basketball responsibilities for FOX. With his additional assignments calling MLB and NFL games for FOX next season, Benetti is taking on a huge workload and is expected to miss some time in the fall. In his previous contract, the White Sox never specified how many games he could miss when he had national TV assignments. His new contract tightened up the language about how many games he is allowed to miss.
The White Sox have no issue with Benetti adding to his growing resume, as it’s good for their brand. However, they want him at as many White Sox games as possible. Harrelson was historically available for all 162 games until age and health prevented him from doing so his final couple of seasons.
“I know that based on what Hawk did over all those years, the team’s preference would be for me to be there for every game, and I get that,” Bentetti said. “And I truly do appreciate that they were able to get to a place where I can do both of these things. I think it’s mutually beneficial.”
According to Boyer, the White Sox traditionally figure out most broadcaster contracts around the end of the season, then finalize them in January. In Benetti’s case, the team settled on the number of games he could miss in the fall, but the contract didn’t get finalized until January 23rd.
What frustrated Benetti was that the White Sox negotiations were done directly with him, not an agent. He even joked that he felt like a player in arbitration, an assessment Boyer disagreed with.
“Whether it’s Kenny Williams or Rick Hahn, they don’t use agents,” Boyer explained. “We’re compensating them; we have a partnership with them. There’s never been a need to have any sort of outside entity come in and negotiate these things.”
Had there been a middle man perhaps Benetti would not have been so frustrated with the drawn-out process.
“I’ll be honest, there were points where I was really frustrated,” Benetti told the Sun-Times. “Because I think the work has been strong, and I appreciate the heck out of the fans, and I have loved the Sox for all my life. I just thought it would be easier. But just because it wasn’t easier doesn’t mean it didn’t get done.”
In the end, both sides worked things out. But during the White Sox convoluted process of throwing Benetti and Stone on the front lines of negotiations, they risked irking some of the best broadcasting talents in the game. Thankfully everything fell into place.