Williams considered Konerko for Sox manager
While team captain wasn't interviewed, he was in candidate mix
CHICAGO -- Picture this scenario at the first full-squad White Sox workout of Spring Training at Camelback Ranch next February.
Paul Konerko takes his physical and then joins the rest of his teammates for a little morning baseball action, covering a couple of hours. Konerko then talks with the media, but not in his normal capacity as team captain and elder statesman.
Instead, it's Konerko, the player/manager speaking with the press.
Sounds a little unbelievable, right? Well, it wasn't too far out there for White Sox general manager Ken Williams to briefly consider the idea of Konerko as a replacement for Ozzie Guillen.
"The report is not false," said Williams with a wry smile, confirming a story originally coming from the New York Daily News on Konerko's immediate managerial future. "It was considered long enough for me to realize that Paul is a very cerebral person, and he would probably drive himself nuts right now playing and managing at the same time.
"But that's the kind of respect I have for him that, yeah, I did consider it. Then, I thought, 'I think I would rather him be focused more on hitting third or fourth in the lineup and driving in 100 runs, rather than trying to worry about 25 other guys in addition to it.' We are trying to win."
Speaking about the Konerko possibility illustrates that this hiring process for Williams was not exactly like any other he has had in the past. Williams didn't really list how many finalists there were for the job -- vacated when Guillen was let out of the final year of his contract to pursue other opportunities -- only saying that a Plan B was in mind, in case Robin Ventura didn't agree to the endeavor.
Williams also didn't discuss formal interviews that took place for the opening. When Guillen made it clear last September that he didn't want to work on simply a one-year deal, the White Sox had ample time to prepare for a replacement.
So, the interview process was more about conversations building up over years, instead of sitting down for two or three hours and finding out each individual's plan for the team.
"This hire comes from the same mindset from where I hired Ozzie," Williams said. "I had experience with the man prior to the formal interview, so I knew all the little intricacies of his personality -- and what he brought to the table and how he was going to fit in the organization at that time.
"In that respect, it's not dissimilar at all. This was not a surprise as to how this season developed. I was hoping it wasn't going to develop along these lines, but Ozzie gave indications in 2010, September of 2010, that he might be looking to go a different direction. As a general manager, whether it's a player or a coaching-staff member or a manager, you then begin to look for alternatives.
"Those interviews -- a lot of interviews that I have [had] over the years, as evidenced by this hire -- kind of happened over the course of a lengthy time," Williams said. "I don't like the 'Sit down two hours and make a decision on a guy' interview. I need time. I need years and months of talking to guys and so, yeah, there was a plethora of guys that I talked to."
According to Williams, there were a number of candidates with whom he didn't need to revisit conversations. Much like Ventura, who found out Williams had been interviewing him since his playing days back in 1994 before agreeing to a three-year deal with no option, those conversations already had been going on for years.
Basically, on one side of Williams' to-hire ledger was all the talked about candidates -- from Sandy Alomar Jr. to Davey Martinez to possibly Terry Francona. On the other side were the names of candidates who didn't have the experience but certainly had the right fit. Ultimately, Ventura was the choice, leaving Konerko to once again man first base without any off-the-field concerns that wouldn't already come with his 15 big league seasons -- 13 with the White Sox.
"I need to know exactly what we are getting," said Williams, focusing on Ventura. "I can't guess in our situation. We are trying to win another championship. So I need to know what I'm getting. I know what I'm getting in leadership abilities that Robin Ventura has."
"All the people that are here, that's what's important," Ventura said. "I'm just very comfortable with the people I'm dealing with. I enjoy this place, the city. I'm honored that they even asked."