CHICAGO -- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn left little doubt as to where the blame should fall for his team’s disappointing 7-19 start to the 2023 season.
“Put it on me. That’s the job. It’s the absolute gig,” said a candid and still confident Hahn prior to Thursday night’s series-opening 14-5 loss to the Rays. “Let’s make this real clear -- it sure as heck isn’t on [first-year manager] Pedro [Grifol] and his coaching staff.
“They are doing everything in their power to prepare, focus on what’s controllable, what’s fixable, addressing the problems as they arise. And they are really doing everything in their power to get this thing right. It’s absolutely not on the manager and the coaches.”
The White Sox have lost eight straight games for a third time since the start of the 2022 campaign, including an 0-6 road trip featuring sweeps by the Rays and the Blue Jays. The team is slashing .184/.245/.301 with 49 runs scored in its past 17 games, although two runs came against outfielder Luke Raley in the ninth inning Thursday after he came on to pitch with an 11-run lead.
That road trip finished with a 24-inning scoreless drought -- which grew to 25 before the White Sox scored on Lenyn Sosa’s double in the second -- and three runs in the final four games. Hahn understands the fans’ anger, especially after the general manager talked in Spring Training about earning their trust back, and Grifol spoke of watching the team on the field before making any decision coming off its struggles in 2022, when Chicago finished 81-81.
“They’re not alone. We’re upset,” Hahn said. “We’re feeling every emotion in the book, ranging from rage to disappointment, and we’ve done perhaps the exact opposite of what we set out to do in terms of regaining our fans’ confidence and trust in what we’re about here.
“At the end of the day, we have to win. That’s the way we’re going to earn this back. We can sit here and talk about how it’s early. We can sit here and talk about all these other teams that had rough starts but still turned it around and even won the World Series after those rough starts. But in the end, it’s not going to matter unless we start winning.
“We still have not just that important hole in the standings to dig out from, but that hole in terms of regaining our fans’ trust,” Hahn added. “We completely understand that and more than just empathize with the emotions they’re feeling. We’re living it day in and day out.”
To Grifol’s credit, an approach he believes in hasn’t changed during the rough start to his managerial career. He continues with a narrow focus of one series at a time -- down to one game at a time -- and he works with his staff to prepare his players for success.
Grifol reiterated Thursday how he believes this group will turn things around. He has not lost any confidence.
“I'm not happy about it. Nobody in this clubhouse is happy about it, nobody in this building is happy about it,” Grifol said. “But we have 130-something games left, and again, we have guys that have performed here, and they're just not going to not perform.
“We're all here to get better. We have a plan in place today to get better today to win a baseball game. We've got to go out and leave it on the field and try to execute as best we can. That's really about it. What else can you do? Not show up to the ballpark? This game's unforgiving. This game is every single day. Whether you win or lose the day before, you've got to come out and do the same thing again today.”
A goal of reaching the playoffs and contending for the World Series remains the focus for Hahn and his front-office staff. He also understands that if the White Sox spiral continues, his job could be -- and should be -- under scrutiny.
“I’m not a king,” Hahn said. “I don’t sit in this chair by divine birthright. It’s an absolute privilege to be general manager of the White Sox, one that I need to continue to earn. It’s pro sports. These things eventually come to an end. …
“But the day I assumed this job or anyone assumes a general manager’s job, you know it’s going to end at some point. Never has it been my focus, and it’s not today. It’s more about, again, getting this team right for 2023. And what happens later in this season or after the season or five years from now will happen when it happens.”