Friday, December 3, 2010

An Evil Megalomaniac

  • Bent on world domination:

With his trusty assistant/enforcer Nuclear Ozzie Guillen at his side, White Sox GM Kenny Williams lets the world know----in deeds and not words----that he couldn't care less what's said or thought of him.

You think he clings to the past with maneuvers like trading for a shot Ken Griffey Jr.? That he relied to heavily on his manager's assessment in filling the DH role in 2010? That he claimed a bad contract in Alex Rios? That he overspends on Cuban players? That he reacts too quickly and aggressively if things aren't going according to his plan? That he ignores statistics, defense and takes a lax approach to the farm system?

Guess what. He doesn't care.

I haven't read any of the reactions----from either stat zombies and old-schoolers----to Williams's signing of Adam Dunn to a 4-year, $56 million contract, but the hand-in-hand rapid fire decisions to pursue and take action are indicative of the way Williams has run his club since taking over. He makes his decision without pretense, fear or regret; he identifies his target and goes after him; if he fails, he moves quickly onto the next thing----with it still in mind that he could return to the pursuit if the initial target remains available (see Jake Peavy).

Williams's approach is elegant in its simplicity. They have a need, he fills the need.

While other GMs are planning and scheming and looking for press coverage to bolster false claims of genius, Williams is making bold decisions. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don't; but he's unconcerned with perception aside from (to steal a line from The Departed) that he wants everyone to know that he's the guy who does his job and they must be the other guys.

Built on an old-school premise of deep starting pitching; a hard-throwing bullpen; a classically devised lineup; and a manager who bears the brunt of the media attacks while maintaining a love-hate relationship with the GM, the White Sox are always a threat to win; always a threat to be in on every deal. If they don't work, he moves on.

With Dunn, you know what you're getting. His consistency is creepily robotic. 40 homers; 100+ RBI; walks; strikeouts; a big OPS.

You know.

There's value in knowing.

Dunn's only 31 and his defensive faults won't exist if he's DH-ing. (Williams doesn't worry much about defense anyway.) He's exactly what the White Sox were missing when they didn't adequately replace Jim Thome last season. Williams struck fast, decisively and smartly and filled the biggest hole the White Sox had.

In addition to that, the White Sox have covered themselves in the event Paul Konerko doesn't re-sign (and I think he will re-sign). Believe me when I say that Williams has a contingency plan in place if James Bond is able to thwart his current diabolical scheme.

It's the way any evil genius works----if he's good at his job at all, that is.

  • Eschewing sentimentality:

What is this connection the Red Sox have with Jason Varitek that's preventing the club from doing what needs to be done and letting him go?

For a team that has been notoriously brutal in dispatching players from whom they're no longer getting use, they're attached to Varitek to a bizarre and self-immolating degree. Varitek can't hit; he can't throw; and his handling the pitching staff is taken out of context as it's compared to a poor defensive catcher in Victor Martinez. (You can read more about his positives and dwindling negatives here on B-R Blog.)

This repeated reference to Varitek as "the Captain" and discussing his intangibles is against the essence of what the Red Sox have created under John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein. It's about being ruthless when the time comes; doing what must be done without hesitation or mercy.

Is what Varitek provides worth $2 million? Is it worth the inevitable need to release him when he's clearly shot? (I'm saying by late May.) What's more painful? Acceptance or delaying the truth? Look at what happened to the Braves with Tom Glavine. They should've told him to retire after the 2008 season; they didn't and it turned into a messy divorce that has since been reconciled, but didn't have to happen in the first place.

There's a blind spot with Varitek that's puzzling. He can't play anymore. Touting his "leadership" and defensive skills (even though reality proves the assertion to be wanting) is the epitome of a false justification for doing something that makes no sense.

All due respect to Varitek, but the Red Sox could probably get the same defense from 50-year-old and long-since retired Charlie O'Brien. O'Brien was beloved by his pitchers from Dwight Gooden to Greg Maddux; he couldn't hit, but now, nor can Varitek.

Cut the cord.


And if they value his locker room presence and leadership so much, make him a coach....and don't pay him $2 million to do it.

  • Viewer Mail 12.3.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Mets:

Your assessment of the Mets is very rational. Why should they go down the same road with the free agents when the last regime got blasted for it?

I'm known for my rationality, Jane.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE New York/Chicago:

It's a New York thang, Prince. No offense, but New Yorkers (in my experience) are never satisfied. And they complain a lot... not as much as Bostonians, but still, it's a lot.

