There are many times during the course of a baseball season when I question (sometimes justifiably, others irrationally) moves made by general managers.  But 99% of the time I trust that their seemingly poor actions were at least completely sincere, that they really did feel that through their work they were helping their team improve either now or in the future.

This is not one of those times.

Ken WilliamsWith the roster expansion in September, the White Sox recalled two pitchers, Lance Broadway and Heath Phillips. But if this article is quoting him properly, GM Kenny Williams is stating that he doesn’t want them in Chicago. From the article:

The only reason left-hander Heath Phillips and Lance Broadway were promoted was because pitching coach Don Cooper sought protection for starting pitchers John Danks, Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland, said Williams, who added that farm director Alan Regier nominated Phillips and Broadway.

“But I had no interest in bringing up anyone,” said Williams.

This seems like a very odd time to be criticizing your entire AAA team. Back in late June, the White Sox were doing nothing to disprove their preseason computer projections (PECOTA) which predicted that this team, as it had been built going into April, would finish at 72-90. Williams stated that changes were coming:

“Something’s got to happen. I’m tired of watching this,” (Williams) said before the Cubs completed a sweep with a 3-0 win on Sunday. “Change needs to happen and change is going to happen.”

We’re now in September. The White Sox are in last place in the AL Central, three games behind the 4th place Kansas City Royals. Aside from shuffling pretty much every reliever not named Jenks back and forth between Chicago and AAA Charlotte, the only “change” that Williams has made thus far is to acquire two A-ball pitchers – Michael Dubee, a righthanded pitcher with a 3.96 ERA in Low-A ball, and Jon Link who’s now in High-A – in exchange for starting second baseman Tadahito Iguchi and utlity man Rob Mackowiak.

But I can’t seem to find one instance of Williams even taking an ounce of the responsibility. Instead, he appears to be putting more blame on the lack of effort displayed by the players and staff down in AAA Charlotte than he is on his own inability to foresee the major problems with his big league roster.

“I’m not happy with our performance here, not happy with the performances down in Charlotte, the individual performances, nor the team performances,” Williams said Wednesday. “A lot of times in the minors people forget, they think it’s just based on how they do as individuals. Well, we look at things a little differently. We look at the team aspect as well, and I’m a little disappointed in a lot of the individual and team efforts down there.”

Well gee, Kenny. Isn’t it also a part of your job to, you know, help stock the minor leagues with some actual talent? In Baseball Prospectus’ list of Top 100 prospects which was published back in July, the White Sox had ZERO players in the top 50. Their highest ranked player was actually John Danks (#58), who may one day make a decent #3 starter but for now is sporting a 6-13 record with a 5.41 ERA for the big-league club. Their second highest on that list was Ryan Sweeney (all the way down in #69) who’s a corner OFer who couldn’t manage to slug .400 in AAA this year and without much speed.

Moreover, with your fan base already looking towards 2008, how much excitement do you think you can create for these fans when you’re claiming that the entire AAA team is terrible? To me, he sounds like a man who sees himself as a victim caught in a situation not of his own doing, which is obviously not true. He was recently quoted by the Daily Herald, saying:

“This is a lot like the perfect storm,” Williams said late last week, repeating a metaphor he has used throughout the year.

“It’s been one thing after another,” Williams said. “There’s always been something coming up in one shape or form. It’s been more frustrating, especially when you see the talent that helped us win a championship.”

But don’t you think that it was a bad idea from the get-go to think that Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad would actually be great to have atop the lineup? Don’t you think it’s a bit risky to give Jose Contreras a three-year extention through 2010 when no one seems to know how old  he actually is? Shouldn’t you shoulder the blame for the deals you made in the off-season when you acquired six players (all pitchers) and NONE of them had a big-league ERA lower than 5.41? The phrase “the perfect storm” is far more applicable to their 2005 championship when so many things went their way than to their 2007 season.

I’m not claiming that Williams ought to be fired. He was, after all, the GM of a ballclub that won a World Series two years ago. It just irks me when people take all the credit when things are good and doesn’t man up to his failures when things go south.

P.S: In my very first post here on Umpbump, I had some fun with an article written by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times who after a mere ten games played into the 2007 season touted the trades made by Williams during the previous winter as boons for the White Sox. This Cowley article is about 400 times funnier now than it was to me then.

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