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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Mouthy GM?

by
Guy Bacci

When the time comes for Kenny Williams to depart as GM of the White Sox, the off-seasons on the Southside will certainly be lacking a degree of liveliness. Just a few weeks into the ’04-’05 Hot Stove season, Williams has already provided his share of jaw-dropping quotes. There aren’t many other GMs who would offer such candid remarks as “that ship has sailed” (in reference to re-signing Magglio Ordonez) or “I do not expect to sign any Scott Boras clients.” And not many of Williams’ peers would bother to openly compete with Boston and New York in the trade market, unabashedly offering a top slugger and young starting pitcher for a 41-year-old ace.

Williams often chides himself for speaking too openly, yet he’s hardly bothered to change his ways. He tells himself to keep his mouth shut, but that’s like asking Rush Limbaugh to stop talking politics or Howard Stern to clean up his shtick. Williams is often saying what he feels, and that gets him in trouble. His exuberance over Omar Vizquel may have cost him the prize. “One thing I'm sure of,” he said after the Giants nabbed Omar, “is that if we were allowed to conduct business as usual, under the radar, we would have been able to strike [early on Vizquel].”

The obvious question is, why wasn’t Williams allowed to operate under the radar? Where, precisely, is he pointing his accusatory finger? The media? People within the organization? Williams himself hasn’t operated under the radar for most of his career. As much as Sox fans enjoy Hot Stove chatter involving the Pale Hose, they’d gladly trade a quiet off-season for a few surprise signings. Nothing seems to happen in secrecy on the Southside.

The hope is that Williams is in the process of transformation. After losing out on Vizquel, he may be creating smokescreens to protect his grand plan. For example, how sincere is his claim that the Sox are completely out of the running for all Boras clients? That seems like a foolish comment to make, even if it’s true, considering Boras’ list includes names like Beltran, Lowe, Varitek, Ordonez, Drew and Beltre. The possibility is that Williams is playing poker and hoping to throw teams off his scent.

Granted, that has never been his modus operandi. But maybe this year is different. Sox fans are hoping Williams is tossing curveballs when he says he’s content with Juan Uribe and Willie Harris as his middle infield. “We were productive last year [in getting Uribe] so we would be in a situation where we were not held hostage at second base or shortstop,” Williams said. “It's not as though we don't have anyone [at those positions]. We just need for those guys to step up.” Yet with Vizquel off the market and players like Edgar Renteria and Nomar Garciaparra well out of the Sox budget, it’s hard to imagine Williams finding a new infield for next season.

The focus has clearly been placed on pitching, with Williams gunning for another top-flight starter and a few quality bullpen arms. But again, Williams has been incredibly vocal about his desires, inadvertently alerting every team in the league to his off-season strategy. It’s hard to imagine the Sox will be able to pull off an “under the radar” blockbuster like they arguably did with Bartolo Colon in 2003.

In the meantime, Jerry Reinsdorf continues to spin the Sox plight, stating that the club’s mid-range budget wasn’t a factor in failing to win the Central Division the past few years. Instead, JR points to the lack of a fifth starter as the culprit. He must think fans aren’t savvy enough to realize that a mediocre budget contributed to the fact that the Sox were without a fifth starter. Imagine if the Sox had tossed a few million at Kenny Rogers in 2003 as many WSI fans were clamoring for, or if they had re-signed Keith Foulke instead of opting for the cheaper Billy Koch.

Nonetheless, Reinsdorf is correct in stating that the Sox have the highest payroll in the division, which makes it all the more pathetic they couldn’t surpass Minnesota in recent years. What Reinsdorf may be subtly saying is, “Listen, Kenny, you’ve had more money at your disposal than any other AL Central team, and yet you haven’t managed to reach the playoffs.” That could explain Williams’ urgent desire to acquire Randy Johnson, and if he fails, expect him to pursue another front-line arm.

Still, though, Williams has plenty of other holes to worry about. With the loss of the team’s best hitter (Ordonez), how do the Sox plan on replacing his thunder in the lineup? They appear content with losing Paul Konerko, which is baffling, considering Ross Gload was treated as an afterthought for most of last season. It’s precisely those kinds of mixed messages that drive Sox fans nutty. If Gload was thought of so highly, why wasn’t he given more playing time as soon as Ordonez and Thomas went down last season?

Sox fans know better than to ask such frustrating questions. They simply must sit back and endure another roller-coaster off-season, hoping all the while that Williams is working some magic behind his newfound smoke and mirrors.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back. He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player. His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay). Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

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