New job means new start for White Sox' Williams
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White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams finds life much more relaxing now that he no longer has duties as general manager.
Kenny Williams sat down slowly on a bench in the White Sox' dugout and put his feet up on a railing.
He smiled frequently and spoke passionately about the new position he created last fall, when he kicked himself upstairs.
But his tone was melodious and the volume down — until GM Rick Hahn walked briskly up to Williams, had a brief conversation and then moved swiftly to the next of his appointed rounds.
It was an hour before first pitch on Opening Day, and Hahn was never motionless. Williams, on the other hand, was manager of his modest pace. He pointed at Hahn as he walked away and chuckled at the man's expense — but not without empathy.
It wasn't so much "careful what you wish for" as it was "better him than me."
Williams has walked in those shoes, having traded them now for — relatively speaking — slippers.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it. I miss it," Williams said. "I miss the conversations with other GMs about trades. I miss all the different discussions about acquisitions. Now, I'm having those conversations with Rick.
"On the other hand, I'm more, um, I don't know …"
"That's what I hear," Williams laughed. "Personally and professionally, I have fallen into a good place. I feel good. I feel healthy."
Now, don't misunderstand. Williams is still putting in full days and participating in the decision-making. He's just not putting in full nights.
He's like the grandfather who enjoys watching the grandkids during the day, but then gets to go home, have a cigar and a glass of wine, and go to bed when his body tells him it's time.
"I went from sleeping three hours a night, and never consecutive, to six or six-and-a-half," Williams said. "For 10 years, I took sleeping pills every night. I've had two in six months.
"I'm a competitive person and I'm still as invested in the success of the Chicago White Sox as ever. I'm just as involved as ever. I'm just not involved in the day to day as I was.
"The volume of work and worry has been cut dramatically. The amount of time on the telephone — texts and emails — has been cut dramatically.
"In that position you have to be on guard every waking minute of every day, including when you wake up in the middle of the night. You get up and you check your phone and email and make sure you haven't missed anything.
"The anxiety has been cut exponentially."
Williams is learning to live again after 12 years in a position that requires all else to be put on hold or set aside until business is concluded, which is — essentially — never, in today's era of 24-7 media.
It comes at the expense — for many GMs — of marriage, family and any semblance of normalcy.
"What I've learned the last few months is it's a fallacy that the GM can be everywhere all the time, know everything all the time, and be everything to everyone at all times," Williams said. "When you're tied to the club there is no time for relationships.
"In the last few months, I've learned more about the people I work with on a personal level. There's actually time to sit down for meals and talk to people, something I never did before.
"I had lunch with scouts during spring training. Sometimes we just chatted. As a GM, there's a time limit on everything. There's always the next thing you have to do."
When he vacated the chair, Williams said it was also with the intention of diving back into player development, his true baseball love, and he is already concentrating more on the draft and minor leagues than he has in a dozen years.
"I was able to leave spring training three different times (this year) to see an amateur player our scouts have suggested I ought to see," Williams said. "I've missed that a lot the last decade.
"I had a lot of trips scheduled over the years to see amateur players or minor-leaguers or free agents, or National League guys we might want through trade or free agency, and invariably something would come up and I couldn't get away.
"Now, I'm doing it."
Williams also was supposed to become the final word for Hahn, as Jerry Reinsdorf had always been for Williams, thus removing the decision-making burden from Reinsdorf.
Except, it hasn't exactly happened that way.
"Jerry can't change, either," Williams laughed. "This is his 33rd year. He is who he is and he's involved.
"We always discuss things as a group and everyone's opinion is heard and everyone has their say. This works because of the level of respect and humility across the board."
And with that, Williams stood effortlessly, no longer carrying the weight of White Sox Nation on his shoulders, and ambled down the steps toward the clubhouse. He looked around, but not as though he had to be somewhere.
Just a few minutes before first pitch, there was no edge to his voice, no purpose to his gait.
That's because he didn't really have to be any particular place at all.
•Listen 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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