White Sox's Williams, Guillen as feisty as ever
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Chicago White Sox had just gathered for their first full-squad workout of the spring when general manager Kenny Williams gave his obligatory let's-get-reacquainted address to the players.The CliffsNotes version goes something like this: Welcome to Arizona, guys. Let's play hard, be on time and use plenty of sunscreen. And try not to let that raucous Tucson night life sap you of all your energy.
Then Williams' competitive instincts kicked in, and his planned five-minute chat stretched to 10. By the time he relinquished the floor and checked his watch, he discovered that he'd bared his soul for 35 minutes.Some seasons are destined to be remembered and others are best forgotten. For Williams, the 2007 campaign simply needed to be purged. "As the introductions went on, I thought, 'I've been pissed off for the last eight months and I've been holding it in. Somebody's got to hear about it,''' Williams said. That's understandable. After compiling a combined .583 winning percentage in 2005 and 2006 -- second best in baseball behind the Yankees -- the White Sox were an unmitigated disaster last season. Sure, Jim Thome provided a feel-good moment with his 500th career home run in September. But a fading bullpen, an underperforming lineup and a sketchy rotation guaranteed that the cheering would be strictly ceremonial. The White Sox finished with 72 victories, and even Hawk Harrelson gradually ran out of silver linings. Five months later, the Sox are back and trying to reassert themselves in one of baseball's least forgiving divisions. The Detroit Tigers have the talent to become the first team since the 1999 Indians to score 1,000 runs, and Cleveland returns with essentially the same roster that fell a game short of the World Series. The White Sox? They've got some aging position players, questions in center field, a free-for-all at second base and uncertainty at the back end of the rotation, where Jose Contreras, John Danks and Gavin Floyd all need to perform. But as Williams made clear in his introductory speech, Chicago management is ready to write off 2007 as an aberration. That's why he spent the bulk of the offseason trying to add veteran pieces to the equation. "Some clubs would take the position, 'Let's break it up and start over,''' Williams said. "Hell, no. These ain't your daddy's White Sox. This is a new way of operating. We're going to keep going after a championship as aggressively as we can.'' Williams quietly had a very busy winter. He traded starter Jon Garland to the Angels for shortstop Orlando Cabrera, sent prospects Gio Gonzalez, Fautino De Los Santos and Ryan Sweeney to Oakland for Nick Swisher and acquired outfielder Carlos Quentin in a deal with Arizona. Williams spent $30 million on multiyear contracts for relievers Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel, and was in the hunt for Torii Hunter, Kosuke Fukudome and Aaron Rowand before those players opted to sign elsewhere. Are the White Sox blissfully delusional in thinking the talent in their clubhouse can match up with the Tigers and Indians, or are they justified in viewing themselves as a turnaround play? Based on the way the preseason magazines are discounting their chances, the consensus choice is blissfully delusional. But don't tell that to the men in charge. As they enter their fifth season together, Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen are now the fourth longest-running GM-manager tandem in baseball behind Colorado's Dan O'Dowd and Clint Hurdle, Cleveland's Mark Shapiro and Eric Wedge and Milwaukee's Doug Melvin and Ned Yost. They've swigged champagne during the good times and consoled each other during the bad, but they've never gotten complacent or lost their edge.
Some clubs would take the position, 'Let's break it up and start over.' Hell, no. These ain't your daddy's White Sox. This is a new way of operating. We're going to keep going after a championship as aggressively as we
--White Sox general manager Kenny Williams