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White Sox's Williams, Hahn promoted

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White Sox's Williams, Hahn promoted

CHICAGO (AP) Rick Hahn wanted to make sure the Chicago White Sox were giving him more than just a fancier job title by promoting him to general manager.

Well, the team insists he's running the show even if Ken Williams will still play a role in the production.

The White Sox made it official and announced Friday they were promoting Williams from general manager to executive vice president and moving Hahn up from assistant GM to senior vice president and general manager. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf also tabbed Howard Pizer as senior executive vice president.

``That was an important part to me,'' said Hahn, who's been with the team since 2000. ``There were a lot of factors involved, but one of them was making sure that it wasn't going to be an escalation of titles and sort of business as usual.''

In a statement, Reinsdorf praised Hahn as ``one of the most respected young executives in baseball'' and said that Williams raised the idea of promoting him a few years ago.

But Reinsdorf also said Williams will ``maintain oversight and final approval on major baseball decisions.''

So what's really different?

``I'm not having those initial conversations or even probably mid-level conversations on (transactions),'' Williams said. ``It's not any different than what I had to do with regards to when I had an idea before we made that particular deal, or started down a path to acquire a player via free agency. I had to go have that conversation with Jerry. And ultimately, he would weigh in. ... You generally go to a consensus.''

The moves come on the heels of a season in which the White Sox defied expectations and spent 117 days in first place in the AL Central, only to finish second at 85-77 while the Detroit Tigers advanced to the World Series.

Williams is handing the day-to-day operations over to Hahn, a Chicago area native, after a 12-year run in which the White Sox were consistent contenders and won the World Series in 2005, ending an 87-year drought. He'll still have a say in big decisions but insisted it's not his show anymore.

``He has been doing the job for a number of weeks,'' Williams said. ``He will have the day to day dialogue with the other general managers. Obviously, I have relationships with some so we may split a little bit of that up as an initial conversation. But in practice, let me just tell you how it's worked here this offseason. I have gotten phone calls from other general managers, had the initial conversation but then immediately turned it over to Rick. That's his job.''

He said Hahn is a ``quality general manager who has new ideas'' and added: ``You won't see me get in his way.''

Williams also said the GM ``has to have a certain amount of autonomy.''

Hahn has been credited with negotiating contracts with Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez and Gavin Floyd along with signing first-round picks Gordon Beckham and Chris Sale. He will now oversee all player personnel matters, coaching staff decisions and both player development and scouting operations.

His name was frequently mentioned over the years when GM jobs came open, and he even acknowledged having lunch with a few owners. But he also said he never ``got real serious'' about leaving.

Now, he has a bigger role, but he still plans to lean on Williams and Reinsdorf.

``I fully intend to bring Kenny and Jerry in on any big moves,'' Hahn said. ``I think it would be foolish of me not to call upon their expertise and knowledge and insight on stuff like that.''

And if he and Williams disagree on a move? Does Williams have the power to block it?

``I have the power of persuasion,'' Williams said, grinning. ``I have the power to try to articulate the what and why. Listen, over the years we've had disagreements. He's had a gut, I've had a gut on something, and we respect each other's gut. The way I look at it, it's Rick's decision until it's not. When it's not, then we've got to hammer it out.''

Hahn basically echoed that, saying, ``If at the end of the day I want to make a move they disagree with, we're going to have to get in a room just like we have the last 12 years and hash it out and come to a decision for our organization. It's not as if I want to be out unilaterally, willy-nilly making decisions.''

For his part, manager Robin Ventura said he expects to be dealing directly with Hahn. And he praised the new GM, saying, ``There's a lot of trust I have and the coaching staff has with Rick. I think we're looking forward to this.''

The White Sox have some decisions to make this winter.

The White Sox appear inclined to pass on the team's $22 million option on Jake Peavy and buy him out for $4 million, then try to bring him back at a lower rate. But he figures to draw interest on the open market after a strong rebound season. The former NL Cy Young winner put aside three injury-riddled years to make 32 starts, posting a 3.37 ERA and going 11-12.

