"We think Sandy has done a great job of keeping himself in shape, and he's not going to have to play regularly. Sandy has been after me for two years to bring him back. I don't have to ask him how he feels about it."
Alomar had a .323 average with nine RBIs in 27 games for the Dodgers. The 19-year veteran suited up for the White Sox in 2001 and for 51 games in the 2002 season, before he was traded to Colorado. Alomar also returned to the White Sox in 2003 and 2004, having worked with every member of this team's vaunted starting rotation, except for Javier Vazquez.
The return of Alomar means the departure of Chris Widger, a popular clubhouse figure and valuable reserve during the 2005 World Series title run. The 10-year veteran was designated for assignment during a conversation with Williams shortly after the White Sox 5-0 victory over Texas on Sunday.
Widger would have understood the decision a little more clearly if it was based on his hitting, or lack thereof, as he carried a .184 average into Sunday and was hitless in his last 24 at-bats. It also could have been a decision based on Widger's handling of the pitchers, with the men on the mound having a 5.36 ERA during the 22 games he played. Widger was just 3-for-20 in throwing out would-be base stealers, although not all of that lack of success was his fault.
But in the end, Widger claimed those reasons were not used for the move. Instead, Widger was told that it was about his game preparation.
"If you want to tell me I'm a bad ballplayer, not good enough for your team, you aren't producing enough, I could take it," an emotional Widger said after being informed of the roster move. "But to tell me that I'm not trying, it's tough.
"I come in here after a game and all of a sudden I'm lazy? I just don't get it. Nothing was said about it before today."
When Williams told Widger of the reason questioned by the catcher, he also told Widger to talk to both pitching coach Don Cooper and hitting coach Greg Walker. Widger told the media that Cooper's lone complaint was that he was tough to find for a meeting or two they have at the beginning of each series, while Walker's problem, again according to Widger, was that he followed a different philosophy in preparing offensively for each game.
Widger admitted that he didn't take pregame flips in the cage, instead choosing to hit off a tee when everyone had cleared out. Widger said that he had heard a few comments along the way about not taking flips, but he also said that his approach was no different than last season, when he hit .241 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 141 at-bats.
"Last year was good and this year, it's not," Widger said. "That's what happens when there's a difference between being 10 games up and being in second place. When you are not in first place, all those little things aren't overlooked anymore."
"That's baseball and a bad part about it, the down part of the business," added White Sox starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who worked as close with Widger as any other player on the roster. "I thought he had done a good job the last couple of years, but obviously some people didn't."
While it might sound as if Widger departed with a fair share of animosity, the classy 35-year-old catcher had nothing but good wishes for the organization. He gave Williams and the team credit for giving him a chance in 2005, when he was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, coming off being away from organized baseball for a year. During that 2004 respite, Widger played in a men's softball league in New Jersey and for an unaffiliated Atlantic League team known as the Camden Riversharks.
One year later, Widger had a World Series ring and thought he had found the place he would play out his career.
"Emotionally, you get attached to some guys because you are with them day in and day out," said Jon Garland, Sunday's winning pitcher, of Widger. "They become your brother, your family. To see someone like him go, it's a big loss in the clubhouse. He's a great person. He can talk to anyone about anything, and he helps a lot of people out in different ways."
"I played with the best group of guys I ever played with, probably the best clubhouse I've ever been a part of," Widger added. "I wish them the best of luck. I love these guys. They gave me a chance to come back and win a World Series ring."
Widger's move, along with reliever Cliff Politte being designated for assignment last weekend in New York, removed two popular forces from the White Sox drive to repeat in 2006. It also sent a message, of sorts, that the White Sox are not taking lightly this recent 3-9 stretch and 2-7 record since the All-Star break.
Last year's championship was one of the most memorable experiences in Chicago sports history. Williams will be adjusting things this week to make sure the title wasn't a once-in-a-lifetime sort of celebration.
"In terms of the particulars about it, I really don't think it's fair to Chris, who helped us win a World Series, to get into it," Williams said. "As much as there's a part of me that wants to hold on to [last year], it's time to let it go -- particularly with what has transpired the last week. It's time to upgrade wherever we can."
This upgrade concept is not foreign to Widger. His only complaint is about the explanation behind the decision.
"Right now, I'm not sure what else to say," Widger said. "I go out there to play hard every day, and I didn't see it coming. It caught me by surprise."