GM Rick Hahn takes blame for White Sox's poor start

CHICAGO -- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn wore the blame for his team's 7-18 start to the season as it returned home from a 0-6 road trip to begin a four-game series against the first-place Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.

Chicago has lost seven in a row overall.

"Put it on me," Hahn said. "It's the job. It's the absolute gig. ... It sure as heck isn't on Pedro [Grifol] and this coaching staff."

Grifol is in his first year as White Sox manager after replacing Tony La Russa, who left the team due to health reasons at the end of last year. The team had renewed hope for 2023 after underachieving last season, finishing 81-81.

Hahn was asked what his message is to upset fans after such a terrible start to the season. The team ranks 25th in scoring and 29th in ERA.

"They're not alone," Hahn answered. "We're upset. We're feeling every emotion in the book from rage to disappointment. We've done the exact opposite of what we set out to do, in terms of regaining our fans' confidence and trust."

Nothing has gone right for the 2021 American League Central winner. Most disappointing might be the White Sox's offense, which continues to struggle without Tim Anderson (knee) in the lineup. He'll begin a rehab stint with Triple-A Charlotte on Friday, but his return won't fix everything. The White Sox are perennially a team that chases outside the strike zone as much as anyone in baseball. This year is no different.

"It's a label that has stuck," Grifol said. "The only way to improve on it is to do the work and go out there and execute."

As the losses mount, attention will continue to focus on the front office. Unlike Grifol, Hahn and executive vice president Kenny Williams have been with the organization for two decades. Their stated rebuild toward the end of last decade has stalled with just two playoff wins to show for it since 2020; neither came after last season.

"I'm not a king," Hahn said. "I don't sit in this chair by divine birthright. It's an absolute privilege to be the GM of the White Sox, one I need to continue to earn.

"At the end of the day, the people who put the players on the roster, put them on the field, bear the responsibility if that group doesn't achieve. That's me."

Besides the return of Anderson, the team is hopeful that oft-injured third baseman Yoan Moncada is on the mend from a back ailment while closer Liam Hendriks is also on his way back after being declared cancer-free recently. He'll be in Chicago next week for a checkup before heading out on his own rehab assignment. Same goes for lefty reliever Garrett Crochet (Tommy John surgery). The White Sox will have reinforcements soon, but the question is whether it will be enough to turn around their season.

"Despite the start, there is a strong focus on getting this thing right," Hahn said. "And a belief in this group that they can get this thing right. ... We have to start digging out of this hole we've created for ourselves as soon as possible."

The hole might be deeper than just one month. The team hasn't been very good since the second half of 2021 -- despite winning the division that year.

"We're [the front office] probably not quite as smart as we were viewed then and not quite as stupid as we're viewed now," Hahn said. "It doesn't do us any good as a club [right now] ... to try and dig back to when this did start."

Players are trying to stay focused on the here and now as well, but maintaining confidence and positivity isn't easy after they've fallen to the bottom of the standings as the end of the first month approaches. The White Sox have the third-worst record in the AL.

"I would never think this early about having a losing season," infielder Elvis Andrus said. "It's just about trying to fix yourself first and helping the rest to get back on track. ... Stay focused. One of the hardest things is to be positive especially when you go through the negative side of the game. You have to dig deep to stay positive."