White Sox

Hahn saw his future with White Sox not Cubs

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Hahn saw his future with White Sox not Cubs

There was a time where Rick Hahn seemed to be the medias favorite to be the next Cubs general manager. It got to the point where Tom Ricketts sort of shook his head, because the chairman had never actually met the guy before.

Ricketts told Jim Hendry that he would be fired during a secret meeting on July 22, 2011. Hendry kept the news buried for almost a month, not telling even some of his closest friends and family until just before the news conference inside the Wrigley Field interview roomdungeon.

With Ricketts looking for someone with a different analytical background, Hahn immediately emerged as a possible connect-the-dots candidate. Hahn had grown up in Winnetka and graduated from New Trier High School before getting degrees from the University of Michigan, Harvard Law School and Northwesterns Kellogg School of Management.

This was almost exactly one year after the Cubs won their press conference and put Theo Epsteins name in lights on the Wrigley Field marquee. Hahn looked around a U.S. Cellular Field conference room on Friday, looking for his parents and thanking them for never trying to talk sense into me as I was potentially flushing away a lot of education.

This is what Hahn had in mind, and the White Sox had been plotting this move for years. After 12 seasons in the front office and multiple interviews in other big-league cities Hahn finally realized his dream of becoming a general manager here.

It just wasnt going to happen on the North Side.

There was a lot of speculation last year about what was going on over there, Hahn said. I think they were pretty singularly focused from the start about what they wanted to do and they were able to accomplish that. It never arose anywhere close to the level that I think was speculated publicly.

Obviously, that would have been an opportunity to be a GM in my hometown, which has a lot of appeal. But it also would have been leaving the people here who Ive had long relationships with, so I didnt get too hung up on it, especially since I had sort of a sense of where this was heading pretty early on.

At the time, Epstein looked like a total reach. There was no "Theo Watch" yet.

Sure, maybe the Cubs would try to copy the Boston Red Sox model and go after Ben Cherington, Epsteins assistant general manager and eventual replacement. There was a national buzz that they were interested in Brian Cashman (who had long respected Hendry and would hire him as a special assistant with the New York Yankees).

There were suspicions that Josh Byrnes was angling for the job, though this chain of events would ultimately help make him the San Diego Padres general manager. Chicago guy Mike Rizzo whose homegrown core would win 98 games this season went on the defensive and denied interest in leaving the Washington Nationals.

Epstein left Boston for a presidents title and total control of baseball operations at Clark and Addison. From San Diego, Epstein brought in Jed Hoyer as general manager and Jason McLeod to oversee scouting and player development.

The job is 247, 365 days a year for Type A personalities. In moving up to executive vice president, Kenny Williams talked about how hed feel the pain in his neck and the churning in his stomach while watching games.

Williams played football at Stanford University and liked the Oakland Raiders, and he took that Silver and Black mentality into everything. He described how hed leave during the middle of the game and steer his car onto Lake Shore Drive to look at the water and try to find some calm.

After almost a decade of relentless scrutiny in Boston, Epstein sensed he was nearing his expiration date. He really felt energized during a recent trip to Arizona, watching prospects in instructional league and seeing The Cubs Way come to life.

John Paxson and Gar Forman are running the Bulls for Jerry Reinsdorf, but Hahn stressed that every situation is unique. Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti created a partnership within the Cleveland Indians, while Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels have turned the Texas Rangers into an annual contender.

Theo and his staff is just another example of a different sort of set-up, Hahn said. But what matters from my standpoint when I look at it is the efficacy within the office, how its going to work. Do we have the right people having the right input and the right resources? And thats what Im comfortable with here.

The media has fixated on the attendance problems on the South Side, where the White Sox were in first place deep into September and still drew less than two million fans. The Cubs lost 101 games and almost reached three million.

Hahn thinks the White Sox can reach that level, though he admits that they missed an opportunity after winning the 2005 World Series.

If we win, absolutely, Hahn said. I do feel that if we followed up 05 fairly quickly in 06 or 07 with another one or at least a deep, deep run that probably would have swayed some of the momentum in our direction. (But thats) not going to change the decision about whos on the field. So its not for me to worry about. I got enough to worry about.

So Hahn isnt going to turn into Ozzie Guillen and provide bulletin-board material for Cubs-Sox.

I really dont view it as competing with them, other than when we play, Hahn said. That may be different from a marketing standpoint, or it could be different from a fan-experience standpoint, or how others approach it. But for me, theyre another opponent and I want to beat them when we play.

Probably the ideal situation would be for both of us to have success and see what happens in this town if we actually squared off in October.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

For the first time in two months, Avisail Garcia is back in the White Sox lineup.

Garcia’s return from his lengthy stay on the disabled list was a refreshing sight for a team that came into the season believing he’d be one of its biggest bats. After all, Garcia was excellent in 2017, an All-Star campaign for him that saw him with some of the best hitting statistics in the American League.

But even with those good numbers, there were plenty of questions about where Garcia stood in the rebuilding White Sox long-term future. After a long wait for that breakout season, was it going to be the new normal or a one-hit wonder? He’s got just two more seasons of team control left, and there are a ton of outfield prospects developing behind him in the minor leagues.

His admittedly slow start this year didn’t help clarify anything: He returned to action with a .233/.250/.315 slash line, a far cry from the .330/.380/.506 line he finished with last season.

So now he’s back, and the “prove it” season resumes. He’s got time left to show the White Sox he can fend off challenges from the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo and all the rest. Getting back on the field is the first step in doing that.

“Be healthy and play hard like I’ve been playing all my career,” Garcia said Friday. “Just trying stay healthy, do my routine and do my best to help my team win.

“My knee is good. My hamstring is good. I have no pain in my body right now. I feel great, great and focused and trying to compete every single day.”

The injury — injuries, it turns out — certainly didn’t help. After the hamstring strain he suffered turned out to be a tad more significant than originally believed, he suffered a separate knee injury during his recovery that kept him on the shelf a while longer.

But Garcia showed that maybe his bat is ready to come back to life during his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte. He slashed an eye-popping .360/.429/.840 with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in just seven games.

No one’s expecting that kind of production now that he’s back at the major league level. But plenty of fans and observers are expecting a lot who is still young enough to warrant consideration for a spot on the White Sox next contending team. He’s got the advantage of already playing at the big league level to show off for all the decision makers.

But there’s no doubt that it’s a stacked group behind him. Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, was just promoted to Triple-A. A trio of high-performing outfielders — Basabe, Alex Call and Joel Booker — just got bumped up to Double-A. And perhaps the most exciting group of all — Robert, Rutherford, Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez — are all playing together at Class A Winston-Salem.

That’s an awful lot of young, inexpensive depth to contend with in the discussion for how the White Sox should align their outfield of the future. But Garcia can still stay in that discussion by doing one thing: hitting. His quest to turn his season around starts now.