Kenny Williams is not the GM anymore, which allows him to speak a bit about his tenure in the past tense and with more frankness. It doesn’t seem to matter because apparently he was shooting from the hip the entire time.
“How seriously can I take it when people say I left this organization in a dire situation, but in the next paragraph it says their pitching has been solid,” Williams said. “We love the pitching going forward, and these contracts we were supposedly saddled with, we were able to use them, which was always our plan if we had a situation such as this, that we could use what we had and replenish things that way.
“Sometimes if people aren’t into you, they’re just not into you. They’re going to find a reason to step on you.”
Since I highly doubt Williams actually missed the lesson of this year’s White Sox team, I would accuse him of brushing it aside instead. Yes, the pitching staff at the major league level and the depth across the White Sox organization is admirable, the problem is they failed so completely to build an offense that they’re still a last-place team in spite of it.
I couldn’t put my finger on why I found it so troubling for the defense to regularly be identified as the biggest problem with this team, but here it is as plain as day: it allows the problems of this team to be written off as an issue of lethargy, lack of focus and/or discipline and nothing as systemic and in need of a long-term fix as an offense that ranks third-to-last in all of baseball and hasn’t drafted and developed a legitimate position player since the guys who raised a World Series banner.
The offense that Hahn inherited isn’t so different from the one that nearly grabbed a division title last season, they just got older and didn’t get any help from the farm system. How seriously are we supposed to take someone who is dismissive of the idea that a team racking up historically awful results for the franchise is in dire straits?
However, adding that “haters gonna hate” kiss-off at the end is a nice touch.
“There are signs lately with his willingness to go to left field and shorten things up he can do that,” Williams said. “I don’t know what his numbers are the last couple months, but it’s more indicative of what we were expecting at the beginning. It is what it is. There is a human element to the game, too. Sometimes you just don’t get it done.”
Williams cites being able to trade Alex Rios and Jake Peavy at the deadline and in doing so implies that those who identified them as albatross contracts after Peavy got hurt and Rios got terrible spoke too soon.
Both were unmovable in the offseason after their doomed years and Williams was forced by their contracts to give them run until they could prove themselves valuable once more. If he had a choice, he probably would not have ceremoniously handed Rios a starting gig in 2012, but he didn’t, and it worked out. While I wouldn’t be surprised to read some blog attacking him for it, Rios’ summer in the woods and Peavy’s wholly unique catastrophic injury aren’t things that should be held against him, nor do I sing his praises for gritting his teeth through their recoveries.
However, it’s ironic that in a press conference where he takes credit for Rios and Peavy being movable that he addresses the disappointment of Adam Dunn; who is probably hitting to a level that would have been projected for the third year of this contract going in, is someone he was cited as being “saddled with” and someone who hasn’t been moved, despite having little long-term value.
Again, Williams shouldn’t be blamed for Dunn, but it’s an odd footnote to his touchdown dance.
“Listen, we’re still a very aggressive organization. We want to win,” Williams said. “In 2007, as bad as it was, we came back and we won in 2008. We still have some very good pieces, as evidenced by the amount of interest in all of our guys at the Trade Deadline.
“We’re going to go into the offseason and we’re going to try to be winning, albeit with a younger core. If there’s somebody out there that fits that bill, that fits in with a younger core for an extended period of time, why not?”
Well, that should eliminate most of the doubt about the White Sox state of mind after all of this. Long-term rebuilds are still taboo, 2008 set a precedent of what’s possible, full-steam ahead, etc. There’s no one way to skin a cat, or kill a pig or light an insurance fire or whatever the saying is, the White Sox don’t have to rebuild. After all, there is something troubling about a major-market franchise with the ability to support a nine-figure payroll charging the public big-time dollars for the right to see a big league team they have intentionally and overtly half-assed the construction of while they reallocate resources.
However, all that talk about the White Sox being too big and bad to do anything but gun for the division every time is also applicable to the disappointment of recovering for 89 wins in 2008, then spending the next five years failing to match the feat while spending as much as anyone in the rest of the division. Williams draws sympathy by admitting that his tenure didn’t meet his goal to win multiple championships because it’s self-denigrating, but also because those standards are rather blatantly unreasonable. The playoffs are a crapshoot and don’t reflect too much on a GM’s ability or work. But “I should have won two World Series but only won one,” sounds a lot better than “I only won two division titles but probably should have won six.”
Only being able to make rare playoff appearance despite ample financial resources in a division so commonly referred to as “wide-open” that the term may need to be retired, reflects rather poorly on a GM’s ability to build a contender, or assess whether being a contender is something feasible for the organization at the time.
Williams is big on grinders and fighters. Said guys like Orlando Hudson had value in 2012 because of his demeanor, edge.
— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) August 13, 2013
Williams’ talk about always “hearing” his critics but not “paying too much attention” rings hollow until he threw this gem out there. If he was really stung by his critics, he wouldn’t throw this meatball up for everyone to swing at. Hudson hit .197/.262/.307 for the White Sox with the defense of someone with declining physical skills adjusting to a new position. He was so bad that Williams himself traded for his replacement a month later, after which Hudson would appear in just 23 of the team’s remaining 90 games.
Williams can’t possibly be stumping for Hudson literally, but more as an extreme example of a player that is useless by all quantifiable measures, but possesses value for his clubhouse presence and larger effect on the team’s worth ethic; qualities that are unknowable for outsiders.
It’s a point with more truth than I can really appreciate, but it’s not really a lesson Williams should get to teach at the moment. The Cardinals’ John Mozeliak can get an ear for why in spite of his numbers, Pete Kozma’s infectious energy is actually essential for their success. But Williams, whose teams have gone down in flames the last five years, each one riddled with black holes in the lineup that he could never fill, should find no rhetorical footing when he tries to cite one of his countless ineffectual veteran fill-ins as emblematic of a winning approach or a necessary element to a recipe that hasn’t found success
Until the Sox can find the production necessary to make an offense worth watching, no one’s buying their talismans.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan