Sox Drawer: Why Harvard didn't help Hahn

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Sox Drawer: Why Harvard didn't help Hahn

How Rick Hahn became the general manager of the Chicago White Sox is one of the most unexpected stories youll ever hear about in baseball.

Why?

Because once upon a time, Jerry Reinsdorf didnt even want to hire him.

When I walked into his office, he was facing the other way, Hahn recalls about his very first meeting with the White Sox chairman in 1996. Using some direct and mildly colorful language, he told me that I was wasting his time, I was wasting my time. Ive got all this education, and why do I want to work as a general manager? He said, Just go do something real with your life. I was able to sort of calm him down after I got over the fact that Jerry Reinsdorf is kind of cursing me out here, which is kind of weird.

Hahn, who had graduated from the University of Michigan, and then later Harvard Law School, was getting his M.B.A. from Northwestern at the time. With all of that education, it didnt take much for Hahn to get the hint. Reinsdorf didnt want him, baseball seemingly had no place for him -- a harsh dose of reality that was only strengthened by a message that Hahn received a few weeks later.

My real name is Frederick, Hahn explains. At the time, my resume at the top said Frederick. In the mail I get a handwritten letter from Jerry that says, Dear Fred.

Not a good start.

Hahn continued, reciting Reinsdorfs letter from memory:

I've thought long and hard about our meeting and I won't help you ruin your life. Please lie down before you come to your senses. After I got over the stunned element of that, I saw at the bottom he said, However, if you want to learn about scouting, my offer to let you sit with some of our scouts still stands while you hold down a real job.

Hahn recalls this letter so vividly, because its actually framed above his desk at home. It also won him 25 at Northwestern -- in a contest for the best rejection letter.

That was the first money I ever made in baseball, Hahn says laughing.

Getting the opportunity to work with scouts slightly opened the door for Hahn. However, he would need plenty of inner strength to realize his dream, because there were others who kept slamming the door shut...like Kenny Williams.

Im thinking back to the four or five times that he came to me trying to convince me to hire him, and I told him he was out of his mind, Williams said. What are you doing? You are a Harvard grad, you have a law degree. Why do you want to be in baseball? Get out of my office. Get out of my suite. I kicked him out about four times and he kept coming back. And here he is today.

Guts, moxie, persistence, drive. They dont teach that in school. You either have it or you dont. As the White Sox eventually found out, Hahn had all of it.

Plus brains.

Williams calls Hahn one of the smartest people I know, and besides Reinsdorf is simply the best negotiatior Ive ever been around.

It goes with a wicked sense of humor, which was revealed when I asked Hahn how he and Williams differ from each other.

Well, hes taller. Some would argue not quite as handsome, says Hahn, delivering the line as if he was a comedian at Second City.

Then he gets serious.

In terms of style, Williams may wear his emotions on his sleeve a little more than I do, but well see over time if I sort of develop into that.

Being a major league general manager is no picnic. Its probably the most stressful job in the sport. You control what players you put on the team, but once they take the field, its over. They control your fate. All you can do is watch helplessly from your seat.

For 12 years, this ate away at Williams.

It wears you down, Williams says. At the end of the season, admittedly I was spent.

As his assistant general manager for those same 12 years, Hahn had an up-close view of Williams misery and mood swings. Is he concerned the same thing might happen to him?

A little bit, Hahn admits. Ive had friends, guys Ive been close with, been assistant GMs move up the ladder to the GM seat, and quite frankly Ive seen some of them change a little bit. Im guessing due to the added stress and responsibility and time. Im hopefully going to be aware of that.

"Ive got at least a good support network around, my family and friends who will hopefully keep me focused and respond appropriately. Its a risk, but its part of the job, and if you cant take some risks, its hard to do great things.

Last off-season, Williams uttered a word that no baseball fan wants to hear: rebuild. Even though in reality the White Sox did nothing close to an actual teardown, the perception of that single word lingered with the franchise for months.

Hahn is no dummy. Asked if the White Sox will be in a similar situation this winter, he gave a much different answer.

No. Our intent is to win in 2013, Hahn replies. We might make some moves that solidify our chance to win in the future, that solidifies our farm system, but the goal remains to first be in position to win multiple championships, and secondly, hopefully that first one will be in 2013.

Hahn is thinking big, and why not? When he walked into Reinsdorfs office 16 years ago, he was dreaming big, too.

He could have cashed in as a lawyer or a businessman, but he would have been bankrupt on the inside. He could have taken an easier road like many of his other Harvard and Northwestern classmates, but saw a future at 35th and Shields and went after it.

