CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn appears to have seamlessly slid into his new role as the top baseball executive in the organization. Although former GM Ken Williams has a title above Hahn’s position, it is clear the Winnetka, Ill., native is calling most of the shots. The team's early struggles with key injuries that have contributed to a slow start have not changed Hahn’s optimistic demeanor or his accessibility.
Having had ten years in the trenches as the club's assistant GM appears to have made the transition easier for the people he works with."There is always a change when someone new takes over,“ said second-year manager Robin Ventura. “I don’t think anything has changed here philosophy wise. For me, it has been easy because we spent a lot of time together last year. We are dealing with different issues but handling things in similar ways. Rick and Kenny are just different personalities.”
Hahn has a less aggressive style by nature than Williams but is known as a stone-cold hardliner when it comes to making decisions on talent and money issues. The friendly exterior person he projects should not be confused with the single-minded executive who has shown he is not afraid to say no or turn away from a bad deal. Hahn made his bones by saving the franchise millions of dollars in contract layouts. He signed young players like Mark Buehrle to long-term deals in the early stages of their careers. That type of proactive move worked two-fold: It provided security for the player and another revenue stream to add other good players to the White Sox mix.
The only player who has been here longer than Hahn is team captain Paul Konerko. The veteran first baseman looks at Hahn as a top communicator and a shrewd handler of people. “There won’t be any times where Rick would be caught saying 'why didn’t we think of that?‘" Konerko said in explaining Hahn’s penchant for detail. “Rick and Kenny are the type of baseball men who are dialed in 24 hours a day.”
Hahn has had to adjust to people treating him in a different matter rather than the reverse. “I have seen a difference in the office staff at times but not with the baseball scouts and personnel,“ he said. “Everyone means it out of respect, saying things like ‘I know your busy,‘ when in reality I was the one who initiated the conversation.”
The Sox's poor start as a team while losing two starting position players within a week has tested the 39-year-old executive early in his tenure as GM. “I certainly feel more responsible when things get difficult as you weigh various depth options maybe knowing that right piece isn’t there waiting for you,” Hahn said. “It already has been a rough year injury wise, and, for the most part, we have had someone to come up and help. I do feel a greater responsibility when things don’t go how we planned it to go.“
The White Sox GM is still working closely with Williams, who is out looking at high school and college players for the June draft. “He is always there as a resource even if he isn’t here on a daily basis,” Hahn said. “This has been a little bit of a transition for him. So far, I think it has been good for both of us."