Q&A with Kenny Williams
White Sox GM talks turnaround, Peavy and his relationship with Guillen
CHICAGO -- Looking at things backward, the White Sox are just where they expected to be at the All-Star break when the team reported to spring training in mid-February.
It's just that nobody figured on the route the team would take to get to first place in the American League Central, especially general manager Ken Williams, now in his 10th season with the club.
The idea was that the addition of Jake Peavy last season would create a powerhouse rotation, and a lineup that relied on on-base percentage and situational hitting would put a charge into the offense.
When the White Sox moved into first place on Sunday, Peavy was already lost for the season due to injury, and it was five home runs, not small ball, that gave the team a 15-5 victory in the final game before the break.
Along the way, there were multiple reported disputes between Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen, a disappointing start that had both men doubting their roster decisions, and the news that Peavy was done for the season. There has been nary a dull moment for the 2010 White Sox.
Fresh from a staff meeting in which a variety of trade options were discussed -- namely for a pitcher to fill Peavy's spot -- Williams gave some time to ESPNChicago.com to discuss the eventful first half.
There have already been extreme highs and lows this season. Is this the biggest roller-coaster first half you have ever experienced as White Sox general manager?
Ken Williams: It absolutely has been [a roller coaster]. April and May was tough to swallow. It's one thing when you know you're undermanned or you have had a lot of injuries, or something along those lines. But when you have the talent and it's just not happening in front of you, everyone starts to question themselves. Players start to question themselves, we in management start to question the decisions we made. Were they sound? Was it the appropriate approach and all of that.
Were you ever convinced that this group just wouldn't get its act together?
KW: Really, just about the time we had grown to a level of frustration where we felt that we were not going to sit and watch what we were watching and start to make changes, the guys kind of rallied together and put together a nice little win streak to get back in this thing. It has been pretty good since then.
From hitting to pitching, especially on the starting side, it wasn't just one thing that was plaguing the team. Was there one thing that got things back on track?
KW: It was the perfect storm. Well, the bullpen kind of kept us in contention, or in the games where we still at least had a chance to win some of those games that we were losing. That kind of gives you hope and can serve as a springboard. That was really the only thing that was meeting expectations. Paul [Konerko] and [Alex] Rios have been consistent right from the beginning of the season on, and they carried us for a long time. Now some guys are catching up.
You and manager Ozzie Guillen have always had a fiery brother-like relationship. Has it really been tested this season?
KW: As we talked about, it wasn't so much Ozzie and I having greater issues or more animated discussions than we have ever had before; it was more a case of peripheral things coming our way, being put on our desk, that people kind of magnified. Others magnified it. But through it all, we never lost sight of our jobs and certainly kept a professional approach to everything.
You knew the players were better than what they showed over the first two months, but how bad did the self-doubt get over the team you put together?
KW: I talked about this years ago as we got on the bus [for the championship parade] after the 2005 World Series. I still had wondered if we could have had an easier path. Could we have made our way a little better? I don't think I will ever be satisfied that every need was addressed and our focus was in the right place.
Is it your feeling that as long as you are never content you will always be improving and pushing yourself to get better?
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KW: Isn't self-analysis good? Isn't management analysis good in any industry? I think that if we ever get to the point around here where we don't agonize over particular decisions we make, prior to making them, and then reassess them after we make them, then it's probably time for us to move on and let somebody else take the reins. But I'm not even close to that right now. There is always that desire to make smarter, better decisions.
Do you still have the necessary pieces available to make the type of aggressive player moves that you have become known for?
KW: We just spent about three or four hours talking about [trades], and we do it on a regular basis. But it's business as usual.
You didn't put Jake Peavy on the disabled list last month when shoulder issues first emerged. Are there any regrets you didn't make that move? Is there a sense that he tries to be too much of a gamer and pushes himself too hard?
KW: No. He's a gamer. We had him checked out by our medical people. We had the MRIs done. We had the X-rays done, all of that. It's just a matter of this being a freak thing that happened to him. We are having a tough time finding others in baseball who have had this happen to them.
Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for ESPNChicago.com.