© 2005 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
02/07/05 9:43 PM ET
Williams baffled by parting shots
GM feels Sox did their best to accomodate Ordonez
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Ken Williams woke up Monday morning with a copy of a Chicago Tribune article dealing with Magglio Ordonez's personal criticism awaiting in his e-mail inbox. The basic message from Ordonez was that the White Sox general manager "buried" him in terms of offseason negotiations, stating that his twice surgically repaired knee still "was not OK." These quotes came from Ordonez on the verge of signing a five-year, $75 million deal with the Tigers, the second highest free agent haul of the offseason behind Carlos Beltran's deal with the New York Mets. Williams seemed equal parts perplexed, disappointed and a bit miffed by Ordonez's pointed commentary on his way out of town, even with the money he desired in hand. "I really am at a loss for words," said Williams from his home in Arizona. "What do you say when you've tried at every turn to accommodate someone, be positive and, in many cases, cover them? "I'm at peace with how we have treated Magglio," added Williams, pausing briefly to find the right words before continuing with a very pointed close. "He's a Tiger now, so I don't care what he has to say."
For parts of eight years, Ordonez was a fan favorite while anchoring right field at U.S. Cellular Field. He played solid defense, ran the bases with great aplomb and consistently put up a .300 average, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs from season to season. Fans appreciated his workmanlike, no frills approach, as anyone who has heard the "O-E-O Magglio" chant echo throughout the stadium when he came to the plate can attest. But a May 19th collision at Jacobs Field with second baseman Willie Harris led to a shortened 2004 campaign and a pair of arthroscopic surgeries on his left knee, not to mention special treatment in Austria to help heal bone marrow edema. The White Sox refused to move on a contract for Ordonez during the past few months without new medical information on his knee that Williams stated was never provided. Ordonez believes the White Sox talked down his condition to other organizations, a sentiment he expressed once again during Monday's press conference at Comerica Park. "They did. I don't know why they talked about that," Ordonez told the Detroit media, when asked about the White Sox. "I did my best over there, played hard every day in Chicago. But when I didn't sign over there, they started talking about me. Now I'm a Tiger." Williams never spoke out against Ordonez or questioned his physical status -- at least not in the local media. In fact, Williams went out of his way to praise Ordonez's years of top-notch work when fans criticized him during SoxFest. In late September, Williams explained in another Tribune article that he was trying to get a handle on Ordonez's uncertain health status before engaging in any new talks. At that point, Ordonez reportedly was unable to go through with any physical activity as basic as running in the pool. Williams took umbrage with a headline attached to that particular article, which read, 'Ordonez may miss start of '05 season.' He called Ordonez and Tom Reich, Ordonez's agent, to express his true intent and calm any hurt emotions before they went in the wrong direction. There still was optimism with the White Sox, at that point, concerning Ordonez's return and his knee healing. They had offered him a long-term deal, with a sizable portion guaranteed, earlier in the season, and made another offer after he was injured. But the two sides never talked seriously again. Ordonez switched to Scott Boras as his agent. When the White Sox signed Jermaine Dye prior to the Winter Meetings in Anaheim, the Ordonez era all but officially had come to a close. "I wish Magglio well," said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf during a weekend conversation with MLB.com. "We offered him $60 million -- and all cash -- before he got hurt, and after he was hurt, we offered him the same and he turned it down. "We had to go on our way, and once he became a free agent, they stopped giving us information. I hope he's OK. I hope he can play. I also hope he doesn't hurt us." Ordonez spoke Monday in Detroit about his loyal friends on the White Sox, but how he is now part of the Tigers and looks forward to playing well and beating the Southsiders. The White Sox understand what even a close-to-healthy Ordonez can mean to an already potent Detroit lineup. They also realize that very few of their strategic offseason maneuvers could have been executed if Ordonez had agreed to return. For those White Sox fans who haven't already checked the schedule, the first meeting between the two teams takes place on April 20 and 21 at Comerica. Ordonez comes to town for what was once a rather non-descript three-game series at U.S. Cellular, from April 29 to May 1. Those games occur two weeks prior to Sammy Sosa's return with Baltimore. As a proud member of the Tigers, Ordonez should be ready for the reception most visiting players receive in Chicago. "The fans appreciated the way he played the game, but they are disappointed he didn't come back," said White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker. "But our fans are excited about the team we do have, especially if we come out of the spring playing well. "It is going to be strange. There's no denying he's a great player. He's not good, he's great. If he's healthy, Magglio will be great for them. The Tigers got a lot better when they signed him, and they already played us tough as it was." Walker talked to Ordonez during the offseason and wished him well when it was apparent he would not be returning. He would have no problem talking to Ordonez before a game or going across the field and extending his hand. Many current White Sox players probably would echo Walker's thoughts. Don't look for Williams to be part of that meet-and-greet session. "I have no interest in that," said Williams of meeting up with Ordonez when he returns. "I don't know that he fully understands. ... "In more ways than he probably even knows, I tried to help him. It's a little perplexing."