There aren’t many wins to go around these days on the South Side.
But there’s plenty of blame.
“Put it on me,” Rick Hahn said, speaking Thursday in the wake of his White Sox stumbling to 18 losses in their first 25 games. With four contests this weekend against the best-in-baseball Rays, who kicked off a winless road trip for the White Sox a week ago, more losing figures to be in the offing.
“That’s the job. It’s the absolute gig. Put it on me,” Hahn continued. “Ultimately, it’s the players who play the game, and when they don’t achieve at the level we’ve projected, they certainly bear a level of responsibility for that. But at the end of the day, the people who put the players on the roster, put them on the field, are the ones who bear the responsibility if that group doesn’t achieve. That’s me.
“When you said, ‘Who’s responsible for this?’ and I said, ‘Me,’ I think that makes it clear that my job is potentially on the line.”
Considering the team’s high-water mark was the 1-0 record it boasted after Dylan Cease’s gem on Opening Night in Houston, it’s hard to truly call this a free fall. Instead, it seems the White Sox arrived at the starting line of the 2023 campaign with the gas gauge already on empty.
Plenty of fans have already closed the book on the season before reaching the end of the opening chapter, the White Sox completely and utterly failing to shake off the massive disappointment of 2022 while repeating all the same mistakes that led to that .500 finish — only this time, it’s adding up to much, much worse. At 11 games under, the White Sox have more than doubled their low point from last year.
It seems Tony La Russa wasn’t the only thing holding these guys back, after all.
“We’re feeling every emotion in the book, ranging from rage to disappointment, and we’ve done perhaps the exact opposite of what we set out to do in terms of regaining our fans’ confidence and trust in what we’re about here,” Hahn said. “At the end of the day, we have to win. That’s the way we’re going to earn this back. We can sit here and talk about how it’s early. We can sit here and talk about all these other teams that had rough starts but still turned it around and even won World Series after those rough starts. But in the end, it’s not going to matter unless we start winning ballgames.
“When you say, ‘We need to earn this back on the field,’ we know we’re doing quite the opposite of that, and we still have not just that important hole in the standings to dig out from but that hole in terms of regaining our fans’ trust.”
Hahn spent more than 20 minutes talking about his team’s doldrums Thursday afternoon, and despite his ownership of the misfortune, he offered little more than faith that the coaching staff he assembled and the roster he constructed will turn things around. He expressed it’s too early in the calendar to make “proclamations about where we’re at as an organization.” He insisted the goals set before the season began — those of the championship variety, I’ll remind you — are still within reach.
That might be technically true, considering not even this woeful performance through 25 games can prevent math from eliminating the White Sox from anything. But these White Sox — still swinging at balls outside the strike zone, still making defensive mistakes in the outfield, still dealing with core players on the injured list — haven’t done a thing to convince that 35th and Shields will be open past October 1.
As much as Hahn said about the state of the White Sox on Thursday, though, plenty of fans have made up their minds, seemingly uninterested in anything the GM has to say past two words: “I quit.”
Though he claimed not to have read Kenny Williams’ comments to the Sun-Times regarding accountability, Hahn acknowledged the reality of working in an industry where results typically determine the fate of front-office types. That his tenure as general manager has seen just two postseason trips in more than a decade says a lot. That his carefully rebuilt roster is barely holding off the miserable A’s for “worst in baseball” status in a host of statistical categories might say more.
So what’s going to change? Or a better question: How is anything going to change?
Fed-up fans are asking for heads to roll, though who knows how likely that is for an organization that’s been slow to make that kind of sweeping change in the past? Hahn placed his confidence in Pedro Grifol and a coaching staff that has rightfully escaped blame to this point. Grifol & Co. just got here, after all.
Still, it’s been enough that reporters peppered the first-year South Side skipper with questions about his mood and mental state after returning from an 0-6 trip through Florida and Canada.
“I’m not happy, but my confidence is not shaken,” Grifol said. “Nobody in this clubhouse is happy about it. Nobody in this building is happy about it. But we have 130-something games left.
“The urgency is raised a little bit because we’re in a funk. But we’re not going to change how we do things. And what I mean, we’re not going to change the work we put in. We’ll get creative with our work, but we’ll continue to work.
“I really believe, to a man, everyone that is putting on this uniform really believes we’re turning this thing around.”
It’ll be a challenge for statements like that to be met with anything but eye rolls from the vast majority of onlookers. The White Sox, after all, spent the spring professing their desire to prove they aren’t just a talented group of players squandering an opportunity to win. So far, they’ve done, as Hahn put it, the complete opposite.
Blame belongs everywhere, then, up and down the lineup and throughout the pitching staff, in the dugout and in the front office.
As the White Sox await the imminent returns of Tim Anderson, Liam Hendriks and Garrett Crochet — all set to start rehab assignments in the next week or so — they can do little but show their faith. Faith, of course, is belief without evidence, and though Grifol pointed to the past production of this team’s players, there’s been nothing offered since Opening Day that’s served as evidence to anything but a team destined for the kinds of big changes fans are calling for — not that any such moves should be expected to save this season, either.
But that’s what these White Sox employees are tasked with: saving this season.
“In terms of living and dying with losses and wanting this thing to be right and devoting every moment you have to trying to get it right, we feel that,” Hahn said. “Where we’re at right now is not acceptable, and we’re going to do everything in our power to get it right as long as we have the ability to get it right.
“We felt we had the talent to contend for a championship. We felt we had the talent to contend for this division and make some noise in the postseason. That goal hasn’t changed. We made our job a heck of a lot harder based on the first 25 games. But the goal hasn’t changed.
“I believe in this group. You’re not going to see me sitting out here 25 games into the season saying I don’t believe in this group, based on the talent we have in there, the track record these guys have, the focus and commitment to these players.
“You’re not going to see me abandon ship 25 games in.”
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