CHICAGO –- There was no sugar-coating things Friday as Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn addressed the disappointing 2013 season in advance of Sunday’s final game.
The White Sox headed into play Friday still needing one more victory to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1970, and Hahn took the blame for the mess the season has become.
“At the end of the day, I feel personally responsible,” Hahn said. “There's no two ways about it. I'm not in uniform. I'm not hitting the ball or throwing the ball, but I'm the one heavily involved in deciding who's out there and in what role. And this is my responsibility to maximize the number of victories this club can have, albeit over an extended period of time and not just in one season. But the way I see it, it's been a very disappointing season in which we've underachieved.”
It’s hardly that simple, of course. Changes will be made from a roster that underachieved in a number of areas, making this season’s woes more of a player production. But in his first season, Hahn’s roster, which had little to no margin for error, actually failed in more ways than anybody could have imagined.
The White Sox failed to score runs, they struggled in the on-base-percentage department, they were one of the worst teams in baseball defensively and they had issues running the bases. The White Sox were 10-15 after the opening month, and things would only get worse.
Asked if there is a problem area the White Sox will look to address above all others, Hahn avoided getting specific.
“Obviously, the run scoring going from fourth in the league to the bottom, and the on-base percentage plummeting, and the extra-base hitting also going to the bottom, is a real issue and a big one and one that we intend to address here in the coming weeks and months,” Hahn said.
“The defense, we obviously slipped considerably defensively. I did see the other day we've committed the most errors since 2000. ... But the offensive performance, the defensive consistency, as well as our ability to run the bases smarter are all real issues of concern, and the caliber of play that we've gotten in each of those areas this year is unacceptable and it's a priority for all of us to improve upon.”
Hahn did say that he expects manager Robin Ventura to return next season, and Ventura said himself that he is up for the challenge of trying to improve the team in the final year of his three-year contract. Beyond that, there seem to be no guarantees, although building the roster around staff ace Chris Sale seems obvious.
“"We have to get better, and we have to get better quickly,” Hahn said. “I feel like we're in a very good position from a pitching standpoint. Given the starting pitching that we already have under control, whatever turnaround or restoration or whatever you want to call it that needs to take place here, we hope to minimize the amount of time that takes.”
If there is one benefit to the disappointing season, it is that the front office has already gotten started on revamping the roster. Avisail Garcia was added in late June to help on the offensive side. Possible upgrades at catcher and/or third base could be coming as well.
When balancing fixed costs with revenue, Hahn said it is “conceivable” the White Sox could target an impact free agent with all of the salary savings the team afforded itself with trades in July and August. If Paul Konerko doesn’t return, or is re-signed for significantly less, there is even more money to work with.
“Is it possible that there will be enough ... to be a player in free agency? Absolutely,” Hahn said. “But we're going to shy away from any short-term fix. It's going to be getting this thing right so that on an annual basis, we're in a position to contend for the postseason. If a free agent this year fits -- a big name, high-priced free agent -- it's going to be with a vision for the next several years thereafter as well.”
This year, though, it was a lost baseball summer in Chicago, with extreme struggles on both sides of town.
“It's really unfortunate,” Hahn said. “I can't speak to anything going on on the other side of town. I simply focus on our own performance. Look, part of the reason I wanted this job was because summertime in Chicago and baseball in summertime in Chicago is important.
“Perhaps I have too lofty of a view of its importance in this town, but I look back at this past summer and see it a bit as a wasted summer, because there was an opportunity, in our opinion, to perform better than we have and we failed to meet that.”