A major renovation has begun for the Chicago White Sox.
In the midst of a dismal season, the Sox announced Tuesday they relieved executive vice president Ken Williams and general manager Rick Hahn of their responsibilities effective immediately.
While speculation had increased about their job status as the year progressed, the timing of the moves — with more than a month remaining in the regular season — came as a stunner.
“This is an incredibly difficult decision for me to make because they are both talented individuals with long-term relationships at the White Sox,” Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. “Ken is like a son to me, and I will always consider him a member of my family.
“I want to personally thank Ken and Rick for all they have done for the Chicago White Sox, winning the 2005 World Series and reaching the postseason multiple times during their tenures. I have nothing but the greatest respect for them as people and appreciate the commitment and passion for the White Sox they exhibited over the years.”
In the release announcing the news, the Sox said they will “begin a search for a single decision maker to lead the baseball operations department” and anticipate having someone in place “by the end of the season.”
The shake-up comes as the Sox have one of the worst records in the American League.
They looked to bounce back after going 81-81 last season. Instead they are in fourth place in the AL Central with a 49-77 record after Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Guaranteed Rate Field. Only the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals have worse records in the AL.
The Sox underwent a rebuild after the 2016 season and reached the postseason in 2020 — their first playoff appearance since 2008 — before winning the AL Central in 2021. That marked the first time the franchise made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
The Sox lost to the A’s in three games in a 2020 wild-card series and to the Houston Astros in four games in a 2021 division series.
Expectations were high in 2022, which turned into a season filled with inconsistent play. The Sox finished second in the AL Central, 11 games behind the Cleveland Guardians, and missed the playoffs.
They began 2023 with a 7-21 record, their worst start to a season since 1948, that included a 10-game losing streak.
They lost for the eighth time in 10 games with Tuesday’s defeat and are a season-worst 28 games under .500.
“Ultimately, the well-worn cliché that professional sports is results-oriented is correct,” Reinsdorf said. “While we have enjoyed successes as an organization and were optimistic heading into the competitive window of this rebuild, this year has proven to be very disappointing for us all on many levels. This has led me to the conclusion that the best decision for the organization moving forward is to make a change in our baseball department leadership.”
Manager Pedro Grifol said the news was “shocking.”
“It probably shook everybody up in there,” Grifol said. “It’s like I said to the club, when you start the season with expectations and we don’t meet them as a group, unfortunately this stuff happens and two great men today lost their jobs after a long, long tenure here in Chicago doing a lot of great.”
Williams, 59, has been in the Sox organization for 38 of the last 41 years since they drafted him in the third round of the 1982 amateur draft. He was in his 11th season as executive vice president after serving as general manager for 12 seasons (2001-12).
The Sox won the 2005 World Series and another division title in 2008 during his GM stint.
He originally joined the front office in 1992 as a scout. The Sox reached the postseason five times overall during Williams’ tenure as director of minor-league operations (1995-96), vice president of player development (1997-2000), GM and executive vice president.
In a statement released late Tuesday, Williams thanked White Sox fans and Reinsdorf.
“At my inaugural (news conference), I spoke of winning multiple championships. That was my goal, our goal, and we failed. I am a bottom line guy, and the bottom line is we didn’t get it done,” Williams said in the statement.
Hahn, 52, served as GM for the last 11 seasons, leading the Sox to consecutive postseason appearances in 2020 and 2021.
He joined the organization in October 2000 as assistant GM and helped build the 2005 World Series champions. He was promoted to GM in October 2012.
“I will be rooting for the Sox to win that next championship soon — as loyal White Sox fans deserve nothing less,” Hahn said in a statement released late Tuesday.