Hahn saw his future with White Sox not Cubs

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Hahn saw his future with White Sox not Cubs

There was a time where Rick Hahn seemed to be the medias favorite to be the next Cubs general manager. It got to the point where Tom Ricketts sort of shook his head, because the chairman had never actually met the guy before.

Ricketts told Jim Hendry that he would be fired during a secret meeting on July 22, 2011. Hendry kept the news buried for almost a month, not telling even some of his closest friends and family until just before the news conference inside the Wrigley Field interview roomdungeon.

With Ricketts looking for someone with a different analytical background, Hahn immediately emerged as a possible connect-the-dots candidate. Hahn had grown up in Winnetka and graduated from New Trier High School before getting degrees from the University of Michigan, Harvard Law School and Northwesterns Kellogg School of Management.

This was almost exactly one year after the Cubs won their press conference and put Theo Epsteins name in lights on the Wrigley Field marquee. Hahn looked around a U.S. Cellular Field conference room on Friday, looking for his parents and thanking them for never trying to talk sense into me as I was potentially flushing away a lot of education.

This is what Hahn had in mind, and the White Sox had been plotting this move for years. After 12 seasons in the front office and multiple interviews in other big-league cities Hahn finally realized his dream of becoming a general manager here.

It just wasnt going to happen on the North Side.

There was a lot of speculation last year about what was going on over there, Hahn said. I think they were pretty singularly focused from the start about what they wanted to do and they were able to accomplish that. It never arose anywhere close to the level that I think was speculated publicly.

Obviously, that would have been an opportunity to be a GM in my hometown, which has a lot of appeal. But it also would have been leaving the people here who Ive had long relationships with, so I didnt get too hung up on it, especially since I had sort of a sense of where this was heading pretty early on.

At the time, Epstein looked like a total reach. There was no "Theo Watch" yet.

Sure, maybe the Cubs would try to copy the Boston Red Sox model and go after Ben Cherington, Epsteins assistant general manager and eventual replacement. There was a national buzz that they were interested in Brian Cashman (who had long respected Hendry and would hire him as a special assistant with the New York Yankees).

There were suspicions that Josh Byrnes was angling for the job, though this chain of events would ultimately help make him the San Diego Padres general manager. Chicago guy Mike Rizzo whose homegrown core would win 98 games this season went on the defensive and denied interest in leaving the Washington Nationals.

Epstein left Boston for a presidents title and total control of baseball operations at Clark and Addison. From San Diego, Epstein brought in Jed Hoyer as general manager and Jason McLeod to oversee scouting and player development.

The job is 247, 365 days a year for Type A personalities. In moving up to executive vice president, Kenny Williams talked about how hed feel the pain in his neck and the churning in his stomach while watching games.

Williams played football at Stanford University and liked the Oakland Raiders, and he took that Silver and Black mentality into everything. He described how hed leave during the middle of the game and steer his car onto Lake Shore Drive to look at the water and try to find some calm.

After almost a decade of relentless scrutiny in Boston, Epstein sensed he was nearing his expiration date. He really felt energized during a recent trip to Arizona, watching prospects in instructional league and seeing The Cubs Way come to life.

John Paxson and Gar Forman are running the Bulls for Jerry Reinsdorf, but Hahn stressed that every situation is unique. Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti created a partnership within the Cleveland Indians, while Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels have turned the Texas Rangers into an annual contender.

Theo and his staff is just another example of a different sort of set-up, Hahn said. But what matters from my standpoint when I look at it is the efficacy within the office, how its going to work. Do we have the right people having the right input and the right resources? And thats what Im comfortable with here.

The media has fixated on the attendance problems on the South Side, where the White Sox were in first place deep into September and still drew less than two million fans. The Cubs lost 101 games and almost reached three million.

Hahn thinks the White Sox can reach that level, though he admits that they missed an opportunity after winning the 2005 World Series.

If we win, absolutely, Hahn said. I do feel that if we followed up 05 fairly quickly in 06 or 07 with another one or at least a deep, deep run that probably would have swayed some of the momentum in our direction. (But thats) not going to change the decision about whos on the field. So its not for me to worry about. I got enough to worry about.

So Hahn isnt going to turn into Ozzie Guillen and provide bulletin-board material for Cubs-Sox.

I really dont view it as competing with them, other than when we play, Hahn said. That may be different from a marketing standpoint, or it could be different from a fan-experience standpoint, or how others approach it. But for me, theyre another opponent and I want to beat them when we play.

Probably the ideal situation would be for both of us to have success and see what happens in this town if we actually squared off in October.

Preview: White Sox start series at Twins tonight on CSN

Preview: White Sox start series at Twins tonight on CSN

 

The White Sox take on the Twins on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (8-8, 2.97 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (4-8, 5.40 ERA)

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Back with White Sox, Chris Sale ready to move on from 'fiasco'

Back with White Sox, Chris Sale ready to move on from 'fiasco'

Even though he felt isolated and experienced a five-day stretch he called “a fiasco,” Chris Sale was right where he wants to be Thursday, surrounded by White Sox teammates.

Shortly after a 3-1 loss to the Cubs, the pitcher echoed the sentiments of White Sox management in a 10-minute media session when he suggested he’d like to move on from a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property.

