INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Four more years! Four more years!
Only four years! Only four years!
The White Sox's most powerful fan has been re-elected, which means one thing: Rick Hahn better get cracking.
As great as it was for White Sox fans to see the freshly minted president throwing out a first pitch in one of those familiar black-and-white jackets at the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis, imagine how cool it would be for Barack Obama to lend his energy to a World Series on the South Side.
Ken Williams badly wanted that to happen, convincing himself time and time again that lightning could strike twice. He threw Jerry Reinsdorf's money and too much of the organization's limited inventory of prospects at the dream of winning one for the first fan. He never backed off, even when it was fairly apparent he was running in circles, and his last chance crashed when the 2012 team couldn't hold a three-game lead in the American League Central with 15 to play.
While Williams remains prominent on the team masthead, this is the buttoned-down Hahn's organization now, and that's a good thing. He has trained so long under Williams that he says taking over has been "more or less a turn-key operation,'' and he says the mission is the same, with a twist.
"We expect to contend in 2013,'' Hahn said. "At the same time we're looking to build, to continue to build, the foundation for long-term success.''
Williams mostly paid lip service to scouting and player development. His focus seemed to go beyond the 25-man roster only when he needed prospects he could trade for veterans.
Hahn is untested as a general manager, but he has been a friend to scouts and minor league coaches throughout his 12 seasons as Williams' assistant. He sees value in guys like Blake Tekotte, a potential 20-20 center fielder he acquired from the Padres for a 27-year-old reliever signed from independent ball (Brandon Kloess), and he knows they don't grow on trees.
Hahn said Wednesday that he is adding scouts, especially in Latin America. He expects to hire six or seven overall, with at least four working for new international scouting director Marco Paddy.
"We had a four- or five-year period where we were pretty bare in Latin America,'' Hahn said. "We had some scouts who did good jobs — look at (Carlos) Sanchez, (signed by Amador Arias) — but it was awfully bare-boned. We want to get back up to speed down there.''
This is a little thing, but little things matter a lot when building a baseball organization. Hahn knows that, which is why he calls newly promoted assistant GM Buddy Bell "a fantastic resource'' because of his knowledge for what makes a player tick, especially those in the White Sox farm system.
Under Hahn and Bell, the patience level of the organization is sure to go up while the impulsiveness goes down.
Despite sharing a division with the loaded Tigers, Hahn believes the Sox can contend for one of the American League's five postseason spots in 2013. Otherwise he wouldn't have re-enlisted Jake Peavy for two (maybe three) years.
But the key arm in the White Sox inventory belongs to Chris Sale. He was picked as one of three finalists for the Players Choice AL Most Outstanding Pitcher Award over Justin Verlander, and he's under White Sox control through 2016. Hahn has a chance to build around him with the ideal being to start filtering more impact players onto the roster from the farm system.
With the new CBA limiting teams that had been the heaviest spenders on amateur talent, the White Sox have more intriguing players in their system than they did this time a year ago.
Outfielder Courtney Hawkins, the first high school player the Sox have taken in the first round since 2001, is a potential monster. He could get to Chicago alongside catcher Sammy Ayala. Infielder Sanchez, who is making Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez appear expendable, could arrive in April, and speed-power outfielder Trayce Thompson might not be that far away.
Hahn doesn't seem likely to trade away his best pitching prospects (Erik Johnson, Andre Rienzo, Scott Snodgress, Chris Beck, Nestor Molina and Simon Castro) like Williams did Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Hudson. He doesn't rule it out, either, saying he's fortunate to have some high-ceiling arms either to bring to the big leagues or use in trades.
So we'll see.
But it seems like a good sign that the pitcher he is shopping at the general manager's meetings is Gavin Floyd, who will be 30 in January. Now is the time to maximize Floyd's value, and Hahn seems intent to do that rather than wring another 30 starts out of him.
Williams, like Obama, is said to have veto power. Here's betting he won't ever need to exercise it.