SoxFest provided yet another forum for White Sox fans to express their displeasure with new White Sox GM Rick Hahn electing to let A.J. Pierzynski go to Texas and essentially hand Tyler Flowers the starting catcher job. And they certainly availed themselves of it. I stopped counting how many times I heard the bewilderment of fans over this choice, whether at a seminar, on the escalator or in the bar.
Hahn faced the music in the annual "Your [insert year] White Sox" seminar -- really a bitchfest -- and defended the choice. He walked fans through the main choices he had this offseason: address pitching, get a third baseman or keep A.J. But not all three.
Hahn strongly feels that a team "needs an elite pitching staff to compete in the American League and in U.S. Cellular Field." He immediately addressed that by re-signing Jake Peavy, then went on to pick up Gavin Floyd's option and today (officially) added Matt Lindstrom.
Hahn signed Jeff Keppinger and he is the leading candidate for third base, although he told Hahn his "favorite position is the batter's box," which I'm pretty sure is against the rules.
According to Hahn, all of those moves made matching Texas' offer to Pierzynski impossible. One suspects, however, that of the three choices, Hahn wanted Pierzynski to be the odd man out.
And that's because he has a high degree of confidence in Flowers. While fans savaged Flowers (both to Hahn and to other fans), the Michigan-Harvard-Northwestern-educated GM* made a cogent, logical argument answering the question, "Why Flowers?"
Flowers "will have plenty of strikeouts and a low batting average but he'll get on base and hit for power." Hahn then made the classic appeal to authority by pointing out what two neutral outside observers think. First, The Bill James Handbook "projects Flowers to have an OPS 60 points higher" than Pierzynski. And, if that wasn't far enough over the heads of many of the fans in the room, Hahn then dropped Baseball Info Solutions' Defensive Runs Saved on the crowd.
But touting Flowers' defensive superiority certainly wasn't going to placate the masses. The fan inquisitors didn't ask about Pierzynski again, but quite a few prefaced their questions/statements by professing their A.J. love.
Flowers certainly has his work cut out for him to win over the White Sox faithful but he's going to have every opportunity to do so. Hahn assured that "there will be no rash decisions based on 50-60 at-bats in the Cactus League." And he assured that there effectively can't be, considering the other options who will be in camp.
Hahn referred to Hector Gimenez, but he also mentioned the guy who I've thought will end up taking the backup job. Bryan Anderson, an ex-top prospect in the Cardinals organization, was an under-the-radar signing in November. He's a lefty bat and has a better pedigree than Gimenez ... but he's no threat to Flowers.
The White Sox have given Flowers a long leash. Rightly or wrongly, fans are going to make their first judgment of Hahn's tenure based on whether Flowers performs or falls on his face.
* Fan discussion of Hahn that I overheard often included derisive references to either his education, North Shore upbringing or Cub fandom. And did you know he's a lawyer? Egads. KenWo's dad, however, was the only one who nailed the quadruple. I really think KenWo should do a column like Dan Le Betard's show.