By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) I mean, it’s not like you didn’t know the Chicago White Sox were a sick old dog ready to expire in the backyard any day now. Fourth place in the American League Central, 13 games out of the division lead and 8.5 out of the second wild card aren’t so much a secret as a bleary-eyed exercise in feeling icky looking at the standings once or twice a week.
But — in case you need that little bottle of energy shot to perk your annual August Sox fatigue up to ire — executive vice president Kenny Williams has got you.
We haven’t heard from Williams since the aftermath of Chris Sale Origami Night at U.S. Cellular Field. After being diplomatic having to publicly discuss his petulant pitcher, Williams noted, “Now, at one point in my career, you probably could’ve gotten me to comment in a very different way. I’m sure it would be more entertaining for all — except for me and us.”
Whoa, was this a new Kenny? No more hardass stepdad or the guy who speaks from an authority that emasculates his general manager? Say it ain’t so.
It ain’t so.
Some in the White Sox organization spent a Monday’s off day at a charity event on a golf course (metaphors be damned) and probably contemplating mankind’s purpose in the universe. Williams was there, and microphones found him.
“We’ve got to get some things together,” Williams told CSN Chicago. “As everyone knows by now, we started off very well. Unfortunately things kind of unraveled and we lost some key members of our bullpen which didn’t help and kind of spear-headed that unraveling.
“But we’ll get it together and come out of this swinging.”
If you understand what getting “it” together means or coming out of what swinging would entail, I’d appreciate an explanation. Such vagueries aren’t typical of Williams. Usually he spills something more specific — like undercutting general manager Rick Hahn on the vision of the team last November — but what’s quite consistent here is that when Kenny Williams speaks to the media, you know it’s going bad for the White Sox. He’s become the tangential character on a bad reality show (I repeat myself) whose entertainment value is that he might scold and curse the main characters and then disappear for a few episodes. When he’s on camera, things have hit the fan and been sprayed all over the room.
“More evaluation, more evaluation from all angles,” Williams explained his Trump-esque foreign policy going forward. “When I say ‘all angles,’ there’s more than just the major league club. There’s the minor league part of the organization we’ve got to be concerned with and all the staffs and the things that go into what you see as the end product on the major league side of things.”
“All the staffs and things” may or may not include Hahn, whom Williams continues to not defer to when discussing the direction of the White Sox. Hence the recent rumor that those two were at odds regarding that direction at the trade deadline.
Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune wrote last Tuesday:
“Earlier in the day, David Kaplan of WMVP-AM 1000 and Comcast SportsNet said on the his radio show that …. a source told him of a disagreement between executive vice president Ken Williams and general manager Rick Hahn about which direction the team should go at the trade deadline, with Hahn favoring a rebuild.
“Kaplan then refuted his own words on TV, saying chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told him the front office was ‘100 percent in lockstep’ about the club’s direction at the deadline and moving forward into the offseason.
“A Sox source called Kaplan’s words about the clashing philosophies in the front office ‘absolute nonsense.’”
Regardless of the rumor’s validity, we’re going on several years now of not being able to shake the assumption that Hahn is operating only so far as Williams slacks the leash. Reading between the lines, Hahn has hit the silent alarm button to let us know this travesty of a team isn’t much on him.
“Where we’re at right now, essentially in the middle of the pack, is not acceptable and not where we want to be,” Hahn said at the beginning of August. “Our approach of trying to keep things together, of trying to contend each year, hasn’t gotten us to where we’ve been able to have sustained success or achieve at the level we want to.”
But Williams says everyone at 35th and Shields is going to get it together and come out swinging.
I still don’t know what that means. But I know that because Kenny Williams said it, the state of the White Sox isn’t good.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.