Spiegel: If Williams wants to leave Chicago White Sox, the time is right
The timing appears right for an era to end. Jerry and Kenny might be ready to separate.
The Toronto Blue Jays wanted to talk to White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams last December, in hopes of him becoming their next team president. But their timing, and the way in which the initial contact was handled, assured failure.
To refresh, Ed Rogers of the Blue Jays ownership group called Jerry Reinsdorf the day before the 2014 winter meetings and asked for permission to speak to Kenny about replacing Blue Jays president Paul Beeston.
Jerry hung up after the conversation and called his best friend in baseball: that same Paul Beeston. Rogers somehow didn't even know they were close. It was an embarrassing misstep.
Kenny told Jerry at the winter meetings that the Jays already had reached out through an "emissary," a clear incidence of tampering. Another bungle by Toronto, and it further angered Jerry.
In the midst of what was becoming a highly celebrated off-season, Jerry refused permission for Kenny to be interviewed, and the White Sox' front office hit 2015 intact.
The situation has changed vastly, fueled by South Side underachievement, and Toronto's dalliance with Kenny has new life.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale has been in the know on White Sox business for years. He wrote Thursday morning that Kenny is the top candidate to replace Jack Zduriencik in Seattle, if he does not end up in Toronto.
Nightengale wrote it with an assurance that made me pick up the phone.
He joined the Spiegel And Goff Show to share what he could. To synopsize:
• Kenny misses the action of the day-to-day operations and phone calls.
• If asked for permission now, Nightengale believes Jerry would grant it.
• If Kenny left, Jerry still would want an executive buffer between himself and general manager Rick Hahn.
• Robin Ventura assuredly is coming back next season.
• There is zero percent chance of Ozzie Guillen ever managing the White Sox again.
Those last two are sure to draw reaction from Sox fans attached to the day-to-day nature of the game. Ventura often has looked overmatched, and Guillen remains an available, eager emblem of past triumph.
But let's stay on the story at hand: All signs point to Kenny Williams wanting to leave the White Sox for a new challenge.
The time is right for Jerry to let him go.
Hahn has done a lot to change the focus of the organization, spearheading investment and restructuring within the scouting department. Let him continue, now unencumbered, making decisions and deals without running them by his boss first.
The clarity of a long-term plan is what's desperately needed. The piecemeal, year-to-year fiddling to remain competitive has led to so much mediocrity.
The current core and their contracts don't lend themselves to a teardown/rebuild. The starting pitchers are young, cheap, and good, strengthened if Carson Fullmer can join them sometime next year. Jose Abreu is a slugger in his prime, with center field, left field, setup and closer locked into multiyear deals.
But every move could and should be made from a holistic approach, and they should be made by the most forward-thinking in the room.
As for that "executive buffer" Jerry may want between himself and the GM, I don't see the need for it. Let Hahn poach some underlings from successful organizations, filling out a staff to do his bidding. Steal some Cardinals staffers, or some of former Boston GM Ben Cherington's newly available underlings.
It could be that Jerry has someone in mind already. How about the aforementioned old friend Paul Beeston? That'd make for an intriguing episode of MLB Executive Swap.
Either way, let us fully praise what Kenny Williams accomplished here. A World Series trophy is forever. His relentless aggression was often admirable, sometimes successful and always well-intentioned.
But if he's ready to leap, allow it.
• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The Spiegel & Goff Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670.