CHICAGO -- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn struck down the notion of a front-office rift a week after executive vice president Kenny Williams took responsibility for the team's on-field struggles this season.
The perception began quickly that Williams still sees himself as being in charge of player personnel moves when Hahn is actually the GM, a title Williams held until relinquishing it after the 2012 season.
"It surprises me that how-the-dynamic-works is even a question or an issue at this point," Hahn said. "We were pretty clear at the initial press conference when I assumed this position that Kenny is executive vice president of the organization. He is my boss. I report to Kenny. Just like anyone with a boss, I'm accountable to him for my performance, and he has to approve of what I do."
Williams traveled with the team to both Minnesota and Detroit on the most recent road trip to get an up-close-and-personal look at the team. While the club was in Detroit, he gave manager Robin Ventura a vote of confidence but also gave the impression that he was the general manager, not Hahn.
"If they are underperforming to this degree as a whole, then I would have to say right now -- and I've told the chairman [Jerry Reinsdorf] this -- no, at the end of the day, it falls on my desk," Williams said last week. "I hired the manager. I hired the general manager."
Williams also told the Chicago Tribune that he takes the calls when Reinsdorf has questions or criticisms and that Hahn had not "graduated to that point yet." Williams meant it more as Hahn being fortunate to not have to answer some of those questions directly yet. Some interpreted it as Williams saying that Hahn is somehow out of the loop or not high enough in the club hierarchy to discuss things with Reinsdorf.
Hahn was in the Dominican Republic for the past week working on the signing of international players and said he got only bits and pieces of what was being said, as well as the controversy that seemed to develop.
He seemed to applaud not only Williams' decision to stick up for Ventura, but also Williams' willingness to accept the responsibility for a disappointing season. The White Sox entered play Friday with the worst record in the American League at 34-42.
The White Sox signed both Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to free-agent contracts this winter, and neither has performed at the level expected. They traded for Jeff Samardzija, whose 4.56 ERA is last among qualified starters in the American League. The decision to go with a rookie at second base has yielded minimal returns, and Adam Eaton, who was signed to an extension, has underperformed.
"I think it's admirable when anyone stands up and says the responsibility is on me," Hahn said. "I think you have heard me say this before that is going to be really difficult for me personally not to feel responsible for the performance of this team, good, bad or indifferent. I think you have heard Robin say that he feels responsible for it. I know I saw last week, I saw some quotes from players [taking responsibility] for it, which is good. We are in this together, and we're all trying to get this thing right."
Hahn and Williams have said they don't always agree on every idea or plan put forward, with the resulting discussions only beneficial to the organization.
"I think in any business, you want to have people with different points of view or at least different ways of approaching problem solving and not a bunch of people who are necessarily yes men or fall into line," Hahn said. "It's important to have an environment as I feel we have had here for the last 15 years since I've been here of a free exchange of ideas and a clear opportunity for people to state their mind regardless of title or position in the organization.
"When we are trying to solve a problem, all ideas and opinions are put out there, and we parcel through, and it's a collaborative effort to come up with the best outcome for the organization."
White Sox GM Rick Hahn denies conflict with boss Kenny Williams