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Rick Hahn smiling, for some reason
Rick Hahn is every CEO.
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This is what Rick Hahn does

Accountability? It’s not the American way

There is a sort of shuffling, shambolic, falsely-energetic inertia to the contemporary American elite. Fortunes are built not on making things, but on making numbers move in a certain way to increase their imagined value. Titans of the boardroom lay off their most valuable employees in order to raise share price .14% and go home exhausted. Companies are built not on products, but on the idea of potentially having a future product, knowing that they are just sticking around for the next round of investments. Investors pump that fake money into fake companies and everyone thinks, usually correctly, that it will be someone else holding the bag.

This is all a matter of course, by now. We know that a vertiginous percentage of the economy — and an encompassing percentage of how we interact with our lives, with each other, and with our diminishing free time — is controlled by a bunch of people who think they’re the smartest people in the room largely on account of their hair. When things are going wrong, they gather their sycophantic underlings and say things like “in order to recalibrate in the face of economic headwinds, none of which have anything to do with the fact that I eliminated our line of Things People Actually Like, we’re going to strategically pivot our core offerings.” All this means is that they are removing the vowels from the company name. It’s called leadership.

It’s hard to say that Rick Hahn is part of the American elite, though he is very well-compensated for doing, or rather not doing, his job. But in the world of baseball, where 30 teams act partly as warring fiefdoms but more often as almost-but-not-quite collusion partners, Hahn is essentially the elite. Regardless of what you can say about where the power lies, who controls the team, the relative importance of the White Sox, Hahn is one of only 30 people whose ultimate job is “make baseball organizations work.”

We’ve seen how he does it, this year, throughout the rebuild, and throughout his tenure. During this trade deadline, Hahn has, by all accounts, acquired some top talent. The farm looks to be a Top 10, and potentially even better. Our experts on the site have been bullish on the trades, and I trust their reliability like my own blessed shadow. Hahn took an underperforming team, and through Courageous Moves and Canny Foresightedness, prepared the Sox for a better future.

That’s the idea, anyway, and in this Hahn perfectly exemplifies modern American management. He built some talent after the 2016 debacle, sat back and watched it matriculate, and assumed that the plan would work. It didn’t, at all, due to injuries, and inability to develop talent, a bullheaded obsession with bullpen stars, the rawminded belief that a first baseman can play pretty much anywhere, a jettisoning of leadership, and more.

That this is, at worst, mostly Hahn’s fault doesn’t matter to the Leadership Narrative. Hahn looked around, and frowned. He made it clear that he wasn’t happy. He shuffled around, squinted at the future, and pulled the trigger. That this has happened before is only important to us fans.

That’s a pretty succinct experience with the American elite right now. They fuck up. They turn our social media sites into personal playgrounds to resolve grudges. They turn our favorite streaming sites into garbage. They pretend that saying you have a groundbreaking medical solution is the same thing as delivering one. And they think that repeating the same action over and over, repeating your failures, is the same thing as accountability.

Hahn is doing what everyone who fails at their job does. He pretends what is happening now has nothing to do with him, and he takes action while ensuring you that there is a long-term plan and he’s the only one who can fix it. He tells obvious lies about being competitive next year so that the media, acting as dumbshow stenographers, will say that is the plan, and everyone agrees to pretend this is the case. He is covering his own ass by pretending it is in high gear.

This is the way these things work. Baseball, given its importance over life and death, actually has more genuine accountability than lesser avenues of life such as banking, policing, the medical-industrial complex, etc. At some point, presumably, Hahn will lose his job. Or, more likely, be semi-retired into some fuckup emeritus position whose title has more words than actual responsibility. So it goes with the White Sox.

So will the team be better now? No, they’ll be bad in 2024. Will they be better after that? Maybe. In order to think so, though, you have to believe that the same people who failed to build around generational talent are totally going to do it this time. It seems far-fetched, sure, but you’re not the shareholder who matters.

Ultimately, none of us are.

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