Rick Hahn does not pretend that you need saints in order to win a pennant.
But the White Sox general manager also concedes that when a team is trying to fill holes in the creative fashion the Sox have needed to employ over the past decade, less attention has been paid to finding better teammates and lucid individuals.
Now in full rebuild, the Sox have a luxury they did not before — the time and opportunity to build a better unit with more stable personalities.
“I think character will play a larger role now, because we’ll be able to groom a lot of these guys, whether we acquire them through the draft or trade or internationally,” Hahn said. “We’re able to target a certain type of guy, and we’ll have them younger so we’ll be able to bring out of them the kind of character we’d like to see in terms of clubhouse presence and the way he plays the game.”
Hahn did not mention any incidents as examples, but it seems less likely that the Sox will have players so unhinged they might slice up the team’s jerseys and trash the organization from top to bottom.
They will also insist on athletes more interested in winning than camera lights.
“It’s going to be a priority,” Hahn said. “It’s not going to be perfect. We didn’t have 25 guys in 25 church windows on a Sunday morning in 2005, but we had guys who were all fighting to win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
In the meantime, the Sox have much work to do as they search for trade partners. More veterans will be dealt as injuries occur in other camps, and the Sox will be trading for more young players.
To this point, the reaction of Sox fans has been impressive, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the team’s brass.
“I don’t want to say surprised, but certainly appreciative of the level of excitement and acceptance,” Hahn said. “When we entered into this, we did talk about it internally and tried to do some projections from the business side about how this was going to be perceived.
“Ultimately, we felt like even if it wasn’t well received, it was the right course for the long-term health of the franchise.
“But the fact that White Sox fans not only understand it, but also accept it and are willing to be patient as we go through this, makes it that much easier. It wouldn’t have changed our course of action, but it certainly is somewhat gratifying that they get it.”
It is easy in the winter. It is easy when a team is universally praised for the haul they receive in return for veteran players. It is easy before the games begin.
Next comes the tough part. The Sox will be bad for a few years and only get worse as more veterans move on.
“The fact of the matter is we’re all going to be tested this summer,” Hahn admitted. “We’re going to have some growing pains and it’s going to get tough at times, and we’re all as competitive as anyone.
“We know the fans spending their time and money to come out to the ballpark, or watching it on TV, want to enjoy a winner. Our patience is going to be tested over the next few months, but thus far the support has been outstanding.”
Fans have eyes — and they have hearts. They know the program hasn’t produced much the past 11 years and a new route was needed. It’s no guarantee of a positive outcome, but the results since 2005 speak for themselves.
“When you know the fans understand what you’re doing, it certainly makes it easier to withstand some of the tough days we’ve had — and we’re going to have,” Hahn said. “None of us relish trading Chris Sale or Adam Eaton or any of our veteran guys we’ve come to rely on.
“When you do that and people are supportive, and get it and embrace it, it does make it a little bit easier.”
Easy so far, but the hard part is just beginning.
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