Kenny Williams is no stranger to having his name in the news. In the past few years it has usually been in a negative light such as last season when the Chicago White Sox General Manager had a very public feud with Ozzie Guillen. However, due to the White Sox’ success this season and the role that the GM has had in making that happen, his name is being tossed around in conversations concerning Executive of the Year.
I can think of three main reasons for this consideration.
It is no secret that Chris Sale’s performance this year has come as a surprise. The 23 year-old lefty is 15-5 with an impressive 2.81 ERA. What is even more impressive is that this is his first year as a starter. Sale has emerged as the Sox’ premier pitcher and his name even comes up as a Cy Young candidate. Of course, his success comes as a result of his talent, slider, and unique throwing motion. But there is another reason he has been able to accomplish all that he has. Sale was almost moved back to the bullpen during Spring Training when he decided to confront Kenny Williams one-on-one. Williams was moved by Sale’s determination and admitted that the Sox needed this kind of energy on the starting staff. Without Williams believing in this young player and giving him the starter slot, the White Sox would not be atop the AL Central.
Brett Myers/Francisco Liriano
Yes, reason two does have two players, but they both fall under second half pitcher acquisitions. Williams realized that the bullpen is extremely young and needed another veteran to accompany Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain. Brett Myers was the answer to that problem and will definitely be of some assistance if the White Sox push into the postseason.
The need for another quality starter arose when there became concerns about Chris Sale and Jose Quintana’s total innings. Both pitchers are very young and could benefit from extra rest as the long season wears on. This is not to mention that the Sox starting lineup has been through many injuries this season and it couldn’t help to have another experienced hurler around in case someone else gets hurt. With that in mind, Williams and his team went out and acquired Francisco Liriano. Although Liriano’s performance this season hasn’t been exactly stellar, the Sox know he can pitch with the best of them. His presence will make Sox management feel better about Sale’s occasional rest and Liriano’s experience will come in handy during the high-pressure games of September.
And last, but certainly not least, is third baseman Kevin Youkilis. It is fortunate that the Boston Red Sox are struggling this season and were looking to deal because Youkilis has without a doubt kept the Sox in the AL Central race. When Brent Morel went down early in the season, utility player Orlando Hudson filled in. However, Hudson had some struggles at the hot corner and was less than consistent offensively. It was a breath of fresh air when Youkilis was acquired from Boston. The righty with the odd batting stance hadn’t been his usual self in Boston and was also clashing with management. That seemed to change when he came to Chicago, though, as he took over the second spot in the order and immediately got to work. It would be interesting to know the number of at-bats Youkilis has had that have directly changed the outcome of a game. While his .255 average might not turn any heads, he seems to always hit it at the right time. I can’t think of anyone else I’d prefer at the plate when the game is on the line.
So will Kenny Williams win this management accolade? Well, if he didn’t win it in 2005 when the Sox won the World Series, then no, probably not. But then again, it is a different time and it is true that he has definitely influenced this season. It all depends on how September plays out. The Sox still have very important games with the Detroit Tigers that will decide who will play in October.