Chicagoans on the other hand... we just tend to be fat and loud (as a whole, not myself, of course)... except for the loud part. I am loud.

But after the way the Mets have disintegrated since Yadier Molina, one would think there'd be a "let's ride it out" sentiment as the new front office gets settled in----they're not even moved in yet!!

You can't compare New York to Chicago; you have an evil, psychopathic, world-dominating genius in Kenny Williams running things over there. Apples and oranges.

Mike Fierman writes RE the Mets and me:

not to be bitchy but how is the roster of the 2011 Mets so different from the 2010 version that you predicted would win the NL east in your book? aside from Santana. is his injury enough to make them a .500 team? Have you no confidence in Bay? I think he will have a bounceback year.

You're not being bitchy; it's a good point.

Obviously there were three tiers of reaction to my assessment last year. First was the ridicule; then the terror at mid-season when it looked like I was right; then the collapse. It had more to do with the best case scenario of Jason Bay playing well; Carlos Beltran coming back in May as they said he would; Johan Santana having a big year; and things coming together in other ways.

Without coming to any Mike Francesa-style revisionist history; self-important caveats ("I would'a been right, but they didn't play as I said they would); or out-and-out lies, had Beltran played well on his return and Bay not gotten hurt, who knows what would've happened?

From your fantasy baseball success, you know that for most teams the difference between 81-81, 90-72 and 76-86 is a couple of important bullpen outs; three or four big hits; a defensive play; and luck. As a base, the Mets are----talent wise----around 81-81 for 2011; with some luck, some good play and an aggressive mid-season trade if they are playing well, that's 87-90 wins; or it could go the other way in an "everything must go" sale of Jose Reyes and Beltran in July. That would relegate them to playing out the string and waiting until the winter of 2011 to make the big moves with the freed money from departing albatrosses.

John Seal (West Coast Spiritual Advisor) writes RE Derek Jeter, Moneyball and me:

I am now really hoping Jeter signs with the Red Sox. I want to see The Prince bring Jeremy Giambi to life on the big screen (nothing could bring him to life on the baseball diamond)! I'd like to see you SLIDE into home plate...something Jeremy once forgot to do IN A VERY IMPORTANT GAME...

People are flipping out at the audacity of the Red Sox offering a contract to Mariano Rivera. They probably did it because they thought it'd be funny, but I thought this was America; they can offer contracts to whomever they want. The truth is that, defensively, the Red Sox are better with Marco Scutaro than they would be with Jeter. For the Yankees, it's paying for time-served and loyalty; for the Red Sox, it'd be a waste of money considering the above-and-beyond amount it would take to get Jeter to don their uniform.

Slide? I'd have taken Posada out with a shoulder right in the gut! Discipline wasn't the hallmark of those Athletics teams and as much as they tried to blame Art Howe for the failures, it doesn't work that way. If the front office gets the credit for the good, then they get the blame for the bad.

Look on the bright side: you're closing in on Adrian Beltre and his historic success in the post-season and fingers full of championship rings.


I was on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz nine days ago talking about the Hot Stove; the Mets; Derek Jeter; post-season award winners; and other stuff. You can click on the link here directly or here for Sal's site to listen on I-Tunes.


She-Fan said...

I was surprised the Red Sox brought Varitek back too. Maybe he has pics of Theo in a compromising position.

Jeff said...

Yeah, I actually LOL'd (that's what the kids are sayin') when I heard about Varitek.

As for the White Sox, Kenny Williams and his front office skillz perfectly mirror the lifestyle and culture of the neighborhood where the Sox play. We southsidaz... we'z NASTY!!!

Joe said...

Varitek actually serves more of a purpose this time. As of now they could platoon Salty and Varitek -- as each one has been a solid hitter from the opposite side of the plate over the past 3 years. Statistically, they should be able to add up to one decent catcher. Of course, injury history and how Varitek's age will effect him are both unknowns. But people are looking at this from the wrong perspective, because a platoon might be a league-average catcher. But I do hope they find someone else that can give them a little more certainty...However, as of now, it could be worse.

mike fierman said...

re Williams style- he called up Chris Sale the day they drafted him and and basically said "look kid, we drafted you for a reason and that reason is that we want you and we want to use you NOW, as in this year- so don't waste our time with pussyfooting around with signing" he signed, and as all know, he pitched.
he may not be stealth ninja, but I like his style