You have to feel bad for Kenny Williams sometimes. Sure, he makes his living playing chess with humans and has earned the respect of his peers across his chosen line of work, but when the jackals of the internet and small-time press (this writer included) make a second career out of second-guessing his every move – even the ones that won’t really hurt his team – even the most banal of explanations come off as a justification. Which is kind of weird, considering the Sox’ trades of Jim Thome and Jose Contreras don’t really need a lot of explanation. As Williams said in yesterday’s press conference:
“The fact of the matter is, if we were not in the position to take [Thome’s] spot and put a quality hitter in that place, then I don’t probably even go down the line and make the overtures. But at any given time, we had Carlos Quentin or Alex Rios or Jermaine Dye or Paul Konerko sitting on our bench. I felt that, giving [Jim] the opportunity and putting them into one of those positions could only be a wash as far as our ability to challenge for the championship.”
I’m sure we all got a good laugh at that last part, most of us writing it off as typical Williams huffing and puffing about grinding and being here to win it and whatnot. At the same time, it’s statements like these that probably reveal more about the true nature of Williams, not as some small-time Steinbrenner with a reckless arrogant streak, but maybe as a more benevolent Vince Lombari-type not just expecting but assuming the absolute best from his players. Carlos Quentin will hit .285 with 35 home runs. Paul Konerko will not ground into a double play. Jermaine Dye will hit the cutoff man on the fly. Alex Rios will not forget how many outs there are and stay on second two outs. Of course we all know how thinking like that was worked out, but it’s good to see the man in charge keeping his chin up.
But the more telling bit is the last part, how swapping Thome out for Dye, Konerko et al does not affect their ability to compete. Notice how he doesn’t say “impair” or “bolster,” simply that it’s “a wash.” Williams has (and will continue) to get subtly lambasted for making comments like these, but in this case he’s absolutely right. It’s like he can’t win, although his team’s incessant losing probably doesn’t help matters.