White Sox mediocrity doesn’t start with ownership, it begins with the last general manager to preside over a World Series on the South Side. Franchise tailspin into irrelevancy is fault of complacency in front office.
The Chicago White Sox have been mired in mediocrity for the past five seasons. From poorly executed trades, to refusing to stretch the pocketbook, the Sox haven’t been able to sustain much success since Robin Ventura was hired as manager.
The hire of Ventura was dismissed by many Sox fans, but it was lauded by one person. Ken Williams. The same person who oversaw a World Championship on the South Side as general manager. Williams praise of Ventura appeared to be unjustified at the time of his hire after the 2011 season.
Williams stated Ventura could have been a four star general at the time of his hiring. The former Sox general manager also added that Ventura was a cut above. Five years later, these statements are frustrating to Sox fans. Not only hasn’t Ventura been a cut above many MLB managers, he’s failed to operate like a four-star general.
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This isn’t the fault of Ventura either. Williams not only praised the Sox hire of Ventura, the team didn’t bother to interview other qualified candidates. One of those candidates was Terry Francona, a former manager in the Sox minor league system. Francona was manager of the 1994 Birmingham Barons. The same Barons team that had Michael Jordan as its starting left fielder.
The refusal to hire a qualified manager after the dismissal of Ozzie Guillen, has been one of the driving forces of mediocrity for this organization. Although Williams assumed the role of executive vice president for the Sox, the team has experienced its worst stretch of baseball since the late 1980’s.
The symptoms of Williams’ mediocre general manager tenure are still present. The Sox are still recovering from a lackdisical farm system from Williams tenure. Other than attempting to rebuild the minor league system, the Sox are also stuck between truly rebuilding for the future or trying for contention again in 2017.
Current general manager Rick Hahn has done an adequate job since assuming the role for the Sox in 2011. However, it appears he still isn’t operating like he would truly like to. Before the trading deadline this season, it appeared the Sox were destined to become sellers and start a true rebuild. Unfortunately for Sox fans, the team didn’t sell off its best assets.
Instead, the Sox only made one trade before the deadline. This trade involved the Sox sending Zach Duke to the Cardinals in exchange for Charlie Tilson. It would later be reported that Hahn wanted to start rebuilding at the trade deadline, but was vetoed by Williams. Hahn would later do his best to defuse this rumor, but there were many Sox fans who felt Williams was always impeding on Hahn’s true success.
Williams might be an untouchable figure in the Sox front office due to Jerry Reinsdorf’s often blind loyalty. But Williams invulnerability must end soon. Williams has caused enough trouble for the Sox over the past decade. His time as general manager can’t be overlooked however as he did execute solid trades and signings that led to the Sox World Series win in 2005.
Unfortunately, that was 11 years ago. The Sox fanbase has not only stopped attending games, but the franchise continues to become more irrelevant with each passing day. The success of the Cubs hasn’t helped either. Williams hasn’t been the main reason the Sox haven’t been successful this decade, but he hasn’t made this franchise any better during that time.
Williams has also been the cause of controversy for the Sox, and this has been throughout his time in the front office. From the trade of Mike Sirotka for David Wells, to the sudden retirement of Adam LaRoche, Williams has endured a controversial tenure with the Sox.
The Sox certainly need to make a lot of changes during the offseason. Those changes might involve trades, free agent signings, and a new manager. The biggest change the Sox might need to make is moving on from Williams. This franchise desperately needs to be infused with some new energy, and it could start without the services of Williams.
Williams time with the Sox won’t ever go unappreciated by fans who witnessed a World Championship. All things considered, Williams hasn’t had much success with the team since 2005. It’s time for Reinsdorf to either fire Williams, or for Williams himself to step down as executive vice president. A change is needed on the South Side, will Reinsdorf finally put loyalty aside for common sense?