Finding someone who believes the White Sox have a shot in the wild card race is tough, but there was one sitting the Sox dugout before they opened a tough six-game home stand against the Los Angeles Angels Cubs: White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.
“Until there is an X next to our name we’ll approach this like there is a shot,” Hahn said Monday.
With degrees from Harvard Law School and Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Hahn is no dummy. He can crunch numbers and he knows the odds are stacked against a team that took a 51-58 record into Monday’s game. There were five teams between the Sox and Angels (59-51), who hold the second and last wild card spot.
He also knows effort isn’t to blame. No one has checked out, so Hahn’s not about to chuck it in. Besides, there’s no reason to talk about 2016 now.
“It doesn’t really change how 25 guys in there, and the coaching staff goes about their business,” Hahn said. “Their focus will remain on trying to win that night’s ballgame. As for us in the front office obviously we have to be cognizant of where we sit in the standings and how each loss makes that road to the playoffs a little more difficult to travel down. So we’re aware of the situation and we’re aware of what potentially needs to be done in the coming weeks.”
The Sox haven’t strung together enough good weeks to be considered a wild card contender. They finally started to hit after a woeful start and won seven straight in late July, finishing 16-10 in the month, the second best record in the majors. So Hahn held on to Jeff Samardzija and kept the team together.
Then they lost eight of 10, going back to where they were before that seven-game win streak.
“Obviously the up and down nature has been frustrating,” Hahn said. “The last positive run wasn’t just the eight-game road trip in Cleveland and Boston, I felt it extended back to late June.
“The positive news is we do have a lot of schedule left and are playing a lot of the teams we are chasing so we still have an opportunity here.’’
“Yeah, for me we’re playing today,” manager Robin Ventua said when told of Hahn’s take on the standings. “The way you respond after a tough road trip like that is you win tonight. And that’s all you can do.”
Waiver-wire deals are all there is now, and while more difficult to pull off, they’re still in play. As of today, Hahn is still looking to make deals that would improve the club now and beyond this season.
“As we get deeper into August and if things don’t improve that is something we’ll have to take seriously but at this point we’re still having the same approach of looking for long term fits that could help this year and beyond,” Hahn said.
The Sox’ starting rotation was a big reason why Hahn and executive vice president Ken Williams decided to keep right-hadner Jeff Samardzija at the trade deadline. Since the seven-game winning streak that pulled them to within one game of .500, Sox starting pitchers own a 9.06 ERA. Samardzija hasn’t finished the fifth inning in two outings since.
If Hahn regrets not being a seller at the trade deadline, he isn’t saying.
“I don’t think it’s real healthy to do that,” he said. “The best way to look at things is to make as good a decision as you can at the time based on the information you have at that time and obviously we were real comfortable with the path we decided to go down.’’
When Hahn, Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf made numerous unexpected upgrades during the offseason, no one question them then. Is he questioning himself now?
“I don’t think there’s anyone in baseball who hasn’t been humbled by the game or feels like they have all the answers,” Hahn said. “So if you’re not critically evaluating the process by which you make decisions, even in seasons where things have gone well, you’re going to quickly fall behind.”