Bears

Sox Drawer: Why Harvard didn't help Hahn

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Sox Drawer: Why Harvard didn't help Hahn

How Rick Hahn became the general manager of the Chicago White Sox is one of the most unexpected stories youll ever hear about in baseball.

Why?

Because once upon a time, Jerry Reinsdorf didnt even want to hire him.

When I walked into his office, he was facing the other way, Hahn recalls about his very first meeting with the White Sox chairman in 1996. Using some direct and mildly colorful language, he told me that I was wasting his time, I was wasting my time. Ive got all this education, and why do I want to work as a general manager? He said, Just go do something real with your life. I was able to sort of calm him down after I got over the fact that Jerry Reinsdorf is kind of cursing me out here, which is kind of weird.

Hahn, who had graduated from the University of Michigan, and then later Harvard Law School, was getting his M.B.A. from Northwestern at the time. With all of that education, it didnt take much for Hahn to get the hint. Reinsdorf didnt want him, baseball seemingly had no place for him -- a harsh dose of reality that was only strengthened by a message that Hahn received a few weeks later.

My real name is Frederick, Hahn explains. At the time, my resume at the top said Frederick. In the mail I get a handwritten letter from Jerry that says, Dear Fred.

Not a good start.

Hahn continued, reciting Reinsdorfs letter from memory:

I've thought long and hard about our meeting and I won't help you ruin your life. Please lie down before you come to your senses. After I got over the stunned element of that, I saw at the bottom he said, However, if you want to learn about scouting, my offer to let you sit with some of our scouts still stands while you hold down a real job.

Hahn recalls this letter so vividly, because its actually framed above his desk at home. It also won him 25 at Northwestern -- in a contest for the best rejection letter.

That was the first money I ever made in baseball, Hahn says laughing.

Getting the opportunity to work with scouts slightly opened the door for Hahn. However, he would need plenty of inner strength to realize his dream, because there were others who kept slamming the door shut...like Kenny Williams.

Im thinking back to the four or five times that he came to me trying to convince me to hire him, and I told him he was out of his mind, Williams said. What are you doing? You are a Harvard grad, you have a law degree. Why do you want to be in baseball? Get out of my office. Get out of my suite. I kicked him out about four times and he kept coming back. And here he is today.

Guts, moxie, persistence, drive. They dont teach that in school. You either have it or you dont. As the White Sox eventually found out, Hahn had all of it.

Plus brains.

Williams calls Hahn one of the smartest people I know, and besides Reinsdorf is simply the best negotiatior Ive ever been around.

It goes with a wicked sense of humor, which was revealed when I asked Hahn how he and Williams differ from each other.

Well, hes taller. Some would argue not quite as handsome, says Hahn, delivering the line as if he was a comedian at Second City.

Then he gets serious.

In terms of style, Williams may wear his emotions on his sleeve a little more than I do, but well see over time if I sort of develop into that.

Being a major league general manager is no picnic. Its probably the most stressful job in the sport. You control what players you put on the team, but once they take the field, its over. They control your fate. All you can do is watch helplessly from your seat.

For 12 years, this ate away at Williams.

It wears you down, Williams says. At the end of the season, admittedly I was spent.

As his assistant general manager for those same 12 years, Hahn had an up-close view of Williams misery and mood swings. Is he concerned the same thing might happen to him?

A little bit, Hahn admits. Ive had friends, guys Ive been close with, been assistant GMs move up the ladder to the GM seat, and quite frankly Ive seen some of them change a little bit. Im guessing due to the added stress and responsibility and time. Im hopefully going to be aware of that.

"Ive got at least a good support network around, my family and friends who will hopefully keep me focused and respond appropriately. Its a risk, but its part of the job, and if you cant take some risks, its hard to do great things.

Last off-season, Williams uttered a word that no baseball fan wants to hear: rebuild. Even though in reality the White Sox did nothing close to an actual teardown, the perception of that single word lingered with the franchise for months.

Hahn is no dummy. Asked if the White Sox will be in a similar situation this winter, he gave a much different answer.

No. Our intent is to win in 2013, Hahn replies. We might make some moves that solidify our chance to win in the future, that solidifies our farm system, but the goal remains to first be in position to win multiple championships, and secondly, hopefully that first one will be in 2013.

Hahn is thinking big, and why not? When he walked into Reinsdorfs office 16 years ago, he was dreaming big, too.

He could have cashed in as a lawyer or a businessman, but he would have been bankrupt on the inside. He could have taken an easier road like many of his other Harvard and Northwestern classmates, but saw a future at 35th and Shields and went after it.

Now hes the White Sox general manager, the 12th in franchise history. Who wouldve believed it?

Hahn did. All along.

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start by new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

The Bears concluded their second round of OTAs on Thursday with the third and final set of voluntary sessions scheduled for May 29-June 1. Coach Matt Nagy is bringing a new and complicated system to Chicago, so the time spent on the practice field with the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been invaluable.

"We’ve thrown a lot at Mitch in the last 2 ½ months,” Nagy told Dog Days Sports’ Danny Kanell and Steve Torre on Friday. “He’s digested it really well.”

Nagy’s implementing the same system he operated with the Chiefs, an offense that brought the best out of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The former first-overall pick went from potential draft bust to MVP candidate under Andy Reid and Nagy’s watch.

Nagy admitted he and his staff may have been a little too aggressive with the amount of information thrust upon Trubisky so far.  It took five years to master the offense in Kansas City, he said, but the first-year head coach sees a lot of similarities between his current and past quarterbacks.

"These guys are just wired differently,” Nagy said when comparing Trubisky to Smith. “With Mitch, the one thing that you notice each and every day is this kid is so hungry. He wants to be the best. And he’s going to do whatever he needs to do. He’s so focused.”

Smith had the best year of his career in 2017 and much of the credit belongs to Nagy, who served as Smith’s position coach in each season of his tenure in Kansas City. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions during the five regular season games that Nagy took over play-calling duties last year.

Nagy said Trubisky has a similar attention to detail that Smith brought to the Chiefs’ quarterback room.

"Each and every detail that we give him means something. It’s not just something he writes down in a book. He wants to know the why,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s a good person that is in this for the right reason. His teammates absolutely love him. It was the same thing with Alex [Smith] in Kansas City.”

A locker room that believes in its quarterback is a critically important variable for success, one that Nagy already sees exists in Chicago.

"When you have that as a coach and when you have that as being a quarterback, not everybody has that, and when you have that you’re in a good spot.”