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White Sox fire front office leaders Kenny Williams, Rick Hahn amid disastrous season

JACK BAER of Yahoo sports

August 22, 2023 at 5:27 PM

The Chicago White Sox are cleaning house amid a disaster of a season and a botched rebuild in general.

The team announced Tuesday that executive vice president Ken Williams and general manager Rick Hahn have both been relieved of their duties, with the goal of finding a single decision-maker to lead the front office by the end of this season.

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— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) August 22, 2023

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that first-year manager Pedro Grifol is safe for now and expected to return for 2024.

The move ends two of the longest tenures among MLB front office executives, as Williams joined the White Sox in 1992 as a scout, ascended to general manager in 2000 and became executive vice president in 2012. Hahn, a Chicago-area native, joined the White Sox in 2002 and was promoted to GM in 2012. Both have a World Series ring from Chicago’s championship in 2005.

That longevity didn’t lead to positive results for the team this season, though.

Chicago White Sox Senior Vice President-General Manager Rick Hahn, right, sits with Executive Vice President Kenny Williams, watch the team's batting practice before a baseball game between the White Sox and Kansas City Royals Friday, May 19, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
The White Sox were going nowhere under Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

White Sox botched their rebuild under Williams and Hahn

The White Sox embraced a full rebuild after going 78-84 in 2016, trading away the likes of Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and, later, José Quintana. For a while, that seemed to work, with the team sitting at or near the top of MLB farm system rankings.

The process peaked in 2021, when the team went 93-69 to win the AL Central, but took a nose dive from there. The team fell flat in 2022, with an 81-81 record, and now it’s sitting near the bottom of the AL Central, at 49-76, when players such as Yoán Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Eloy Jiménez (prizes of the Sale, Eaton and Quintana trades, respectively) should be in their primes.

There have been embarrassing missteps (or worse) along the way, such as Tim Anderson starting and losing a fistfightmultiple walk-off losses on bunts, domestic violence allegations against Mike Clevinger and, well, Tony La Russa. It might have been even worse behind closed doors, as former reliever Keynan Middleton described the team as having “no rules,” with players sleeping in the bullpen between games.

Giolito was traded at the deadline this season, as were Middleton, Lance Lynn, Reynaldo López and Joe Kelly. With a farm system ranked only No. 20 in MLB by MLB Pipeline and several key players approaching free agency, the future is bleak, and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf apparently didn’t want to give Williams and Hahn another chance to rebuild.

From the White Sox statement:

“Ultimately, the well-worn cliche that professional sports is results-oriented is correct,” Reinsdorf said. “While we have enjoyed successes as an organization and were optimistic heading into the competitive window of this rebuild, this year has proven to be very disappointing for us all on many levels. This has led me to the conclusion that the best decision for the organization moving forward is to make a change in our baseball department leadership.”

The idea of a down-to-the-studs rebuild is tempting when a team is embroiled in mediocrity, especially after the success of the 2016 Chicago Cubs and 2017 Houston Astros, but cases such as the White Sox show that it’s never as easy as simply acquiring prospects. The White Sox have been clearly rotting from the inside for years, and now Reinsdorf must find another person to lead his team’s construction.