What was more difficult for White Sox president Jerry Reinsdorf to fire vice president Ken Williams and general manager Rick Hahn on Tuesday or knowing he would look like he gave in to public pressure by doing so?
If I were a betting man, I’d put all my money on the latter. It was necessary to kill Reinsdorf because all of us—and I mean everyone with any common sense and/or pulse in baseball—picked up on the obvious a long time ago: the rebuilding of the Sox was a complete failure, and someone had to pay.
It only took Reinsdorf three months to catch up.
There is no gloating here. The people aboard Fire Kenny and Rick’s double-decker weren’t geniuses. They were people who saw the disappointing results, saw the incredibly unhappy fandom, and wondered why in the world nothing was being done. But they also knew what they were dealing with: Malik hated firing people, and Malik, by God, would not allow public opinion to dictate what to do.
The only surprise here is a huge surprise: now? He did it now?
Reinsdorf’s history as Sox and Bulls owner is filled with employee loyalty and little concern for what anyone thinks of him—especially members of the media and fans. So the assumption was that despite a deeply disappointing season, Reinsdorf would wait until the end of the season to make any moves. The “moves” would be Williams quietly retiring and Hahn quietly taking a lower title in the organisation. Reinsdorf can wave his cigar and say, “Look, the so-called experts don’t know anything.”
Instead, he kicked out his friends. That’s how exponentially bad this season has been. So bad that Reinsdorf had to admit it.
Now, before anyone praises him for doing the right thing, the truth is, he should have done this months ago, when the so-called playoffs were rapidly descending into hell. This is what a responsible owner would have done. The responsible owner would not have made two playoff appearances in Han’s 11 seasons as general manager.
But that’s not how Reinsdorf works. However, not even a stubborn person like him can ignore the absurdity of 2023. Something tells of him having waited this long to do the deed. She says he couldn’t bear the thought of firing people when angry Sox fans and annoying columnists were telling him what to do.
So many bad things have happened in the last three years that they just bumped into each other. Tony La Russa was apparently hired on Reinsdorf’s orders. La Russa’s bizarre in-game decisions. Signing pitcher Mike Clevinger despite accusations of domestic violence by the mother of one of his sons. Former Sox player Kenan Middleton said the club had been lax and had “no rules” this season. Relegation from the 2021 American Central League champions to a 2023 team that was 49-76 ahead of their game on Tuesday against the Mariners.
This season is the biggest sin in baseball, of course. Han was the architect of the rebuild. He was the one who demolished it all, trading Chris Sale and others to collect high picks in hopes of building a winner. And it looked promising until it became clear that the talent wasn’t talented at all and had absolutely no deep knowledge of how to play the game.
Whatever the dynamic between Han and Williams was supposed to be, it became something else. If Williams was supposed to fade into the background after Hahn was promoted to GM in 2012, someone forgot to tell him. If Hahn thought he was responsible, he must have been surprised when Williams told the Sun-Times in late April that he was “not in a good place right now” after the Sox’ 7-17 start. He must have been particularly surprised when former Sox executive Kim Eng approached Williams, not Hahn, to start the ball in a deal that would send third baseman Jake Burger from Chicago to Miami.
It had been a mess for a long time, as he was begging someone to come with a shovel and a bag.
Better late than never, I suppose.
What now? The Sox say they will hire one person to run the show and expect to have someone on board by the end of the season. “On board” might be the wrong phrase for a ship that is so aground.
In other news, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that the Sox may move out of the guaranteed price field when their lease expires in six years. It was also reported that Reinsdorf may consider selling the team. I find that hard to believe. What will Jerry do with all his malice?