Hahn discusses disappointment of '22 campaign, managerial search
CHICAGO -- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn didn’t want to talk about specific players during his 36-minute season-ending interview session Monday at the Conference and Learning Center in Guaranteed Rate Field.
Not with games still to be played this season. Not when it could cause a distraction.
And aside from one natural inquiry about the future of team leader José Abreu, that request was followed. Hahn did not shy away from talk of the disappointing 2022 season as a whole, which began in Arizona with predictions of a World Series championship and ended with a team fighting for .500 and manager Tony La Russa retiring due to heart-related health issues.
While La Russa received a great deal of blame (along with some of the underperforming players), Hahn said the struggles were felt throughout the entire organization.
“We’ve spent a lot of time having those conversations, including part of what [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf], [executive vice president] Kenny [Williams] and I discussed a few hours ago about we’ve potentially made missteps and where can we be better,” Hahn said. “Know that there is no complacency involved. We know Tony put it on himself and the players put it on themselves. We put it equally if not more so on ourselves.
“There’s no one associated with this organization, at least on the baseball side -- including the guys in uniform, scouts, player development -- who doesn’t find this past year unacceptable. And extraordinarily frustrating and disappointing. The squandering of this year is something that I know individually I will carry with me for a while. I know the baseball side or [those] in uniform would echo those sentiments for themselves.”
Hiring a new manager ranks high up on Hahn’s offseason to-do list, and he made it clear the hiring process will be different this time around compared to when La Russa surprisingly returned to the dugout after being away from managing since winning a World Series in 2011. Jerry Manuel was the last White Sox hire to not have previous ties to the organization, with Hahn adding that connection will not be a prerequisite as they intend to use this process to get outside views of this team.
Work also has to be done on the team. Hahn frequently pointed to Chicago's playoff berth in 2020 and its American League Central title in 2021 as signs of recent success for this group, meaning the talent is there to turn things around quickly. Hence, the reasoning behind why an experienced managerial choice would benefit this ready to win crew.
Unfortunately, the current campaign can’t be completely thrown away or overlooked. The White Sox might have to make some changes within the competitive window.
“We’re not going to just be able to throw money at the problem. So, you have to get creative and the trade market may be a more fruitful path for us to go as opposed to free agency in the coming months,” Hahn said. “You want to make sure you’re comfortable enough to make those tough decisions about players you have signed or developed or traded for and you don’t get caught in some sort of bias in favor of what we thought we put together.
“I am confident we will be able to evaluate opportunities that come along over the next few months objectively with the goal of getting us right back in contention for '23, even if that means cutting into guys we previously thought were going to be with us for an extended period of time. Yes, we’ll be open minded.”
The manager selection (the team’s seventh since 2003) will be a collaborative process, with Hahn even hinting some players could have involvement. It’s an early step in going from disappointment back to excitement.
“It’s more a point about not throwing out the baby with the bath water,” Hahn said. “It was a disappointing year. We all need to get better in multiple facets. There needs to be a process. Obviously, manager and staff changes and personnel changes, we know that.
“It's easy at the end of a disappointing season to say you’ve got to burn it to the ground. I think that’s not where we’re at as an organization. There’s a good amount of talent there. There’s talent that’s performed at an elite level. We’ve got to figure out a way to get them back to that level and augment accordingly.”