Those hoping for an edgy crowd at Saturday morning’s session with White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, manager Robin Ventura and broadcaster Ken Harrelson at SoxFest may have come away disappointed. Fans, filling up a large ballroom were given opportunities to ask questions and most were relatively pleasant and non-threatening — although some griped about poor fundamentals and execution.
No one complained about the Sox’ minimal activity in the free-agent market this offseason. At last year’s fan convention, the mood was borderline euphoric after the front office reeled in Melky Cabrera, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke in free agency and traded for Jeff Samardzija.
This offseason brought All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier and infielder Brett Lawrie in trades, and catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro in free agency, the latter two at modest cost.
Here are some nuggets and bits from Saturday SoxFest question and answer sessions with fans (Hahn, Ventura, Harrelson) and with kids (for Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Chris Sale):
*Hahn: “I don’t view us as a finished product. We’re going to continue to look at ways to get better, stay in communication with clubs and free agents and by the real deadline – Opening Day – we have a 25-man roster with very little holes and allows (Ventura) the flexibility to put is in the best position to win.”
Ventura may have started something with this one. When Harrelson, discussing new infielder Brett Lawrie, said “everybody’s got issues,” Ventura cut in and said, “That’s going to be our new slogan.”
*Harrelson, the White Sox general manager in 1986, said the GM job “is the worst in baseball. I went through a cartoon of cigarettes a day.”
*Don’t expect to see much of 2015 first-round pick Carson Fulmer in 2016. Hahn said even 2017 would be a “really fast track. We’ve been spoiled by Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon.”
*Ventura said Abreu, with no protection, got frustrated last year, “expanded his zone and had to become a bad ball hitter to put numbers up.”
*Abreu, who was recently reunited for a few days with his young son in Cuba, said the Kids Press Conference was difficult for him because it made him miss the child even more. Abreu wiped his eyes talking about it.
*Zoraida Sambolin, wife of vice president Ken Williams, moderated the kids press conference and translated for Abreu.
*Fan to Ventura: “Why can’t we bunt?” Ventura: “Nothing drives me more crazy than not doing the simple things.”
*A fan called Hahn “the Paul Konerko of general managers because you stayed with us when you could have gone elsewhere.” Hahn’s reply: “I thought you were referring to the fact that I’m the slowest running GM.”
*Eaton on his first impressions of All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier, who is from New Jersey: “It seems like he’s extremely east coast. I feel like I’m talking to someone from the mafia.”
*Sale said his fastball is his money pitch but the changeup is the one he’s most comfortable with. He told kids not to throw curveballs. Instead, change speeds with the fastball and develop a changeup. Let the curves and sliders come later, the Sox ace lefty said.