The world of Chicago sports is in uncharted waters of sorts.
All five major professional franchises seemingly have management in place that gets it.
It may sound simple. But when you start reminiscing about the Jim Hendrys, Kenny Williamses and Jerry Angelos of the world, it should make Chicago sports fans appreciate how truly lucky they are to have competent brain trusts orchestrating the development of hopeful championship.
Think about it for a minute. You have the poster child of the post-Moneyball era running the Chicago Cubs in Theo Epstein, who has been nothing but steady and diligent in his total overhaul of the woeful situation he walked in to. Gar Forman and John Paxson have the Bulls as championship contenders in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Stan Bowman just won his second Stanley Cup in four years, and Phil Emery seems to understand that offense in the NFL, oh I don’t know, actually matters.
You’ll notice that I saved Rick Hahn for last. And while he may not have as much pedigree as the four who were listed above him, what he has done on the South Side in the last few months may vault him into that list.
No, the Chicago White Sox probably aren’t going to be good any time soon. But their recent moves indicate that they understand where the game of baseball is heading, something Kenny Williams clearly didn’t. While Williams always seemed stuck trying to win the 1998 World Series and the year was 2004, (Roberto Alomar, anyone?) Hahn seems to grasp the concept of development.
He’s not an over the top “scouting trumps all” executive. But he’s not a J.P. Ricardi that thinks baseball games are won on a computer, either. He incorporates statistical analysis and looks for market inequalities and tries to combine that with the human elements of the game in order to achieve as much success as possible.
However, the White Sox are the second worst team in the American League and are on pace to lose more games than they have in three years. So why the sudden praise for Hahn?
Look no further than the way he handled trading overpriced veterans.
The White Sox sent Jake Peavy to Boston in a three-way deal that netted them 22-year old outfielder Avisail Garcia, a toolsy outfielder that many were not sold on.
All he’s done in his brief Chicago stint is post a .349/.385/.477 line. Granted it’s only been 86 at-bats, but his hitting wasn’t even advertised as the best part of his game. He’s an electrifying talent defensively and has top flight speed to boot.
And if there’s one thing the White Sox do not lack, it’s pitching depth. Peavy was very expendable to them, and fleecing a 22-year-old possible cornerstone from a division rival while shedding significant payroll was a major woo for Hahn.
The next order of business was Alex Rios. All the hype was that he was the top right-handed bat on the market, which either speaks to how terrible the market for right-handed hitters in the post-steroid era really is or the fact that Hahn and his crew did an excellent job from a PR standpoint to hype the five-tool potential he seems to flash once every three years.
Simply put, he really isn’t that good. He posted a .749 OPS in Chicago this season, and that isn’t exactly a statistical outlier. If anything, 2012 was the fluke. And he’s getting on base less than 30 percent of the time for the Rangers.
Sure, all the White Sox netted in prospects was Leury Garcia. Many have called him a possible future starter but more likely peg him as a super utility man. But that really isn’t the point here.
Rios is owed $13 million next season, and the White Sox sent just $1 million to the Rangers. Just ask yourself: if you were a general manager, would you sign Alex Rios for 12 million dollars for a season? Especially for a team that’s best young player happens to play the same position?
Not a chance. What’s even more impressive if you’re Hahn is comparing his Rios deal to the Cubs trading of Alfonso Soriano.
The Cubs picked up $17.7 million of the remaining $24 million owed to Soriano to send him to New York, and they did not get a prospect as good as Leury Garcia. Soriano, meanwhile, has driven in 36 runs in just 34 games with the Yankees. Rios has trouble hitting the ball out of the infield these days, and the White Sox paid next to nothing to send him away.
Quite simply, the Rick Hahn seems to know what he’s doing. And if the way these past few months have been handled is any indicator, the White Sox may not be in as much trouble as some of us thought.