The story has been percolating for a month, but now it is official: Rick Hahn is the newest General Manager of the Chicago White Sox.
Ken Williams is promoted to Senior Vice President of baseball operations, while longtime front office man Howard Pizer was "promoted" to Senior Executive Vice President.
In a news release, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf called Hahn "one of the most respected young executives in baseball today."
Reinsdorf also says the promotion allows Williams to "focus on more macro issues, talent evaluation, and long-term planning for the organization."
During their introductory news conference, Williams said that this idea had been in place for “several years,” and Hahn had been the GM for several weeks before today’s announcement.
Williams said the demands on a General Manager’s time were such that the responsibilities had to be spread out among a number of people. By accepting his “promotion,” he said he could focus on player scouting and development allowing Hahn to focus on the day-to-day duties of running the ballclub.
Over the course of his 12 years on the job, Williams’ said he regretted the fact that the Sox were unable to convert hundreds of days in first place into more playoff apperances.
One possible reason? Lack of fan support in August and September. He said a loud, energetic ballpark could put the wind in the sails of players as they hit the wall late in the season.
“We tried to get a level of fan energy that you find in Boston, New York, and some of the California teams,” Williams said. “For a while, we were getting there, and then we fell off.”
He said the Sox are already finding ways to “enhance the fan experience.”
Williams promises to be hands-off executive. He will give Hahn room to work. But he says they will no doubt disagree on certain decisions.
Hahn restated Williams’ old goal of winning multiple World Series championships. He dropped a couple of hints about his first offseason as GM during the news conference. He alluded to the fact that they will have to fill holes in the starting rotation, third base, and at catcher.
Does this mean Peavy and Youkilis aren’t coming back?
“Absolutely we want them back,” Hahn said. He’s talked to the representatives of all of the free agents “to get the lay of the land,” get an idea of what they want, and what the team expects from them.
Hahn pointed to the fact that more clubs have money to spend and a “shallow” free agent pool as possible factors that could work against the White Sox as they play the free agent market this winter.
But that should not keep the White Sox from finding creative solutions to problems. Hahn said he recently found the organizational depth chart from the end of the 2004 season that was missing many of the names that would help the team win a World Series the following year.
“It shows you the amount of positive change you can make in one offseason,” Hahn said.
Manager Robin Ventura, speaking on a conference call with reporters, does not expect any radical changes to his relationship with the front office.
When it comes to the team’s crop of free agents, Ventura hopes they return. But he realizes that’s in the hands of his new boss.
“(I’m) hopeful for certain things. That’s something Rick has to handle. We’ll go over that (at the organizational meetings) in Arizona.”
The White Sox brass will meet in Phoenix on November 3rd.
As for the team’s fade in the final weeks of the 2012 season, Ventura says he’s disappointed.
“Not anything you can do about it. Look at what happened, how it happened, and what things could be different,” Ventura said.
“It’s disappointing, but you go on from there.”
Williams was named general manager on Oct. 25, 2000, taking over for Ron Schueler. Unlike this transition, Schueler's resignation caught most observers by surprise, as his final year in the chair was a successful one. The Sox won 95 games and the AL Central before losing to Seattle in the ALDS.
A month after promoting Williams, the Sox hired Hahn from the sports agency Steinberg, Moorad & Dunn to serve as assistant GM. Hahn replaced Dan Evans, who left the White Sox when he lost out on the GM seat to Williams, then the team's vice president of player development.