CHICAGO | White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura likely knew what was in store Saturday during a question-and-answer session at SoxFest, the team's annual fan convention — testy questions from fans.
"Look, we lost 99 games last year and these people have come out in the dead of winter to show their support for the team but at the same they have some questions on their mind," Hahn said following the hour-long session in a hotel ballroom. "It's completely understandable."
There was no easing into it, either. The first questioner brought up management's decision not to bring back catcher A.J. Pierzynski following the 2012 season, essentially saying he still doesn't understand why the 36-year-old isn't with the team considering the way Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley struggled.
"I certainly understand where that question comes from," Hahn said in response to the room of more than 500 fans. "A.J. was absolutely fantastic for us. I think when we signed A.J. . we all would have been surprised if you told us then he'd be with us for eight seasons and have that run of success. But he was fantastic for us. We're wearing a ring, in large part, due to his efforts.
"With that said, he wasn't going to be a part of an extended run of success here, just where he was in terms of age. It was time to start learning about some of these young guys and starting to integrate this roster before it got too old on us. We still would have lost far too many games if we had A.J. last year. That wasn't going to change, given the composition and performance of the rest of the roster."
Pierzynski had a successful year in Texas and some fans still wonder if he could have made a difference with the White Sox's young pitching staff.
As for Ventura, the news of him signing an extension was positively received, but that didn't mean he was spared from fielding tough questions. One fan questioned his fire, saying that from watching on TV it seems as if the manager doesn't have a pulse.
"I do have a pulse," Ventura joked.
Later, to the media, he addressed the issue.
"For me, you look at it and you get that," he said. "It's the same with anything. Just because you don't do it so they can get the satisfaction of seeing me jump somebody doesn't mean it always doesn't happen.
"But everybody has an opinion, everybody has a preference and when you get a forum like this you get all of it."