MILWAUKEE -- Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams wasted little time upon arriving at the annual general managers' meetings.
He checked into his hotel room, grabbed a fish dinner and joined the company of a group of long-time baseball GMs for what sounded like a long evening of boys being boys.
Williams did not deny that business could be conducted, but he was more interested in joining a group that could commiserate with him.
Williams has endured back-to-back, sub-.500 seasons, he is working with a new manager that surely won’t be blamed for any deficiencies that could arise and he is expected to cut back on a payroll that reached $127 million last year.
But Williams isn’t looking for sympathy from anybody else outside his inner circle. He is determined to fix what ailed the White Sox in 2011, but what will make things tough is that some of the solutions are also some of last year’s problems.
In that sense, these GM meetings are different than they have been in the past. Where Williams typically lays the groundwork for moves down the line, he claims he isn’t sure what road to travel this time.
“This is a different situation because you still have the talent that you believed in just one year ago in place,” Williams said. “The difficult part as I have tried to explain, is, 'OK, what will that manifest itself into being?' Is that going to be the guys who had tough years reverting back to their career norms? Will that be a step forward for some of the younger guys?
“If I have to move players here and there will the players that come in be impactful enough to help us win in 2012? Or are they more projected to be more helpful in 2013? I don’t know because we haven’t had those conversations. Now I can sit here today and tell you and pinpoint exactly who I would like to acquire, whether it be through trade or any other way, absolutely. But that happens very rarely.”
He also refused to reveal how he will sell a reduced payroll to fans, saying he doesn’t want to deal in hypotheticals.
“We still have the talent in place to win,” Williams insisted. “Now, when I say that, that means we have to have some bounce back years from some guys. Can I give you some logical sensible reasons why I would expect that? No more so that I would have thought that some of the guys that had tough years would bounce back in the second half of last year. So that would just be blowing smoke … and I won’t do that. I don’t know.”
Because the chances of losing free agent Mark Buehrle are real, Williams sounded hesitant to deal the left-handed Danks, who has also been healthy in his career outside of an oblique injury last year.
“First of all, the climate for teams giving up young pitching hasn’t been sunny in a few years,” Williams said. “Secondly, it’s seems like every year, we all sit down and people are worried about the pitching. And no matter where we are, in terms of starter innings, quality starts over the last decade, we’re up there, and we’re up there in a hitters’ park.
“So we got an idea of what we’re looking for in terms of who we’re going to put out there on that mound and just as we’ve done in the past, we’ll try to do the best we can to continue to be up or at the top in terms of pitching. That’s your foundation, that’s your first line of defense.”