Slow start won't change Williams' approach

Slow start won't change Williams' approach

Slow start won't change Williams' approach
CHICAGO -- The 2011 Chicago White Sox blueprint -- or the "All-in manifesto," if you will -- certainly did not feature an 11-21 start at its foundation.

There was no anticipation of a 10 1/2- or 11-game deficit to overcome after just five weeks and no thoughts of anything but good feelings surrounding this team from the outset.

With the increase of payroll to a franchise-record $126 million, and more importantly, the smart addition of players who seemed to fill in White Sox needs, this more complete version of the South Siders was billed at the very least as an American League Central contender.

In hindsight, after as crushing of a start as imaginable in Ozzie Guillen's eight years of leadership, it's easy to criticize the White Sox manager for his team's early debacle. It's convenient to batter hitting coach Greg Walker for the prolonged struggles on offense after a red-hot opening through nine games.

And of course, general manager Ken Williams also seems to be a target, with big-ticket free-agent addition Adam Dunn hitting .153 with 12 RBIs as an example of the early trouble, despite pundits and die-hard fans praising the four-year, $56 million deal agreed upon this past offseason. There was almost just as little complaining when the deal for Jake Peavy was made two Trade Deadlines ago.

Williams understands the constant scrutiny, and the "(Insert name here) needs to be fired" talk resulting from the team's 4-17 record over the past 21 games. But in a recent conversation with MLB.com, Williams confidently spoke of how taking hits in public forums won't change his aggressive way of operating.

"I don't look back on the decisions that we make in terms of, 'Should we have made them?' or not so black and white in that way," said Williams, speaking before the White Sox lost two straight to the Twins, including Francisco Liriano's no-hitter on Tuesday. "I always felt comfortable with the thought process at a given time and the mindset that we had placed ourselves in, which was: 'Exhaust ourselves to try to get the greatest impact players in tow to try to win a championship.'

"Now, the variables that happen afterward are easy to be critical of or are open for second-guessing. I can't afford to let those be the prevailing thoughts in any scenario, because that prevents you from acting as aggressively the next time.

"It's the same thing as a hitter that goes up, and he prepares himself and takes his cuts, and all of a sudden at the end of the day, he's 0-for-5 with three strikeouts," Williams said. "Well, you know, that's just the way it went for him that day."

Here's another example of Williams' thought process, along the lines of that much-hyped all-in mentality. For a gambler to win big, that individual either has to be extremely lucky or also has to be willing to take the chance of losing big. The White Sox have found virtually no luck through 32 games, unless bad luck is factored in, and they have lost big.

Yet when asked directly about whether certain moves over the past few years didn't make this team better, Williams again wouldn't grade on a pass-fail sort of system. It's not as simple as judging on statistics alone.

Take the 2008 trade of Nick Swisher -- who has found a home roaming the outfield at Yankee Stadium -- which brought the White Sox two Minor League pitchers in return. Plain and simple, Swisher didn't fit with the White Sox.

"A lot of times, people don't necessarily understand it's not always about the talent you get back," Williams said. "Sometimes it's about the monetary relief you get, so that it will allow you to go out and get somebody else that is a better fit. It's not always about the production of a player or the talent of a player.

"There are some peripheral things that also go into the equation to fit in the team environment, with the team concept to make sure you can pull together in 162 [games]. Swisher didn't fit."

Then there's Peavy, who makes a potential final Minor League rehab start at Toledo on Thursday night. He is owed $16 million this season and $17 million in 2012, but due to injuries, Peavy has a 10-6 record, 4.11 ERA and has made just 20 starts since coming over to the White Sox with an ankle injury in 2009.

If Peavy had his hard-driven way, he would be going nine innings every fifth day for the White Sox. Experimental surgery on July 14, 2010, to reattach the tendon that anchors the latissimus dorsi muscle to the rear of the right shoulder has slowed down that drive.

Acquiring Peavy for four hurlers -- including Clayton Richard and Adam Russell, who are both pitching at the Major League level -- had a postseason purpose behind it. This deal centered on rotation alignment with an eye to a championship.

"He was going to be No. 1," said Williams. "If you have hopes to beat the best in the league, you better have the best in the league facing them. In our assessment, that's what we had to do. My mindset, it never changes."

At some point, Williams and the White Sox might reach a 2011 point of no return, and corresponding moves could be put into motion. But neither Williams nor Guillen is close to giving up, and neither are the players. Williams remembers when he took over the general manager's job and the laughs coming when he talked at the time about winning a couple of championships.

His focus hasn't been altered.

"Kenny is really good at what he does," White Sox reliever Matt Thornton said. "He's put a great team together, and [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] has given him flexibility to add pieces we've normally not been able to over the years I've been here. I have no idea what their mindset is right now. I know they have complete confidence in us."

You also can bet any moves Williams makes will be geared to winning more future championships and to avoid being stuck in that unwanted middle-of-the-pack limbo or below.

"Sports is such that people are going to get hurt," Williams said. "People are going to not perform or somebody else is going to outperform you. That's the nature of the beast.

"I've said it once. I've said it one thousand times. You exhaust yourself to try to bring a championship club, and you need impact championship-type players in order to accomplish that. I wouldn't have it any other way.

"Listen, I think we can probably put together a team that would be a tick above .500 every year," Williams said. "But what the hell does that get you? It might help me keep my job longer or whatever, but it won't be satisfying."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.