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posted: 10/26/2012 8:11 PM

Hahn in charge, though Williams looms large

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  • Kenny Williams, center, Rick Hahn, left, listen to Detroit Tigers general manager David Dombrowski in July 2011.

      Kenny Williams, center, Rick Hahn, left, listen to Detroit Tigers general manager David Dombrowski in July 2011.
    Associated Press

 
 

If Ken Williams were riding off into the sunset, today would be a day to consider that in the last 200 years of combined Chicago baseball, he is the only general manager to win a World Series.

If Williams were fading into retirement, this would be a moment to remember that he was the first black general manager in Chicago sports history.

If Williams were leaving the White Sox organization, this might be the time to ponder the significance of his tenure and personality on the franchise, and the way in which he affected change.

It would also be a day for those who consistently find fault with his aggressive nature to celebrate a new vision for the White Sox.

But the reality is Williams isn't going anywhere.

In a move he has threatened to make for years, a move Jerry Reinsdorf has talked him out of a couple times, Williams -- with a bigger title -- can now slide into the background of daily White Sox business and allow the very capable Rick Hahn to move into the general manager's chair.

Hahn has had chances to take similar jobs elsewhere, but has instead waited to take the position he really wanted in his hometown.

So how big a change is it? It's not a simple question to answer.

Williams and Hahn have worked side by side for many years, and Williams will continue to have final say over all major baseball decisions.

Much as is the case with the Reinsdorf-owned Bulls -- where John Paxson continues to make the big calls but Gar Forman handles the daily workload and the incessant media requests -- Williams can take a deep breath and do his work out of the spotlight.

But unlike the Bulls or Cubs -- where Theo Epstein is in control while Jed Hoyer has the GM's title -- Williams doesn't intend to be in the office every day looking over Hahn's shoulder.

"In some other situations, I think the day-to-day setup is different," Williams told me after Friday morning's news conference. "I believe my best asset is player evaluation, and I haven't had the chance to do that as the general manager.

"I can't get out and see players in our system, or on other teams, or in other countries, because I've been tied to that chair. I won't be tied to the office anymore. I will be out doing what I do best, which is scout and evaluate players."

Williams said he wants to go to Japan, Cuba, Latin America and many areas of the globe where he expects to find players.

So what happens if he finds a player in Cuba that he likes and Hahn doesn't? Does he overrule Hahn?

"Yes, if I feel it's the right move," Williams said. "But you have to understand how it's always worked around here. No one worries about stepping on toes. We get in a room and argue about it.

"But, yes, I would -- in that case -- be sure we get that player. Still, Rick is going to be the guy putting the roster together and collecting the pieces and figuring out how the puzzle comes together."

OK, so Hahn has more authority than Forman or Hoyer in constructing the team, but he still answers to Williams the way Williams used to answer to Reinsdorf.

Or, still does. Sort of.

In the past, Williams never made a major call without consulting Reinsdorf. Hahn now talks to Williams before he makes a significant personnel or staffing move.

So does Williams still have to take it to Reinsdorf?

"In theory, no," Williams said with a laugh. "But you know Jerry.

"In theory, I'm taking some things off Jerry's plate. But that's just in theory."

Williams then smiled and laughed again.

So as best we can understand it, Hahn will run the team, Williams will help him find players, Hahn will report his big decisions to Williams and they will discuss those decisions.

It's hard to imagine Reinsdorf not getting into the middle of the conversation at some point, but the plan is for the conversation to stop at Williams' office.

"I fully intend to bring Jerry and Kenny in on any big move," Hahn said. "If there's disagreement, we'll get in a room and hash it out just like we've done the last 12 years."

The two have talked about this switch for years, though it became serious last November and a plan was put in place during spring training for after this season.

Hahn is certainly ready to take the reins, and a significant part of the job will be acting as the frontman communicating with the fans and media. He has grown into that role and looked completely comfortable with every facet of it Friday.

"I don't view it as a burden right now," Hahn said, "but it's only been about 12 minutes."

There was no stress Friday and it showed on Williams, who has at times had more than the job need entail. He admitted to feeling more "melancholy" than expected, but happy to be making a change.

An excited Hahn brought his wife, children and parents, thanking them all for their sacrifice while he climbed the front office ladder.

Unfortunately for them, as Williams would undoubtedly attest, they have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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