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Article posted: 7/30/2012 8:48 PM

White Sox GM Williams on magical run

By Barry Rozner

It's not quite chicken salad yet, but it's better than the alternative, and Kenny Williams has it headed in the right direction.

It's really an amazing culinary feat.

The White Sox general manager has taken a team picked by some to finish last in the AL Central and has them in first place with 60 games remaining on the schedule.

How many experts predicted that?

Still, with so many games to play and a talented Detroit roster lurking, it is far from a guarantee that the Sox will even make the playoffs.

But at this moment, the man so heavily criticized just a few months ago is a leading candidate -- along with the Nats' Mike Rizzo -- for MLB Executive of the Year.

Consider that Williams first had to be talked into staying on the job after the abject misery of Ozzie Guillen's final two seasons ruining -- excuse me, running -- the White Sox.

Absent the arsonist in the dugout, Williams is no longer a firefighter, free to generally manage instead of exhausted from carrying water buckets and answering daily questions about the Miami maniac.

Seeing players like Adam Dunn and Alex Rios crumble under the pressure Guillen selfishly placed on players he should have been helping instead of hurting, Williams hired the anti-Guillen in Robin Ventura.

It was a choice that brought even more snickers than sneers, but the antithesis of Guillen has brought a peace and quiet to the clubhouse, helping turn the direction of the Sox and the careers of some players.

The scouts and minor-league execs who work for Williams, routinely panned by the critics as being the worst in baseball, have given the 25-man roster Jose Quintana, Chris Sale, Phil Humber, Addison Reed, Nate Jones, Alejandro De Aza, Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez and Jordan Danks.

At one point this season, the Sox had 10 rookies and two second-year players on the active roster, and several key veterans over the past few seasons have been acquired through trades involving Sox prospects.

But perhaps nothing has been more impressive during Williams' time here than his recent deals for Kevin Youkilis, Brett Myers and Francisco Liriano.

Considering the very narrow parameters with which he had to work, it is amazing what Williams has accomplished.

He had to find players who needed a new address. He had to locate inexpensive contracts. He needed trading partners who would pay most of the money owed. He had to outbid other clubs looking for the same players. And he had to do it giving up little from his 25-man roster -- which would have defeated the purpose -- while sending away marginal prospects from a farm system generally regarded as one of the worst-stocked in baseball.

And in the process Williams has handed Ventura a starting third baseman who can hit and field, a veteran arm in the pen who may wind up being the closer, and a left-handed starting pitcher at a time when the Sox' rotation desperately needed a healthy arm.

It would be nice if Williams had the money and prospects to get nothing but all-stars in their prime, or if he could afford to deal players off his roster, but he doesn't have those luxuries.

Part of that is Williams' desire every year to win, for which he has also paid a price, but the Sox also don't have the opportunity to rebuild when the fan base will only pay to see a winning team.

Of course, for all of the praise Williams and the Sox get here today, it is a promise of nothing, especially considering the current state of their rotation.

It's far from a surety that they can hold off Detroit or even capture a wild-card spot, but considering the way last season ended and the confidence of the fans and media entering 2012, it has been a stunning 102 games thus far, and it has been most entertaining for White Sox fans.

But if the White Sox manage to get through these final two months, patching together enough pitching to make it work, and somehow make the playoffs, one thing seems a strong possibility.

Ken Williams will collect some hardware in the fall, World Series ring or not.

brozner@dailyherald.com

čListen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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