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Looking back, Williams comfortable with moves

Looking back, Williams comfortable with moves

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Looking back, Williams comfortable with moves

CHICAGO -- The general targets of criticism for the 2013 White Sox debacle have moved from general manager Rick Hahn to manager Robin Ventura to the coaching staff to the players on the field, depending on the day and seemingly the nature of the loss.

At the center of this underachieving season sits executive vice president Ken Williams, who was the franchise architect as general manager from 2001-12. He has been bashed for neglecting the farm system, high Draft picks who didn't materialize, bad free-agent contracts, bad trades and pretty much everything else that has pushed the White Sox deep into the bottom of the American League Central.

When asked about having that negative target on his back before Tuesday's game, Williams didn't seem overly affected by the critics. Not when he was going for a championship every year at the helm.

"I did the best I could for as long as I could. I pushed the envelope every year to try to put a winner on this field for our fans," Williams told MLB.com and CSNChicago.com, during a conversation following a 20-minute group interview. "Unfortunately, I thought we had some teams that were right there and for whatever reason didn't accomplish the goal."

Williams' tenure featured teams over .500 in eight seasons and one year at .500. The 2005 squad stands as the lone World Series champion in Chicago over the past century.

That one title, though, was not good enough for Williams. So when angry supporters have harsh words, Williams points out that his tenure didn't meet his own goals.

He also explained that when a championship is the only acceptable outcome, certain budget areas might get shortchanged to reinforce the big league squad.

"Sometimes you're just flat wrong in your evaluation, whether it be in a free-agent signing or a Draft pick or whatever," Williams said. "You do the best you can and when you're wrong, you get up and you keep pushing."

During the extended group interview, Williams hit a wide range of topics.

• Even with a '13 attendance that will check in under 2 million, Williams sees the White Sox being able to spend in the upcoming free-agent market. But it's not as much about the money as it is about the fit.

"Listen, we're still a very aggressive organization. We want to win," Williams said. "In 2007, as bad as it was, we came back and we won in 2008. We still have some very good pieces, as evidenced by the amount of interest in all of our guys at the Trade Deadline.

"We're going to go into the offseason and we're going to try to be winning, albeit with a younger core. If there's somebody out there that fits that bill, that fits in with a younger core for an extended period of time, why not?"

• He has viewed three tapes of Jose Abreu, the recently defected slugger from Cuba, but cryptically said he needs to see more.

Avisail Garcia could be a game-changer for many years to come on the South Side.

"I'm excited to see him. He's going to be a guy that people will actually say, 'Let's go out and see this kid,'" Williams said. "A lot of guys will go out and can do a lot of things he can do, but they don't have that flair and fun about them, too, and that hustle. I like the way he runs balls out and rounds bases. That's who we are. We've got to get back to that grind."

• Designated hitter Adam Dunn has not lived up to the lofty expectations the team had for him after signing a four-year, $56 million free-agent deal prior to the 2011 campaign.

"There are signs lately with his willingness to go to left field and shorten things up he can do that," Williams said. "I don't know what his numbers are the last couple months, but it's more indicative of what we were expecting at the beginning. It is what it is. There is a human element to the game, too. Sometimes you just don't get it done."

• His new job is still in an adjustment period, but Williams enjoyed the extra scouting ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

• Micker Adolfo Zapata has Williams as excited about a prospect as he has been in recent memory.

• With a solid pitching core in place, the White Sox are not as far off from being competitive as people think. That comment brings everything back full circle to Williams being the cause for '13 failure.

"How seriously can I take it when people say I left this organization in a dire situation, but in the next paragraph it says their pitching has been solid," Williams said. "We love the pitching going forward, and these contracts we were supposedly saddled with, we were able to use them, which was always our plan if we had a situation such as this, that we could use what we had and replenish things that way.

"Sometimes if people aren't into you, they're just not into you. They're going to find a reason to step on you."

Williams didn't get the multiple White Sox titles. He was satisfied with the effort put in to get there.

"It's kind of the same way I feel about the players and coaching staff: If you give it everything you have and leave nothing on the table, then I think you can walk away with your head held high," Williams said. "You have to be comfortable with that and know that you're in the business where even when I was right, I was wrong to a certain segment of the population.

"I was never too busy not to hear some of it. But I was always certainly too busy to pay too much attention to it."

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

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