White Sox brass discuss state of team
SoxFest allows fans to ask questions of Guillen and Williams
CHICAGO -- If there was a theme to this year's initial question-and-answer session at SoxFest's first Town Hall meeting on Friday, featuring a packed room of somewhere around 200 people, it was implicit trust in the architect of the 2005 World Series championship and the man who ran the show on the field.
Fans expressed their concerns in regard to some of general manager Ken Williams' offseason moves, but for the most part, Williams' explanation of the franchise's plan at hand seemed solid enough to satisfy the masses.
Simply put, Williams was not about to sit back and see his team move from a perennial contender to a second-division also-ran.
"Any team is going to have some turnover, but if you sit on the same roster year in and year out, you are going to get very aged," said Williams to the crowd, flanked by manager Ozzie Guillen and White Sox television play-by-play man Ken "Hawk" Harrelson as the emcee.
"If we continued on without making any adjustments, I believe in the next couple of years you would see a 90-loss type team. That's just the way it goes when a team gets old and too expensive.
"We were not about to overpay for mediocre talent. And I'll tell you this much: Mediocre won't beat the Yankees, the Angels or Boston."
Strangely enough, the Freddy Garcia trade didn't receive much attention during the fans questions' portion of this 50-minute program highlighting the first day of SoxFest. But the Brandon McCarthy maneuver, taking place days before Christmas, still was fresh in the minds of many.
One young man acknowledged how John Danks and Nick Masset, the two young pitchers coming from Texas who could help the White Sox this season, had received rave reviews. But he wanted to know why the team couldn't get more for one of Williams' reported "untouchables."
When Williams asked what sort of trade would have constituted a better return, the fan brought up a reported deal with Washington at last year's non-waiver deadline involving McCarthy for Alfonso Soriano. Williams quickly shot down that particular rumor.
"Soriano last year would have cost you McCarthy, [Lance] Broadway and someone else," said Williams, as fans shouted out names such as Joe Crede and Josh Fields as the possible third trade candidate. "What you hear about Soriano for McCarthy, it wasn't happening.
"You have to understand I never said McCarthy was untouchable. Maybe someone else said it. I'm telling you have to keep your mind open and keep your eye on potential additions to your team in every way, shape or form. Did I anticipate doing something along these lines? No, because never did I anticipate getting what we got."
Questions also arose concerning other team issues, ranging from Scott Podsednik's recent injury to Juan Uribe's ongoing legal battles. There also were the outright moments of levity expected from this sort of get-together.
When Harrelson talked about the Tigers being for real once again and being a top contender for the American League Central crown, Williams pointed out the South Siders' continued head-to-head dominance over Detroit with the following one-liner.
"Detroit couldn't beat us last year and they aren't going to beat us this year," Williams said, drawing raucous applause.
Guillen also explained the importance of the rebuilt bullpen for the 2007 season. He talked about how he never made a mistake in 2005 because he would raise his hand with authority whenever he went to the mound to signal a pitching change.
"But last year, it was more like this," said Guillen with a laugh, raising his hand slowly, as if to indicate he didn't really want to make the move.
The only slightly cantankerous moment came after Williams' extolled Joe Crede's virtues. He mentioned how the organization would not have a World Series title without his important contributions and that he would like to have him for 10 years.
"So, pay him," a few fans yelled out, leading Guillen to bring up a familiar reminder of how many fans wanted to send Crede packing when he first took over for the 2004 season.
Maybe it was the manner in which Harrelson started the Town Hall meeting that truly set the positive tone, as he drew a rousing ovation upon asking, "How about those Bears?" It's hard for anyone in Chicago to get angry presently when talk of the Super Bowl-bound Bears arise.
Ultimately, it seemed to be trust in the general manager who brought the last championship to Chicago that kept the mood at optimistic instead of caustic. One man's comment near the end of the meeting summed up the event's overall tenor.
"You take a lot of heat, but you did bring us a championship," he said to Williams.
"I'll take the bullets because it will only last another month or two months," a confident Williams said. "If we didn't do what we did this offseason, the bullets I would have taken would have lasted four or five years. Once you get down in that hole you are trying to climb out of, it becomes a tough way to go."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.