``Look, there aren't a lot of free agent pitchers out there,'' Hahn said. ``There is a fair amount of money perhaps to be spent by other clubs so that one's (Peavy) going to be a challenge.''

Kevin Youkilis also could be on the move, with the White Sox not expected to pick up the third baseman's option after acquiring him from Boston in late June. A.J. Pierzynski has an expiring contract, and if his eight-year run in Chicago is over, he ended it in style. He set a career high with 27 homers and matched one with 77 RBIs while hitting .278.

``Until he gets out there and sees what his market is and we explore alternatives and other ways to spend our money it's impossible to handicap,'' Hahn said.

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Now that the Lakers got Anthony Davis, could the Knicks and others turn to Bradley Beal?

Now that the Lakers got Anthony Davis, could the Knicks and others turn to Bradley Beal?

With all but one of the brick-and-mortar movie stores closed down, there are really only two instances that you hear the word 'blockbuster' these days: when describing Marvel movies and for the type of trade we saw this weekend between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers.

The Anthony Davis deal is a blockbuster trade in every sense. It is big in the number of pieces involved and because Davis is one of the best players on the planet.

It is important because it could immediately vault the Lakers into title contention. And it provides a new superteam for the league to revolve around and for people to loathe with the Golden State Warriors currently licking their wounds.

But it is also the type of deal that will have major consequences around the league, one that will affect far more than just the teams at the top. It will force a collection of other teams to redraw their blueprints.

The obvious ones are the Knicks and Celtics, the two teams most closely linked to Davis in trade rumors. Now, it is New York that has more urgency, if not desperation, to strike in free agency. Boston to regroup and will probably need to ponder other trades if they want to reassert themselves in the Eastern Conference.

The Davis trade would be a major deal no matter the year, but it is fascinating to evaluate in the context of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's injuries. The league went from being very predictable to a wide open pasture of possibilities.

Now, the Warriors are good still but are also a beatable team. A window of NBA parity is cracking open and surely the Lakers won't be the only team to pounce.

Houston, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City are always aggressive and will clearly be thinking big. Portland and Denver could see this as the year to go all-in.

Not all teams looking to make a splash will have money to spend in free agency. That points to an aggressive trade market this summer, but there is arguably one big problem. After Davis, it doesn't seem likely many other stars will be available.

Teams seeking stars via trade have enjoyed plenty of options in recent years between Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. The formula is generally fairly simple: an All-Star player on an underachieving team with the end of his contract in sight. Recently, the supply has met the demand.

But currently, few fit that description. There are some like Mike Conley Jr. of the Grizzlies, and Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside of the Heat. But none of those players are All-Stars in their prime.

All of that makes it easy to connect the dots to the Wizards and Bradley Beal. They are in an interesting spot, needing to decide whether to retool for playoff contention or take the long view and undergo some degree of a rebuild.

Beal, as their best player, is the catalyst. There are logical reasons to keep him or to trade him. He is one of the best players in franchise history, is only 25 and he's on a team-friendly contract in the era of the supermax. But the Wizards are going to have a tough time improving their roster with John Wall's Achilles injury and contract, which starts at 35 percent of the salary cap. 

The Wizards have held a stance of not wanting to trade Beal and still do. They also likely wouldn't make such an important decision without a long-term team president in place.

But that won't stop teams from calling and there is already speculation around the league about whether Beal will be dealt. One front office executive told NBC Sports Washington that Beal could be the top prize in the trade market if made available now that Davis is gone. 

For a lot of these situations, trades are more likely when a player is entering his walk year. Beal is signed through the 2020-21 season and, even if he grows unhappy, will say the right things.

He won't create necessary drama. And, if you take him at his word in a February interview with NBC Sports Washington, he wouldn't request a trade himself.

Also, there is a reason to believe keeping Beal wouldn't hurt their ability to rebuild through the draft. With the new lottery system, bottoming out doesn't offer the guarantees that it used to. And even with Beal playing all 82 games last season, the Wizards still lost 50 of them and finished with the sixth-best odds.

Just like some have argued the Wizards have reasons to trade Beal, they also have reasons not to. But that won't stop other teams from picking up the phone.

