There are some things you can only understand after you have experienced them first-hand. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn tends to agree with that statement when it comes to time management and the offseason.
As he heads into his second winter meetings — Hahn and the White Sox contingent are expected to arrive in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on Monday — the second-year GM has a much better feel for the job than he did a year ago at Nashville.
The man who took over for Kenny Williams last November has a better grasp of when he can unplug from the computer and phone and just spend time with his wife and two young children. He has the comfort of knowing that even if he steps away for a couple of critical hours, he has everything right at his finger tips and can pick up later the same night. CSNChicago.com recently caught up with Hahn via a series of emails about life as a GM in the instant age, getting home in time for dinner and where he keeps his phone when he goes to bed.
Question: Do the hours of the job change because it’s the offseason and how does it affect you?
Hahn: It gets quiet around my house about 10:30 at night. Here’s what I try to do. I try to get home for dinner. I tend to fail at that more often than not. But I try to get home for dinner and perhaps even more importantly, whenever I do walk through the door, I try to actually be present for my wife and kids and not be distracted by the phone and ideally, not be distracted by whatever is on my mind from work. I’m not great at that. I probably think I’m better than they do but I’m learning and hopefully getting better. But I do try to set it aside until the kids are in bed and then tend to pick things back up later in the evening. (Thursday night) I spent a fair amount of time on email and reading scouting reports and sending out a couple of different assignments or questions for scouts as well as guys in the office and that probably took me until about 12:30 a.m. Then I fell asleep probably closer to 2:00.
Q: As difficult as it can make it, does the 24-hour news cycle make it easier to find that family time?
A: It does and it’s funny. Next week with the winter meetings, it’s a bit, not archaic, but it’s a throwback to another era, the fact that all these representatives from every team are gathering in one place so therefore there’s going to be a ton of transactions. We’ve been able to do some things over the last few weeks without having to be face-to-face with other clubs or with the agents. It’s just the world we live in now. Communication is so much quicker. I can get the information I need whether it be at midnight or 10:00 a.m. I don’t need to be sitting at my desk. I can get a hold of most people I need to get a hold of throughout the evening and transactions take place at the time when all the stars align for that transaction as opposed to ‘Hey, this is the week we’re sitting face to face so now let’s do business.’ I do think on the one hand, for example, how Roland Hemond did this job without the access to information we have. And at the same time I’m envious at times of a world where you don’t have that 24-hour access and you can get away a little bit. Kenny early on said ‘You do need to find time to just think, to somehow just think through the scenarios and have a quiet separation from the emails and text messages and reports and calls and make sure the path you’re on truly makes sense.’ I do try to find that time. A lot of times its just in traffic (laughs).
Q: Is the phone always on vibrate — do you know when emails always come in?
A: It is on vibrate but I keep it on the first floor of my house at night when I go to bed so I will wake up to 20 some-odd messages. But if I’m actually fortunate enough to be sleeping that night it’s not going to distract me or wake me up.
Q: Kenny has said numerous times that the first time in the GM chair is different. Now that it’s your second offseason, has it now become easier for you to find that time to get away?
A: I have become better at delegating some of my old responsibilities, which I probably kept too close to me last offseason. Psychologically, I spend a lot of time looking for that perfect move, one that’s gonna
solve what ails us, that’s going to appeal to the scouts, that’s going to appeal to the objective value analysis of things, that’s going to resonate with the fans and I think I’ve gotten, understandably over the course of time, to the point that there is no perfect move. There’s always going to be issues. You’re not going to be able to address everything in one fell swoop. Obviously we have a fair amount of issues in front of us right now. We were able to start addressing some of those last trade deadline; We signed Abreu early in the offseason, but there’s still work to be done and ideally I’d like to be able to knock off two-to-three needs in one transaction. That’s not realistic. So this process may take beyond this offseason and we realize that because the goal is getting this thing right for the long term as opposed to the quick fix, it may take some time. A year ago I was probably less psychologically able to accept that. I wanted to just move quick and get things right and move on to the next thing.
Q: Do fan expectations in the instant age make the job more difficult?
A: That is one downside to the instant age. (Sports journalism), an element of it has turned to being first in 140 characters as opposed to getting the nuance of a transaction accurately or fill in the nuance. It’s just ‘So and so had it first’ and there’s an incentive for reporters to do that and get your name out there and your affiliate’s name out there. But it is tough when the first elements of a deal leak out and we’re not in a position to comment on it, and you may go 24 hours, you may go 10 days before you’re able to fully explain the rationale behind a move and in the meantime it’s being picked apart every which way with complete information.