Reinsdorf: Poor start causing tension
GM, manager had dynamic relationship even in best of times
CHICAGO -- While the largely successful, spirited relationship between Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen combination may appear to be in the pivotal act of its seven-year run on the South Side of Chicago, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf believes the increased tension between the two simply is a function of the disappointing start to the White Sox season.
"Look, we all thought we had a real good team this year," Reinsdorf said. "It would appear at this point and time that we were wrong and not playing the way we should. It's a natural thing for there to be tensions. When you are on the way to winning a World Series, everyone is lovey-dovey and hugging and kissing each other.
"When things aren't going well, there are just tensions, natural tensions. If we win five or six games in a row, it will go away. If we keep playing the way we are playing, then the tensions will continue. But it will all pass at some point. We have to focus. If we don't get back in the race, then we have to focus on next year.
"I don't think there's anything out of the ordinary considering we are not living up to expectations," Reinsdorf said.
Williams spoke to MLB.com Wednesday night in measured and straightforward tones about the ongoing challenge of maintaining a positive atmosphere under current circumstances, and the GM suggested he could very well contemplate moving on at the end of the season.
"We are both very competitive men, strong-willed men," said Williams, talking about his relationship with Guillen, the club's manager. "I believe in self-assessment, and I think you have to assess all parts of our operation from top to bottom to determine if it's, in fact, still a productive working relationship.
"Whether or not the maintenance of that relationship is such that we still have the drive to get through some things and still have the drive to get through some differences ... I'm still in that assessment mode for myself, in particular.
"That should not lead to the assumption that I mean that [Guillen] is the one [who may benefit from a change of scenery]. If I determine that I am the one that is the cog in the machine, then I am the one who will stand in front of [White Sox chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf and tell him so and step aside. ... I will not deny that I am growing weary of the soap opera."
Since Spring Training, when friction surfaced over social networking jabs and culminated in Guillen emotionally advising one of his sons to step down from a scouting position in the organization, it has been apparent the GM and manager have not enjoyed a solidified chemistry.
Williams made it clear he has little tolerance for outside distractions, that he believes trust and teamwork are essential to success going forward.
"Everyone has to be pulling from the same rope. I absolutely 100 percent mean that," Williams said. "In the past, when there has not been, or I have not seen that, I've made changes.
"The fact of the matter is that all I care about is the baseball part of it. Just winning. I want one more banner up on those rafters before I do transition into another part of baseball.
"It is a strong driving force. That's pretty much it. All the peripheral things that come about, all they do is serve to be a dividing force and draining to those efforts in putting a championship team together.
"Like I said, if I'm the cog in the machine that is stopping the machine from running, that's something we have to take a strong look at," Williams said. "I'll speak to Jerry about it."
Reinsdorf made it clear that Oney, Guillen's middle son, has a right to express his opinions now that he is no longer in the organization but added that Guillen would be wise to consider the impact of Oney's actions.
"Well, when he worked for us, then he had no right to have his own opinions published," Reinsdorf said. "He had to make a decision to keep mouthing off or keep working here. He made the decision that he wanted to keep publishing stuff.
"Therefore, I have no problem with him publishing stuff. As to the content of it, he and his father have to be the judge of whether the son of the manager should be saying things bad about the ballclub. People might think this is Ozzie's opinion. I talked to Ozzie and essentially what he said is these are Oney's opinions. It's up to Ozzie and Oney if he wants to keep doing it."
When apprised of Williams' comments, Guillen calmly stated that Williams had every right to make such a judgment in regard to his managerial status and the direction of the club. Guillen said on his first day on the job back in November 2003 that he understood that he, like all managers, was hired to be fired.
Guillen steadfastly promised he would not walk away from the White Sox job. He also expressed a desire for Williams to stay on as White Sox GM.
"He's a great, great general manager," Guillen said of Williams. "He's doing a tremendous job for this organization. The organization has made giant steps over the years he has been in charge. I don't think it's necessary to [make changes], but people have decisions to make and I respect those decisions."
A contract extension for Guillen, agreed upon on Sept. 11, 2007, has his tenure running through 2012. If either one of these individuals who helped guide the White Sox to a 2005 World Series title walks away, they both figure to quickly end up with similar jobs elsewhere in baseball.
"I've exhausted myself, as I always do, to try to put the best talent on the field and create the best working environment for people, to foster the best communication I could possibly have," Williams said. "I can look in the mirror at end of the day every day with that knowledge, win or lose."
A similar at-peace attitude was expressed by Guillen.
"He does what he thinks is the best for the ballclub and the organization," Guillen said. "I'm never afraid to lose this job or have people talking about it. It is what it is. Kenny has the right to think whatever he thinks.
"I don't let [questions about job security] bother me. I hope everything will work out pretty well. But I just live life day by day, and if you can find another job or something else ... I can move on. Obviously, the thing is, my goal is to stay as long as I can with the White Sox."
That also is the goal of Reinsdorf for both Williams and Guillen. He noted that duo, along with pitching coach Don Cooper, often argued vociferously even when things were going good.
"They would do it all the time," said Reinsdorf with a smile. "Right now, the added element is the frustration. It happens all the time. Any time a team disappoints, there are tensions. I think it's a perfectly normal thing. I think it will go away if we start winning or once we are out of it, then everyone says we are out of it and move on to what do we do for next year."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.