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Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

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USATSI

Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

WASHINGTON -- Most baseball managers try to operate in monochromatic fashion. They see one goal each day, and it only rests in those 24 hours. Some -- like Davey Martinez -- claim they don’t look at the standings in June. His standard message is to “win today” then move to tomorrow.

Human nature often runs interference on compartmentalization. It even crept up on Martinez on Sunday morning when in the midst of an answer about Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner playing daily. 

“For me, this is a big week,” Martinez said. “We have a chance to make up some ground here. I want these guys readily available to play.”

He’s right. The claim of significance is valid for once in mid-June, not a concept drummed up by overzealous television promos or interminable Internet space. 

The Nationals have seven games in seven days against two teams near the top of the division. Damaged Philadelphia arrives Monday. The Phillies’ bullpen is hurting and ineffective. Bryce Harper could miss the All-Star Game for just the second time in his career. Philadelphia is 6-8 in June. Meanwhile, Atlanta is rolling along. Its lineup remains deep, the pitching functional and Dallas Keuchel set to make his debut here in D.C. next weekend. The Braves hold a 2 ½-game lead in the not-so-great National League East. 

“Not thinking too big picture,” Adam Eaton said. “But knowing we have an in-division rivalry, we’ve got to win those games. It’s important. We’re trying to chase at this point. Not to put too much emphasis on it, but we need to play some really competitive baseball. And we shouldn’t beat ourselves these next four games. Play good baseball and not beat ourselves. If we play the brand of baseball we know how to play, and play clean, we have a good chance.”

Washington is five games under .500. Days are clicking off the calendar. Departing along with them are opportunities to chop at an 8 1/2-game deficit in the division. Following this week, only seven games against Philadelphia remain. However, 13 with Atlanta remain on the schedule, including seven in 10 days in September. The question is if those will matter. Sink this week and they won’t. Pull off a deficit-halving six of seven and everything changes. 

This week’s ramifications will first be felt on the phone lines in a month. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives July 31. Drag back to a double-digit deficit this week and plunk down the “for sale” sign. Rocket through the week and perhaps reinforcements will be found.

Monday brings a dreaded series opener. The Nationals are 6-17 in the first games of series this season. No one knows why. It doesn’t make sense. But, here they are, incapable of winning a first game and constantly playing from behind.

Patrick Corbin will be on the mound attempting to counter the trend. He, like the team when a new opponent shows up, has been in arrears the last three games. Corbin’s ERA dipped to 2.85 following a 116-pitch shutout of Miami on May 25. He’s been bludgeoned since. His ERA is up to 4.11, he will start twice this week, and the Nationals need him to right his ills.

Friday, Corbin threw a bullpen session focused on his line to the plate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart describes what they are trying to accomplish to get Corbin back to the version he was earlier this season:

“His lines and his east-west motion have made it very difficult for him to get the ball to where he wants it to be,” Menhart said. “He needs to be more direct to the plate and have more of a north-south rotation with his upper body and being more stable lower-half wise will allow him to do that and have his deception and hide the ball better and keep that tunnel.”

Corbin agreed. He doesn’t watch much video to cure ruts. He also doesn’t want too much information. The team’s analytics trackers have informed him his arm slot remains in a good place. He thinks his body is still in a running at a high level, dismissing any correlation between his struggles and the workload against Miami. He’s also going through the most common element of reduced success: trying not to chew on it too much.

“I think when I’m away from the field, you think about it more,” Corbin told NBC Sports Washington. “You’re frustrated about it a little bit -- what the heck is going on? But when you get here, you just try to work, try to do things to get better. That’s how I approach it. I’m just looking forward to my next start on Monday going out there and trying to get back to how I know I can pitch.”

Philadelphia arrives after being thumped in Atlanta on Sunday, 15-1. Washington had the opposite day in a 15-5 win. Monday night starts a reckoning of sorts for both. The Nationals will send out their three high-end starters during the four games. Philadelphia is trying to right itself and not let the Braves get out of touch at the top of the division. So, even for the one-day-at-a-time crew, the coming seven carry significant weight, and they’re finally admitting it.

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