Williams: No apologies for adding big names
GM won't alter approach as he seeks another Series title
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The extended interview with Ken Williams halted for a moment as the White Sox general manager picked up his phone and began to search through it.
There wasn't a trade proposal sent in his direction that needed immediate attention or the possibility of a free agent signing coming across his wires to help the 2012 club. Instead, Williams was looking for a text sent Tuesday to a friend of his who also happens to be the Denver Broncos' executive vice president of operations.
Williams had congratulated John Elway, in somewhat colorful terms, for the bold move of adding quarterback Peyton Manning to the roster. The Broncos instantly transformed from a 2011 playoff team with a first-round victory to a championship contender with the addition of a high-impact performer. To the White Sox general manager, it represented the manner in which a professional sports franchise should be run.
"That's my philosophy," Williams told MLB.com in a strident tone. "There's only one way to do the job. You are either going for it or you are [absolutely] not."
While Elway has received praise from Broncos fans and has been elevated to near deity status by "going for it," Williams doesn't feel quite the same warmth in regard to the 2012 team he has assembled. Many of those skeptical White Sox fans don't have high expectations for this current version and point to Williams' high-end additions of Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios as payroll clogs more than playoff pushes.
No apologies will come from Williams in any of these aforementioned cases. That aggressive philosophy aimed at winning World Series titles he espoused during a conference call to announce his hiring is the same philosophy he still works with 12 years later.
"It means taking some chances on moving Minor League guys to get those impact players. I believe in it. I stood up and told you that this is what we were going to do and I said because we are going to do that, there's going to be some high-risk, high-reward type situations.
"Occasionally I'm going to be left with mud on my face. And whether it be through poor performance or injury, that has happened. It also has worked conversely. There have been a lot of players that we brought in that people didn't want at the beginning and by the time they performed, then it becomes, 'How could you get rid of them?' That's part of the deal.
"But the moment I lose that philosophy and that edge to go out and get the impact players is the time to show me the door," Williams said. "That is just the way."
As Williams mentioned, there have been high-impact swings and misses along this risky but aggressive road. Manny Ramirez gave the White Sox a grand total of one homer and two RBIs as a September waiver claim in 2010. None of the players in the 2008 Nick Swisher trade with the Yankees are still with the White Sox organization, and Gio Gonzalez, part of the first Swisher trade with Oakland, has become an All-Star hurler and is being counted on as a major rotation piece in Washington.
These most recent moves involving Peavy, Dunn and Rios all made sense at the time, irrespective of their contracts. Peavy was going to give the White Sox a true ace to match up against other No. 1 starters in each playoff series. Dunn was the powerful left-handed bat to hit behind Paul Konerko and Rios was the multi-talented outfielder with 30-30 potential.
Even with all three falling well short of their maximum potential, Williams doesn't back track on any of the moves as part of his championship pursuit.
"So I'm sitting here, like I sat here 12 years ago, and I sat and I thought to myself, 'Hopefully we can win twice, win the World Series twice in this time, and maybe I can have a long career here,'" Williams said. "But I thought to myself, I'm going to go just like I sent that message to John: [All] out, and try to get the most impactful players in here in an effort to win the World Series.
"If it doesn't work, I know at the end of the day we tried the best. So when you ask about Jake Peavy or Alex Rios or Adam Dunn, are you [seriously] kidding me? Impact type players. Has it worked out to that degree? Not like we would have liked. But it's a team thing. It's not just about them."
When asked about his future as general manager, Williams smiles and offers up that "this has been a good spring." There have been other options "casually presented" his way over the years, but Williams has a driving force that keeps him going with the White Sox.
In 2005, Elway sat with his one-time Stanford football teammate at Angel Stadium and watched the White Sox polish off the Angels in the American League Championship Series. After heaping praise upon Elway this week, Williams would like Elway present for another title run.
"To bring another World Series to Chicago, it would be pretty cool. It would be pretty cool," Williams said. "Then I can focus on some other things, I guess. But I would like to do that first."