|White Sox general manager Ken Williams sees better days ahead after disappointing season|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 25 January 2008 16:18|
But Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams believes he created enough ripples to turn the tide after a 72-win season.
No, he didn't land Torii Hunter or Miguel Cabrera. Aaron Rowand did not rejoin his old team, either.
Even so, Williams believes he did enough to turn the White Sox into a playoff contender.
``What we have is one of the most balanced clubs in baseball,'' Williams said Friday during the team's fan festival.
Still, the White Sox have issues to address.
Particularly at third base, where Josh Fields showed promise as a rookie while Joe Crede missed most of last season with a back injury. They haven't settled on a second baseman, center fielder or leadoff hitter, either.
The White Sox would like to trade Crede, who needed surgery and played only 47 games last season. If they can't, manager Ozzie Guillen said, ``I'll go with the one that plays better.''
If it's Crede, Guillen isn't sure what he would do with Fields, who hit 23 homers. Left field, where he played at times last season, is not an option.
``We tried that, and we failed,'' Guillen said. ``I don't think it's fair for the kid to move him all over the place for no reason.''
The White Sox will also have to sort out a jam at second, where the options now are Danny Richar, Juan Uribe, Pablo Ozuna and former Cuban star Alexei Ramirez.
Ramirez, who signed a $4.75 million, four-year contract, will also vie for time in center field with Jerry Owens.
``Owens did a good job last year,'' Guillen said.
Owens is an early front-runner to lead off after stealing 32 stolen bases in only 93 games as a rookie last season. Another possibility is Orlando Cabrera, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for two-time 18-game winner Jon Garland.
``I'm just real happy with the team right now,'' Guillen said.
A big source of that happiness is a revised bullpen, where Williams added setup men Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel.
``If (Dotel) stays healthy throughout the year, he's obviously got the stuff that can set up anybody or even go in there when I'm not ready,'' closer Bobby Jenks said.
White Sox relievers blew 23 saves, had a 19-25 record and an ERA of 5.49 last season. The only constant was Jenks, who had 40 saves and tied a major league record by retiring 41 straight batters at one point. He also had stretches of inactivity because the setup men were getting knocked around.
Now, the White Sox are counting on the middle relievers to seal the gap between him and the starters, something that happened regularly during the 2005 championship season.
Williams is also counting on more consistency from the rotation. He envisions Paul Konerko (.259, 31 HRs) and Jermaine Dye (.254, 28 HRs) rebounding from subpar seasons. And he hopes the team stays healthy, unlike last year.
Injuries to Crede, Scott Podsednik, Darin Erstad and Ozuna left the White Sox fighting to stay out of the basement in the five-team AL Central. They finished fourth.
It was a big letdown for a team that expected to contend.
Opponents outscored the White Sox 839-693, the team's largest run differential since 1976.
The .246 average was its lowest since batting .244 in 1988, and the 1,149 strikeouts were a club record. Chicago did not have a 100-RBI man in its lineup for the first time since 1990. And for the first time since 1988, the White Sox did not have a player hit at least .280. Jim Thome's .275 average led the team.
Clearly, changes were needed. That explains why they went after Hunter, Rowand and Cabrera. And, they went 0-for-3.
Hunter signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Angels after the White Sox offered $75 million.
Rowand agreed to a $60 million, five-year contract with the Giants. Williams said salary wasn't the issue; the fifth year was.
Cabrera got traded from Florida along with Dontrelle Willis to Detroit for six players, including two highly rated prospects: left-hander Andrew Miller and outfielder Cameron Maybin.
``The package they got from Detroit was unbelievable,'' Williams said. ``We couldn't come close. We were not going to take on Dontrelle Willis.''
So instead of a big splash, there were ripples - enough to change the tide, Williams believes.