in what has become an almost monthly event, today season ticket holders had the chance to talk to yet another person with the White Sox. This time it was general manager Ken Williams. I must say I am rather surprised when KW is actually willing to talk and to talk to fans . . . mind. blown.
Gene Honda moderated the call today. Ken is hanging out in Indianapolis to watch the Charlotte Knights (you will find out below exactly what he was up to) and it was pretty cool of him to take time out to talk to fans.
To start off, Gene asked Ken about the perception that a general manager’s work is done after the July trading deadline. Ken said that it really isn’t as the waiver process is going on. Then there are the considerations of a guy clearing waivers, if he does how you can add the guy you want (if you get him.) It isn’t always the case a guy who clears waivers will get added to your team. There are contract considerations as well as figuring a way to clear roster space to add him. Bottom line, it is a long and ongoing process, but you can be sure KW is working hard to get more useful pieces.
Next up, Jonathan asked KW if there had been consideration of moving Adam Dunn down in the batting order and maybe moving Alex Rios into the third spot considering that Dunn’s average is hovering around .205 currently. Jonathan also said that KW should get serious consideration for executive of the year. KW thanked Jonathan for the compliments and then went on to explain that he hopes the team will continue to play and keep doing what they’ve been doing. He is less concerned with getting executive of the year and would rather Robin get manager of the year. They have talked about possible moves, but in the end have concluded that it is best to leave Rios where he is. Rios has been put in a position to succeed and rather than messing with that, they will just leave him playing right field and hitting where he is in the batting order. KW also reminded people that Dunn is one of the higher on base percentage players and if he is on base, then players behind him (such as Paul Konerko and Alex Rios) can drive him in.
Ken also said that since he got the job as general manager, he has never been comfortable in it. This was in relation to being asked about the Sports Illustrated prognostications of late saying he should get serious consideration as executive of the year. Not too long ago, there were lots of boos for him at SoxFest and people questioning his sanity. He knows he has a demanding fan base and ultimately, he is still working on his goal of two championships for the city.
Richard asked KW about how much clubhouse chemistry and overall atmosphere factors into his decisions. KW said that now it is more of a factor in the decision. Previously, he was very big on making sure they had the best talent and couldn’t figure out why they were never getting over the hump. Then they started to look at players who had great character and drive who might not be as talented as other players, but that guy brings what he does have with him everywhere and all the time, not just on the playing field. Those were the guys they could get to pull on the same rope together. So now, he absolutely will look at a guy’s makeup and whether he is “Chicago tough.” While they have guys who have been on the team and then later traded, those guys are successful elsewhere, the Sox felt they just felt they couldn’t and wouldn’t be successful in the Chicago spotlight.
Tom asked KW what he thought the reason for this season was, whether it was Robin or Adam Dunn’s resurgence? Ken started off talking about past season and how the talent really hasn’t differed in past years (in particular from last season to this season.) While the 2010 and 2011 seasons were not great, the teams were competitive and Sox teams have consistently been competitive since he has been around. He said his goal when he was hired was to bring two championships and he hasn’t accomplished that yet. He thinks Robin and his staff have been outstanding. He thought it would take Robin and his guys until June of the 2012 season to feel comfortable, but Robin was so familiar with the staff, coaches, and front office, that he was able to hit the ground running. Ken said he felt a month into the job for Robin, that he had things going so well, that he (KW) could focus on other things.
Bill asked about the various prognosticators and how they rank the minor league system versus what other general managers think of the Sox system. Ken said that those who write about the minor league systems are generally not people who are working as scouts full time for a living. Another thing that he thinks the Sox don’t do is promote their guys as much as some other teams may of their prospects. He believes that players have to earn those high praises that they may get. they also don’t want to put pressure on a guy’s development by having him focus on the fact that he is a power hitter and not learning to just hit or being a guy with a great fastball instead of learning how to pitch, in particular for US Cellular Field. Ken thinks that by getting the players to focus on the things that will make them good players for the Cell will make them better overall players as opposed to just focusing on something that the prognosticators may find important. This is why you may see a player take two steps backward before moving forward in his development.
Finally, Gene asked a couple of questions that many fans had: Is KW in Indianapolis to evaluate the Knights for possible September call ups and if there was one area of improvement that he is focused on between now and September 1? KW said he is absolutely there to evaluate for September. He is considering more AA and AAA guys than ever before for call up and he is impressed with the talent in Charlotte considering the number of guys he has already taken from there and the team is still in first place. As for improvement, there are always areas of concern, but it is a matter of trying to insulate yourself now from a possible injury leading to a guy being out for an extended amount of time.
And that is it for what KW had to say today. Interesting stuff, particularly on the minor league philosophy, but then again in some ways, it does make sense in terms of a development philosophy of making a player good all around as opposed to making what the player does well even better.