CHICAGO – This is about the time that he would have wanted to have his postseason news conference, but it comes in a much different circumstance than desired.
Rick Hahn would have liked to have been talking to the media after a deeper run in the playoffs or perhaps a World Series championship. Instead, he met with reporters to discuss the team a few weeks after their elimination from the playoffs by the Astros in the American League Division Series.
So is this a successful season or not? When asked about it, Hahn paused for a second, then gave his first thought.
“I tend to be binary about these things. It’s pass-fail, we didn’t win the final game of the postseason. We didn’t meet our ultimate goal so if you’re looking for my personal assessment, we didn’t reach the ultimate final goal, so how can we possibly be satisfied?” said Hahn at first.
In expanding on his thoughts, the general manager did take into consideration the fact that the White Sox enjoyed their most successful season since 2008 over the past six months, winning their American League Central Division with 93 wins on the season. The team did so after dealing with major injuries at the start of the season and saw progress with some key young core players.
“That said, there’s a lot of reason for hope going forward, there’s a lot of reason for optimism going forward,” said Hahn. “We like where we are as an organization, we like the direction this team is going. This is what we worked for is to be in a position on an annual basis to have realistic World Series aspirations, and I think as we sit here on November 4th or 5th, whatever it is, we can realistically say that.”
“Now we obviously have work to do, not just because of free agency and not just because of some of the flaws that we saw on this roster over the course of the entire summer and early fall. but because there’s always ways to get better.”
As Tony La Russa and his staff, which will return in full for a second season in 2022, get to work doing that on the field, Hahn will do the same in free agency this winter as he looks to add to the roster to get them over the top.
While the team made back-to-back playoff appearances, 2021 was a little more like normal, and moving forward Hahn got a chance to learn about where his team stands when it comes to postseason baseball over the course of four ALDS games.
“I don’t think we anticipated the pitching quite hitting the wall that it seemingly hit at that time. Take nothing away from the Astros, they were a very strong club, they were playing fantastic baseball early and midway through the postseason, obviously why they won the pennant, and they were better than us, for those, for those four days, they beat us, so none of this takes anything away from them” said Hahn. “We expected the pitching to be stronger than what we saw. From the top part of our order, we got a fair amount of hits, not a lot of extra-base hits, we didn’t see a lot of power, which is something that had been a characteristic over the course of the regular season when that group was together, it just wasn’t over the course of those four days.
“Again, that’s frustrating, but that’s baseball.”
Hahn said he has a general sense of the budget he’ll have to spend this offseason but not a set number yet. He confirmed that Michael Kopech will transition to the starting rotation after spending the 2021 season in the bullpen. The general manager saluted Carlos Rodon for what he did this past season but couldn’t say much else as he heads to free agency after his one-year deal expired.
The White Sox starting rotation was strong for the majority of the season but had major struggles in the playoffs against the Astros, bringing up the idea that there could be changes outside of Kopech making the moves up.
On Friday, Hahn wouldn’t address if the team was going to pick up options on a few players, though reportedly the team has decided not to pick up second baseman Cesar Hernandez for 2022. That will be a need for next season along with right field, which was shared by a number of players during the regular season.
Would the White Sox look to make a big splash in free agency to fill that position in an outfield with established starters Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert in place?
“Possibly,” said Hahn when asked about right field being addressed in free agency. “We feel bullish on the futures of Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets. Certainly envision them playing significant roles on multiple White Sox clubs going forward. Spend some time over the course of the next few months figuring out what’s the best fit for them in 2022. Certainly, there could be DH possibilities for them, there could be right field possibilities for them. They’re both natural first baseman and we saw how quickly Andrew acclimated to left field
“So they provide us with good internal options and they provide us with some flexibility. Frankly, it’s too early so say exactly how they’re going to be deployed in 2022.”
Those questions will be answered over the next month with the hope that the White Sox will have their postgame news conference around the same time next year a little closer to when their season on the field ends.