Rick Hahn, Kenny Williams' White Sox legacies feature moments of triumph, failure

Rick Hahn, Kenny Williams' White Sox legacies feature moments of triumph, failure originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago White Sox stunned the baseball world on Tuesday when they fired executive VP Kenny Williams and General Manager Rick Hahn, effectively slamming the door on the club’s current era.

Williams, who had been with the team for nearly 30 years in a variety of capacities, and Hahn, who had been the GM since 2012, were both relieved of their duties amid one of the worst seasons in recent memory for the South Siders, but their legacies are more complicated than the down note they ended on.

Williams was chosen to serve as the team’s general manager prior to the 2000 season. He slowly but surely put his stamp on the team, and then accelerated the club’s forward progress when he fired Jerry Manuel after an 86-76 campaign, and then followed that up by hiring Ozzie Guillén as manager for the 2004 season.

In the months that followed, Williams and his staff signed a slew of important free agents, including Jermaine Dye, AJ Pierzynski, and Orlando Hernández, and in 2005, the club won 95 games and captured their first World Series title in 88 years.

Williams acquired Javier Vázquez and Jim Thome to help bolster that group, but the team couldn’t quite get into the playoffs in the 2006 season despite winning 90 games.

The White Sox were able to win the American League Central again in 2008, but were knocked out of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Williams was moved into the executive vice president’s role following the 2012 season, and Rick Hahn was promoted to the general manager’s role.

It took Hahn time to get things rolling in the right direction, but the club finally committed to a rebuild during the 2016-17 offseason. They orchestrated trades that landed Yoán Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and Michael Kopech, then followed that up with a July 2017 trade that brought Eloy Jiménez and Dylan Cease to the South Side.

Those moves, buoyed by international signings of players like Luis Robert Jr., brought the White Sox back into contention in the American League Central, and they earned a wild card berth in the postseason in 2020 and a division title in 2021.

The White Sox held high hopes heading into the 2022 season, but things quickly went south for the club, as they finished 81-81 and missed out on the postseason.

The hiring of Tony La Russa in 2020 was not well-received by fans, and he ultimately stepped aside from managing late in the 2022 seaso due to health issues. Miguel Cairo led the club to an 18-16 record through its final 34 games.

The White Sox then hired Pedro Grifol as manager, but injuries and ineffective play ultimately led the team to trade away players like Giolito and Lance Lynn at the deadline, signaling a change in direction after the high hopes of the rebuild had been dashed.

The downward trend culminated Tuesday with the decision to fire Williams and Hahn, with Reinsdorf saying that the team has been “very disappointing” in the 2023 campaign.

“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,” he said in a statement. “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.”

Now, the club will look to find a single decisionmaker to handle the baseball operations department, and it is unclear whether Reinsdorf will keep his search in-house, or if he will seek out external candidates.

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