Now hes the White Sox general manager, the 12th in franchise history. Who wouldve believed it?

Hahn did. All along.

The ‘friendly rivalry’ between Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman with Cubs, Dodgers becoming NL superpowers

The ‘friendly rivalry’ between Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman with Cubs, Dodgers becoming NL superpowers

LOS ANGELES – A man stepped to the microphone during a Q&A session at Cubs Convention and called Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman “the two boy geniuses.” The fan told Epstein how his friends used to call the Dodgers baseball boss “your Mini-Me,” asking about their personal rivalry and if beating L.A. in the playoffs had any extra meaning.

“We have a friendly rivalry,” Epstein told a packed hotel ballroom in downtown Chicago in January. “First off, didn’t he interview for an internship with us and we turned him down way back in the day?

“And then like nine months later, he was GM of the Rays. When he was with Tampa and I was with Boston, we never spoke, because we were in the same division. It was kind of a heated rivalry. We literally never called each other on trades or anything like that.”

But where it’s so difficult for the small-market Rays to keep up with the ultra-rich Red Sox – and replace Friedman’s vision and Joe Maddon’s star power and survive a string of wasted first-round draft picks and find a long-term stadium solution – the Cubs and Dodgers are positioned to be superpowers for years to come.

That’s what makes this Memorial Day weekend showdown at Dodger Stadium so compelling beyond the National League Championship Series rematch. It’s not just upcoming free agent Jake Arrieta returning to the site of his onesie no-hitter on Friday night, a reigning MVP (Kris Bryant) and Rookie of the Year (Corey Seager), two of the best closers on the planet (Wade Davis and Kenley Jansen) and a classic Jon Lester vs. Clayton Kershaw matchup on Sunday afternoon.

The Cubs eliminated the Dodgers less than a month after Epstein finalized a five-year contract worth in the neighborhood of $50 million, likely surpassing Friedman as the game’s highest-paid personnel executive.

“Jed developed a pretty good relationship with him, because I didn’t like talking to him,” Epstein said, referencing GM Jed Hoyer, another Boston transplant on the Cubs Convention panel that day. “But then when I came out here with the Cubs, a different league and everything, I developed a much better relationship with Andrew and we became friends, so now it’s much more of a friendly rivalry.

“I will say that losing to the Dodgers would have been a bitter pill to swallow on a number of fronts, including that one. But they’re developing a powerhouse out there.

“We see them as a team we have to go through each year to get where we want to be.”

[MORE CUBS: Summing up the Cubs' impressive, potentially season-altering homestand]

Backed by Guggenheim Partners’ financial muscle and flush with new TV money, the Dodgers have won four straight division titles and 90-plus games each season while ramping up a farm system that’s now ranked fourth, fifth or sixth by Baseball America, ESPN and MLB.com.

“Everyone’s got their own style and their own approach,” Epstein said. “Ours was more kind of bottom-up (where) they needed to keep it rolling at a high level in the big leagues while retooling their system and nurturing the talent that was already there.

“We had to go out and transact and bring some stuff in. We were at different points of the success cycle. They’ve done a really nice job of winning while kind of establishing something new at the same time.”

The blue-blooded franchise that produced 17 Rookie of the Year winners last month rolled out Cody Bellinger, a 21-year-old, left-handed first baseman with nine homers in his first 28 games in The Show. Julio Urias – who might be the next Fernando Valenzuela – is supposed to be conserving some innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City for another October where the Cubs could be standing in the way of the Dodgers’ first World Series title since 1988.

“They’ve been producing great young talent for a long period of time,” Epstein said. “If you go back and look at some of the young studs they have in the big leagues that (former scouting director) Logan White and (the previous regime) brought in, some of the guys are still coming.

“They’re stocked and the Dodger tradition runs really deep. With Andrew and his front office, we know they’re going to be dynamic. They’re going to have more resources than anyone. And they’re a big threat to the whole league for a long period of time.”

Could Derrick Rose reunite with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota?

Could Derrick Rose reunite with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota?

Tom Thibodeau was without Derrick Rose for the first time in his head-coaching career last season, coaching the Timberwolves while Rose suited up for the New York Knicks.

But a reunion may be on the horizon. Rose is an unrestricted free agent and the Timberwolves, though they don't have a real need at point guard, are showing interest in the Chicago native. We'll have to wait until July 1, when free agency begins, to see what happens.

See what special guest Nick Friedell, Bulls beat reporter for ESPN, had to say about the topic on SportsTalk Live in the video above.