Rick Hahn, the team's highly regarded assistant general manager who has been with the organization for the past 12 years, was named the club's senior vice president/general manager during a press conference at the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center on Friday. Howard Pizer, the team's current executive vice president, was named senior executive vice president.
White Sox general managers
|Charles Comiskey II/John Rigney||1956-58|
Hahn replaces Ken Williams, who was promoted to executive vice president, which also was announced Friday. The change in job structure actually has been in effect for the past few weeks, with Hahn now calling the shots for the team's day-to-day operations. This move was an idea brought up by Williams that was rumored as far back as last year's Winter Meetings, but traveled into a more concrete, serious stage during the end of Spring Training.
Although Williams certainly isn't going anywhere, Hahn carries autonomy as general manager to carry on Williams' vision in more than name only.
"That was an important part to me," said Hahn of that autonomy. "There were a lot of factors involved. One of them was making sure it wasn't going to be an escalation in titles and sort of business as usual.
"Kenny made that clear from the start. We had to talk things through and go through different scenarios of who was going to be doing what. It took some time. We knew it wasn't going to happen last offseason. We had some time to talk through things and get it in place for this offseason."
Williams served as White Sox GM for 12 seasons and has been a member of the team's front office since 1992. He owns the best winning percentage of any GM in franchise history and was the fourth-longest-tenured GM in Major League Baseball in 2012.
Under Williams' guidance, the White Sox finished .500 or better nine times in 12 years while producing a 1,014-931 record (.521 winning percentage) along with a 2005 World Series title and a 2008 American League Central title. The team picked up five second-place finishes.
This job admittedly took its toll on Williams over the years, emotionally as much as physically, with Williams joking that some recent seasons felt like three instead of one. It was still a job that Williams cherished, through the highs and the lows, and something that Williams thought about as he drove to the ballpark Friday.
"On a personal basis, it's a little bit more melancholy than I thought it would be," Williams said. "I had grown to love the GM position and all of it, not all of it, but many aspects of it."
Hahn's responsibilities will expand to include oversight of all player personnel matters, coaching staff decisions and the club's player development and scouting operations. The promotions come on the heels of one of the most productive campaigns for Williams and the White Sox front office, which prominently included Hahn, in recent memory.
Crucial in-season additions such as third baseman Kevin Youkilis, right-handed reliever Brett Myers and left-handed starter Francisco Liriano were made via trades for players who didn't figure prominently into the team's immediate future, while also adding outfielder Dewayne Wise as a Minor League free agent. All four players contributed to the White Sox sitting atop the division for an AL Central-best 117 days.
But more hints of front office change came during Williams' mid-September interview with MLB.com. When asked if a second World Series title would cause him to step away from the general manager's job, Williams smiled and quickly replied, "On to another subject." Apparently the championship wasn't necessary for the change to be made, as news of the promotions broke about one week later.
Regardless of the titles, the White Sox have always been run as a cooperative effort from White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf right on down. So, it might have been Williams who began trade talks or put in the bulk of the leg work in certain scenarios, but there were times where it was Hahn who was called upon to finish a deal. That concept won't change.
"I'm fortunate enough that I'm walking right into a situation where not only do I have arguably the most successful general manager in franchise history there to work on player evaluations to be a resource to me, to be an advisor for me," Hahn said. "But I also have Buddy Bell, Nick Capra heading up the player development side, Doug Laumann on the amateur side and Marco Paddy continuing the advancements we made on the international side.
"So, I'm inheriting a group that is going to provide the support that I need. That's despite that fact that my initial strengths are sort of on a different end of the spectrum than what Ken's were as a former player and player development guy."
Pizer has served as the club's executive vice president for 32 years and has primary responsibility for the business and administrative operations of the White Sox. The 40-year business associate of Reinsdorf joined the Sox in 1981 to handle the club's ownership transition.
White Sox organizational meetings begin in Phoenix on Nov. 3. The Major League Baseball General Managers Meetings take place Nov. 6-9 in Palm Springs, Calif., and Baseball's Winter Meetings will be held Dec. 3-6 in Nashville, Tenn. Hahn and Williams have been at all of these get-togethers numerous times before, but their roles will be a little different this time around.
"I just think it has been a good idea for quite some time," Williams said.
"This is a cherished opportunity," said Hahn, whose wife, two sons and parents were in attendance for the press conference. "The opportunity to win in Chicago and win in my hometown, it's beyond my wildest dreams when I first started down this path. But I'm not here without Kenny and Jerry's kindness and mentorship."