By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) The Internet – and Twitter – are all atwitter today with the news that Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is reportedly polishing his rings and loading up his Starbucks Card as he prepares to bolt Boston to butt horns with billy goats and Bartmen in Chicago.
Heady stuff, to be sure.
But before I can even ponder the impact of Theo at Wrigley, I first need to wrap my head around what the heck White Sox GM Kenny Williams is up to these days at U.S. Cellular Field – a place that somehow has become even nuttier now that Ozzie Guillen has left the building.
How crazy is that?
The lunacy started last week, of course, when Williams shocked the baseball world – and probably Robin Ventura himself – when he announced that he was hiring the former White Sox All-Star as his new manager. This, in spite of the fact that Ventura has less coaching experience than, you know, any manager in the history of the game.
In other words, not one bit.
On Tuesday, however, with Chicago still scratching its collective scalp over Williams’ curious call on Ventura, the White Sox’s GM made it a point to prove to us that he’s not as crazy as we thought.
He’s actually much crazier.
We now know, because, during Ventura’s introductory press conference, Williams managed to steal the show by admitting that he had, in fact, considered hiring current White Sox slugger Paul Konerko as a player-manager to fill Guillen’s shoes.
“That report is not false,” the increasingly eccentric Williams said, choosing the wordiest possible way to say “yes.”
“It was considered long enough for me to realize that Paul is a very cerebral person and he would probably drive himself nuts right now playing and managing at the same time,” Williams continued. “But that’s the kind of respect I have for him that. I did consider it. Then I thought I think I would rather him be focused more on hitting third or fourth in the lineup and driving in 100 runs rather than trying to worry about 25 other guys in addition to it. We are trying to win.”
Hey, if you say so, Kenny.
Although no team has tried – or, as far as I know, even considered – turning the player-manager trick in a quarter-century. And Arizona learned just recently how good an idea it was to hire a manager (A.J. Hinch) with the kind of managing experience that Ventura has (none). But to each his own …
The oddest thing about the two guys that Williams’ has publicly acknowledged to be candidates for the Sox job is that neither Ventura nor Konerko even expressed any interest to the GM in actually managing the Sox.
Mind you, this isn’t Ryne Sandberg telling the Cubs four years ago that he wanted to lead a major league team. Rather, Williams’ behavior in this managerial search is more like that of a general manager of an upscale restaurant strolling up to one of his waiters and telling him that, starting today, he’s going to be his next great chef.
“But I’ve never been a chef,” the guy says, taken aback. “To be honest with you, I really don’t even know how to cook at all.”
“Ah, but I’ve seen you handle a spoon,” the restaurant GM says with a dismissive wave and a hearty slap on the back. “Besides, you’ve seen other guys cook. How hard can it be? And I like way you handle yourself around a plate. Now, let’s talk contract. You’ll come cheap, of course …”
Voila, the guy’s a chef.
(Even if he’s not.)
During the past few weeks, everyone who supposedly knew anything about the White Sox was throwing around names like Dave Martinez, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Terry Francona as potential successors to Guillen’s South Side throne. But it turned out all that was half-baked as those guys apparently weren’t even on Williams’ radar in the Hunt for Mr. October. And, heck, why would they be?
I mean, they had experience. And Kenny just wasn’t looking for that. I know, because I’ve actually gotten my hands on Williams’ managerial short list. It was smuggled out of U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday like Albert Belle’s corked bat, although the guy who gave it to me so shall remain nameless.
But, thanks, Oney.
And now on with the list, which includes the notes that Williams scribbled to himself during his search …
Candidate #1: Pete Rose. Heard a rumor we actually hired this guy last winter. Found out it was Pete Rose Junior. Bummer. Called the HOF for Pete Sr.’s number, but they hung up on me. Bud Selig now blowing up my cell. Hmm … He has Rose’s number, I bet …
Candidate #2: Mickey Goldmill. Great spunk. Fascinated by this lightning diet (note: check if that’s on banned PED list). Guy didn’t just manage Rocky Balboa to a world championship, he trained the Stallion, too. Bingo! Can hold down two jobs at once. Perfect candidate. Haven’t watched Rocky III yet, but I’ll call him afterward …
Candidate #3: Jake Taylor. Seemed like a player-manager on the field during those Major League movies (again: two jobs, one stone). Also knows how to bunt and beat the Yankees. More plusses. Trying to find Tom Berenger’s number, but Hollywood seems to have lost it …
Candidate #4: Roy Hobbs: With his good looks and experience, guy would be a Natural. But Hobbs won’t stay in any of the hotel rooms I keep booking for him in Chicago for his interview. Boy, makes you wonder …
Candidate #5: Mike Quade. Knows Red Line. No relocation costs (the Chairman will like that). Heard he’s looking for a job .. Hey, how’d that cat get in my office? Anybody got a bag?
Candidate #6: Ozzie Guillen. I really like this player-manager idea, and we do need some help up the middle. He’s a former shortstop and can manage a little, too (don’t tell anyone I said that). Reconciliations never work out, though. Besides, he’s way over in Spain. I hate calling international …
Candidate #7: Kenny Williams’ ego: No managing experience, check. Handsome, check. Brilliant, check … Having a tough time, though, finding a cap big enough to fit my, er … its head.
Candidate #8: Ventura or Konerko. All right, enough of this. Heads it’s Paulie, tails it’s …
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.