Kenny Williams on The White Sox
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
White Sox GM Kenny Williams Speaks with the media … Pregame – May 19, 2010
Does it feel any different being 16-22 this year as it did at the same time in 2009?
“You’re kidding me, really? You’re not messing with me, are you? Yeah, it feels a little different; I think we’re better than that. I don’t remember feeling we were better than that last year, but I probably felt that way, too. It is what it is.”
Can you talk a little about what the basis of the meeting was today and what you wanted to accomplish with it?
“Well, in a nutshell, it was 25 minutes touching on various subjects ranging from attention to detail and preparation. I mean listen, we’ve dug ourselves a hole and the only way we’re going to come out of this hole is if we’re smarter than the next club, if we pay more attention to the fundamentals, if we are diligent about our work and you know what, we have to lighten up a little bit. There are some guys that need to lighten up a little bit and remember that they’re playing a game. Yes, it’s at the highest level, but you restrict yourself when you’re not allowing yourself to have a little fun at it and go about your business in a more lighthearted way. Hopefully a couple of guys got that message.
“I answered a question (from a media person) with one word. The question was ‘Was I growing impatient.’ Because I didn’t want any kind of road to be taken with various angles that could be associated with a lengthier response, I responded ‘Yes.’ I figured you couldn’t do too much damage with one word. I’ve since learned that even a one-word term can be interpreted in just a completely wrong way.
“Yes, I am impatient. Yes, I am frustrated. But yes, I still do remain confident that this team is the team that can still challenge for the division championship and hopefully beyond. We’ve got a lot of good pieces, we just need to all come together and we’ll be just fine.
I also expounded on my feelings about the speculation regarding the coaching staff and trades. I flat out told everyone — because I have a policy that no one has to guess what’s on my mind — that the first people who get the benefit from that philosophy is my players and my coaching staff. So I explained to them that I have not had one single conversation in terms of making changes in a managerial position or the coaching positions. I have faith in these guys and still have confidence in knowing that there are some guys who are struggling, but there are also some guys who are performing well. Now, ultimately, if they have gotten the information, the players are the ones who have to step up, and they know that. They know that.”
Do you recall pressing as a player and it producing negative results for you?
“I could press all I wanted to, because most of the time I was on the bench, so it didn’t matter how tired I was. But I saw my friends who were out on the field playing and at various times, so yeah. You start to let too many peripheral things get in your mind. I don’t remember the last time I addressed a team, but I wanted to still make sure that we’re all still pulling from the same rope and that they understood that any trade speculation or anything that has been out there has not been initiated by me and won’t be until they show me that there is a reason. I’m not giving up faith on this club, it’s way too early for that and I’m still confident that guys like Carlos Quentin, Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez and these guys are going to come around, they’re going to start to hit, and we’re going to do some good things. But in the meantime, I want everyone to stick together. In the meantime, I want the guys who have been mentioned in trade rumors to understand that all you have to do is ask me and I’ll tell you. I told them straight out that I’ve been called on a couple guys and I’ve told the other team, ‘Wait a minute, we usually make these calls. You calling me? No, it doesn’t work that way, it doesn’t work that way.’ They’ve been told thank you, but no thank you. And that’s the end of it because we still expect to win.”
Because you have built this team to win now and you have guys that have been through the wars before, is it even more annoying when you allude to the mental mistakes and the lack of smart baseball?
“It’s built to win now, we think we can win now, but we also think we’ve kind of diversified ourselves to win in the future. Also, we’ve got some guys coming up so it’s not just built for that. In terms of the goal at hand right now, the goal remains the same.
“I’ve seen it before and what happens often times is when you have players who have performed at this level before and are used to a certain amount of success and are not getting it, and they walk up to home plate and they see their batting average and they start to take some of their lack of attention and focus out to the defensive end, that’s when you can get in trouble. So, I just reminded them, attention to detail and attention to focus on your job at hand, on both sides of the ball, is something that we have to have. Again, we have to be smarter than the next club, we have to be more fundamentally sound, and we’ve got to pick up the level of intensity. At the same time we have to lighten up a little bit.”
Do you believe the players are giving the effort that you expect from them?
“Absolutely. Absolutely. We’ve got a good group of guys as far as that is concerned and I have no question that they are putting in the work. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be here.”
Is there any issue with your relationship with Ozzie or is everything fine there?
“Well, he can’t come to the restaurant (laughs). He’s got to pay now. Since he doesn’t like the food, that’s not really a wedge between us. You know, I think what has brought that about more than anything is that I am traveling less than I have in the past and because of that I think people are misinterpreting it for what it is. Like I said previously, we’re as tight as we need to be to get the job done.”
Do you think any general manager and manager enjoy their relationship when they’re performing up to standard?
“Well, I think that we have a relationship that is an up-and-down relationship. So much as it’s been consistent through all our years from the time when we were playing to the time when he was playing and I was an executive, it’s no different. Listen, I have to remind everyone, first and foremost, I hired this guy after an argument that we had. Okay? My expectation level of getting along isn’t that high. I hired a guy that I knew would fight with me from time to time. I needed a guy to fight with me from time to time. Why? Because through that you know you’ve got a person on the other end of things that’s not going to tell you what you want to hear and is always going to challenge you and is going to challenge the players. So, I’m okay with an occasional disagreement here and there, it’s not a big deal to me. As a matter of fact, it’s welcomed.
(adding on to initial question – what was the argument about between Ken and Ozzie)
“I pushed a button. I pushed a button on purpose. I told him straight out. I said, ‘You’ve got a heck of a sales job if you think I’m going to hire you and put you in charge of the Chicago White Sox. You’ve got a hell of a sales job.’ And then he proceeded to turn eyes in the restaurant and he told me ‘Well, what the hell did you bring me up here for?’ And it went on from there and somewhere throughout the course of him laying into me I decided that this might be the guy. So, I don’t know what greater illustration I can give you other than I hired a guy who argued with me and seven years later, we’re still standing.”
Is it overrated that general managers and managers have to be buddies and eat and drink in the same place?
“No, because I think when you have a relationship when you’re social with whomever it is, whether it’s your players, there’s a lot of coaching that goes on in a hotel bar after a game and it’s valued. So, I don’t discount the need to have a social relationship with anybody that’s around here. Now some guys hang around others more. When you’re at home you’re pretty much with your own family and when you’re on the road, that’s when you have time to hang with the guys. I’ve had more things I’ve had to get done here than I have on the road.”