White Sox general manager Rick Hahn preaches optimism in slow start

Rick Hahn receives letters. If they come with a return address, White Sox staff will forward them to him and the general manager will read them.

“It’s part of the gig,” Hahn said. “I also get a handful of business ideas and stuff like that. But the nastiness has increased over the past two weeks.

In the past two weeks, the White Sox have allowed the Red Sox 33 runs in three games, dropped Dallas Keuchel following that streak, endured a largely sloppy weekend with the Cubs and kicked off a week-long road trip. with a four game losing streak. A resilient Jake Burger-powered series victory in Tampa brought the White Sox back from their two-game road trip below .500 amid a tough spell without Tim Anderson. They entered Tuesday with a minus-56 point differential that is seventh-worst in the majors. There is probably a correlation between this and the tone of the letters.

The White Sox could weigh whether they will be buyers or sellers at next month’s trade deadline as they sit third in the weak AL Central and are missing key players on the injured list.

Hahn, who has invested heavily in a bullpen that helped the White Sox go 9-6 in one-point games, spent much of his Tuesday media session downplaying the value of the differential of points less than 60 games in a season. And while he conceded that his team’s point differential “stinks right now”, the idea that the White Sox, who are 1 1/2 games away from a playoff spot, being about to do anything other than play better and divisively oriented was emphatically dismissed.

“I really don’t expect to have to sit here in six weeks and eat these words, but I don’t anticipate us being in sell-out mode by the deadline, even with the race differential,” Hahn said. “The points differential should improve as our points score improves. I think a lot of it comes down to the pitching continuing to be strong and getting better when Lance (Lynn) is back and Joe Kelly is back and so on. But I think there are still considerable benefits to this attack and that in turn will help any differential functioning deficits that we currently have.

The White Sox have been without Lance Lynn since he injured his knee in spring training. (Ron Vesely/Getty Images)

None of the White Sox’s overall pitching numbers look particularly rosy after this two-week span, other than their top-10 strikeout rate, though the rotation will have plenty of power when Lynn potentially returns next week. But the offense, which scored fourth-fewest in MLB points per game, underperformed. The team is waiting for Yasmani Grandal, Yoán Moncada, AJ Pollock, Gavin Sheets, Leury García and Josh Harrison to bounce back. The White Sox were supposed to fight their way through all of their shortcomings, and without that, all of their problems are in plain sight. Hahn thinks they’ll launch the attack again.

“We’re lucky that baseball is a long season, and in a long season things tend to go the way talent allows,” Hahn said. “Players tend not to fundamentally lose their abilities. It doesn’t just evaporate. Granted, men decline as they age, but that doesn’t tend to evaporate on them. So many players who have been successful in the past can reasonably be counted on, barring injury, to produce at a similar level in the future.

“Not too different from that, coaches don’t lose the ability to coach. Offensively we haven’t been the team we plan to be or capable of being over the season so far, but the same coaches are involved who ended up with three Silver Sluggers in 2020 and we placed fourth in the league in weighting. races created (wRC+) last year in 2021. These methods have proven effective with good players and there is reason for optimism that this will continue. But this similar dissatisfaction or desire for things to get better, this desire for improvement, that permeates everyone here.

This endorsement of the White Sox training process – particularly offensively – was in response to a series of questions reacting to the news of Joe Maddon being fired as Angels manager. Is something similar possible on the south side following what must be described as a drastic underperformance? Although Hahn pushed back against the idea of ​​the White Sox having an organizational executive order against mid-season layoffs, he said the personnel changes were the product of a careful process where everyone in the hot seat has the opportunity to remedy its shortcomings and to improve.

When White Sox coaches and managers are fired, there usually needs to be a clear demonstration of where things are going wrong. And Hahn drew the distinction between portraying confidence that things will change despite a performance that clearly went wrong in many ways to open the season.

“There have been challenges at every level here for everyone,” Hahn said, taking a broader view when asked to rate Tony La Russa’s managerial performance. “We’ve responded pretty well to some and done for others. It’s not just about Tony. This is the front office. It’s me. It’s the coaches and the players themselves. We are in this as an organization and none of us as an organization are happy with where we are now. For a man and for a woman, we feel good about what the next few months potentially hold for us.

By current records, the White Sox have the easiest remaining schedule in the majors, and that includes the series against the Dodgers that kicked off in Chicago on Tuesday night, and a three-game series in Houston that begins June 17. For a team that ended last season outclassed by the league’s top echelon and vowed to step up, this might seem like a less than electrifying way for the White Sox to get back into the playoffs – apparently a minimum expectation for this group.

But after the White Sox won the AL Central title last year before losing to the Astros in four games, Hahn asserts a certain agnosticism about how things look in June.

“I look at the fact that last year we obviously took a big lead,” Hahn said, referring to comments from some of his players. “People then suggested that maybe it wasn’t good for us because we weren’t challenged in the second half and we went to the playoffs so not battle-tested or otherwise and we paid the price. The good news is that this year, if we make the playoffs the way we envisioned, we’re going to be battle-tested.

It’s not like they had a choice.

(Top photo: Ron Vesely/Getty Images)