CHICAGO -- Rick Hahn didn’t think he would be talking to the media again so soon after discussing the trades of six pitchers and infielder Jake Burger prior to the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline.
But the White Sox general manager was back in front of reporters ahead of Monday’s series opener against the Yankees to address a pair of team-related issues that came up over the weekend. One of those was a benches-clearing incident Saturday night in Cleveland that earned shortstop Tim Anderson a six-game suspension and manager Pedro Grifol a one-game suspension that he served Monday.
The second situation dealt with comments made by reliever Keynan Middleton in an ESPN article Sunday after the right-hander was traded to the Yankees, calling out the White Sox culture for a lack of clubhouse rules and accountability. Hahn, with his voice cracking with emotion at one point, addressed the criticism broadly but eventually went point by point.
“Frankly, the first rule of a clubhouse is, ‘What goes on in a clubhouse is supposed to stay there,’” Hahn said. “I’m a big believer in that tenet. However, where an individual player casts aspersions and puts his name on it, I feel a responsibility to respond.”
A surprise from the article for Hahn came from a meeting he had with Middleton one week ago in Chicago, a meeting in which Middleton apologized for undisclosed unprofessional behavior addressed by manager Pedro Grifol and expressed a desire to return to the White Sox.
“He sought me out to apologize for his unprofessional behavior, unprofessional behavior that Pedro had called him out on and had an individual meeting with him about,” Hahn said. “Keynan wanted to apologize for it.
“I told him at the time I figured that was a one-off and not something that anyone needed to get into greater detail of … So for a number of reasons -- the sanctity of the clubhouse, his own personal experience here, as well as what he expressed to me as his future desires -- I was surprised to see the report this morning.”
In that same report, Middleton talked about a rookie pitcher falling asleep in the bullpen. Hahn called that assertion “just wrong,” adding that they have a position player who has fairly serious sleep issues and has been encouraged to sleep in the clubhouse at times as part of the sports performance program.
Middleton also mentioned a player missing fielding drills without repercussions. Hahn acknowledged a player missed infield practice and then did infield practice over the next three days as a way of holding him accountable and showing him the importance of being there.
“No one in this organization, for the last several weeks, has run from the fact that we’ve had cultural issues and we need to improve the leadership in that room,” Hahn said. “We’re going to continue to strive to get better in that area. But one thing we’re not going to do is stand idly by while false reports are put out there about the character of the men that remain in that room.”
“We're moving forward,” Grifol added. “We're moving forward with a new-laid foundation on rock -- not on muck, on rock -- that is going to sustain any little problem that we may have. So culture is a big deal to me. It's the most important part of a winning franchise, and we're determined to build it and build it the right way.”
When questioned about the article before Monday’s game, Middleton stood by his comments. As a Minor League signee who could have been sent back to Triple-A, he didn’t feel like he was in a comfortable position to address the concerns with the team.
“There’s a right way to go about business and to do that, but I honestly don’t want to comment anymore on it,” Middleton said. “I said what I said and I really, truly feel that with my heart. Right now, my sole focus is being a Yankee and my future being a Yankee moving forward and making the playoffs. I don’t really want to touch on anything else.”
Clubhouse culture issues have been identified and addressed throughout the season, according to Hahn. He spoke of making in-roads in that area at the Trade Deadline, followed by a team meeting Saturday in Cleveland.
“You learn a lot about people’s character during times of adversity,” Hahn said. “Unfortunately, we got off to a wretched start, and the way the room responded was not the way we had hoped.
“We realized we had some issues that needed to be addressed. We started that process over the last several weeks, and it’s an area we expect to continue to improve.”