With the trade deadline only four days away, Sale wants to stay with the White Sox and hopes the current roster gets an opportunity to win. He also thought an incident in which he destroyed promotional throwback jerseys had been blown out of proportion.

While he didn’t apologize for his actions, the left-hander said he regretted letting down his teammates and fans who attended Saturday’s game. Sale, whose record fell to 14-4 after he allowed two runs in six innings, said he plans to address White Sox players and coaches soon and intends to let them know his level of appreciation.

“I want to let them know where my head is at, where my heart is at,” Sale said. “And let them know how much I appreciate them.

“I felt like I was out on an island, really. 7 o’clock rolls around and I usually know what’s going on. Sitting at the house sucks.

“I regret not being there for my guys. I’m a pitcher. I’m called upon every fifth day and when I can’t go out there for my guys and the fans, it gets to me.”

Similar to March when he pitched a day after ripping executive vice president Kenny Williams, Sale said his focus is back on the field. He declined to answer what he didn’t like about the throwback jerseys, calling it “counterproductive.” Even though the White Sox are on the outside looking in, Sale is hopeful he and his teammates can rally and make a strong postseason push over the final 60 games.

“I think everyone is making just a little bit bigger deal of this then it really is,” Sale said. “We are here to win games and from this point forward, I think that’s our main focus. We are going to come in every day and do our jobs and try to win ballgames, that’s at the forefront.

“I don’t like people filling in for me. I love what I do. I love pitching. I love competing. I love the guys that I’m surrounded by.”

“When I let them down, it hurts me more than it hurts them.”

Three days after he suggested manager Robin Ventura didn’t properly support him, Sale declined to discuss their future relationship and again diverted the conversation back to the field. When asked what was the biggest lesson he took from the ordeal, Sale said he wasn’t quite sure.

“I know you guys are trying to get in there and you guys have to write stories and stuff,” Sale said. “I understand. But they said their side. I said my side. I’m ready to talk about baseball and playing baseball and getting back to winning and getting the Chicago White Sox into the postseason. That’s my goal. That’s my focus. Anything else, that’s for you guys.”

While he admits that his competitive side may have fed into Saturday’s events, he also knows abandoning it would hurt him on the field. Sale said he was inundated by texts and calls from teammates past and present during his absence. That only strengthened his desire to win with the current group, Sale said.

“There’s no doubt my emotions have got me to this point,” he said. “I wouldn’t be the same person without them but stuff happens. Move on. We have an unbelievable group of guys in that clubhouse. We’ll just push forward.

“I’m here to win. I love exactly where I’m at. I have an unbelievable group of guys in that clubhouse. We’re pulling for each other, they are pulling for me and vice versa, through and through. I’d like to stay with this group of guys and make a push for the playoffs because I love those guys.”

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

The word of the day Thursday around the cramped confines of the visitor’s clubhouse at Wrigley Field was normal, as in getting things back to it with ace left-hander Chris Sale taking the mound after serving a five-game suspension for “insubordination and destruction of team property.”

A completely abnormal story — Sale cut up the 1976 throwback uniforms he didn’t want to wear last Saturday and was sent home for his actions — gave way to a relatively routine evening. Sale allowed two runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts over six innings, though the White Sox lineup was shut down by John Lackey and the Cubs’ new three-headed bullpen monster in a 3-1 Crosstown loss.

“Things were pretty normal,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Guys got here, not a different clubhouse or anything like that. I think everything went fairly normal as far as him going out there and pitching and it was about baseball.”

First baseman Jose Abreu said things felt like an ordinary Sale start, even though the American League’s All-Star starting pitcher hadn’t pitched since July 18. He didn’t have his best stuff and wasn’t his sharpest, either — those three walks were his highest total in over two months — as he wasn’t able to consistently paint the corners with his explosive arsenal of pitches.

But, as usual, Sale worked quickly and kept his team in the game against one of baseball’s best offenses.

“He pitched a very good game,” Abreu said through a translator.

The Cuban first baseman added: “I think that we already moved on.”

Catcher Dioner Navarro agreed.

“He gave us a great outing, we just weren’t able to score any runs for him,” Navarro said.

Before the game, third baseman Todd Frazier said he and his teammates rallied around Sale and hoped a solid outing from the 27-year-old left-hander would put the bizarre incident squarely in the rearview mirror. 

“Some mistakes are bigger than others but you gotta understand that we’re all not perfect,” Frazier said. “Things do happen in this game, different things that you think (you’ve) never seen before, and then it happens. It’s just one of those things, hopefully it goes away quick with the way he pitches."

Sale said he didn’t discuss the incident or his suspension with his teammates before the game to keep things as normal as possible. After he showed up a little after 4:40 p.m., he received hugs and handshakes from teammates welcoming him back following his five-day exile.

But after that, Navarro said things were business as usual. He and Sale went through the gameplan and got ready to face the Cubs' powerful lineup instead of dwelling on what happened last Saturday. Eventually, Sale will talk to his coaches and teammates on a personal level to “let them know where my head is at, where my heart is at, and let them know how much I appreciate them.”

With the White Sox playoff hopes flickering as the trade deadline approaches, though, Sale’s teammates are eager to keep the focus on trying to dig themselves out of a substantial, two-games-under-.500 hole.

“Everything’s in the past,” Navarro said. “He did a great job. Quality start, nothing else you can ask.”