When Kenny Williams was introduced during the opening ceremonies of Sox Fest on Friday, he knew the boos were coming.
How big and how loud? He wasnt sure. But considering his past history with an unhappy White Sox public, he was actually looking forward to them.
I was booed in 2004 and 2007 and we went to the playoffs the next year, so bring it on. Hopefully well be three for three, Williams said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. The guys on stage were trying to determine a percentage, and the consensus was 10 percent. I thought it was more like 20.
The anger and venom that has been slung in Williams direction this off-season is a complete 180 from the reaction he received last year at Sox Fest after he signed Adam Dunn and brought back Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski.
A week before this date a year ago, I walked into Chicago Cut Restaurant, and I got a standing ovation from the entire dining room. People were happy. Were back on the map, were going to challenge for a championship, Williams said. I came here to Sox Fest and there were praises all around.
After seeing him get treated like a king for two straight days, Williams new girlfriend asked him if this happened all the time.
I said, You havent been through this. Let me explain to you how this is going to work. If these guys dont play well, if this team doesnt play well, those same people that were standing and cheering will want me on the next plane out of town. Probably not even a plane a bus. They probably wouldnt want me to be that comfortable.
After his All-in White Sox proceeded to go 79-83, many fans would have ordered a Greyhound to pick up Williams outside U-S Cellular Field, and bought him a one-way ticket.
Since the end of the season, Williams has been bombarded with criticism for not resigning Mark Buehrle, for trading Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin for prospects, while hoping that Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Gordon Beckham and Dunn have bounce back seasons.
Then theres the fallout of the Kenny-Ozzie feud, which is a chapter all its own. Its a story that seems to have no end.
Is the Kenny criticism justified? Yes. But has some of the abuse been unfair? Williams singled out two members of the media.
There are two people in particular who seemingly -- thats all they know how to write about, and evidently dont have the ability or the inclination to want to write about anything other than the dead subjects theyve already covered, Williams said. Thats their problem, not my problem. Where it becomes my problem is if people buy into it, and then dont show up as a result.
Sagging attendance has become a major problem for the White Sox, who have seen their attendance drop every season since 2006, when they averaged 36,511 a game. In 2011, that number was down to 24,705; their lowest since 2004.
Many of the fans who came out last year booed Adam Dunn, who had one of the worst hitting seasons of all-time. Does Williams expect him to have a comeback season?
Absolutely," Williams said. "This is a proud man and a very successful man. He didnt just happen upon the deal that we gave him. He earned it.
And Williams says he takes part of the blame for Dunns struggles at the plate.
In hindsight, if I can think of one thing we could have done differently, I would have given him more time after his appendix surgery at the beginning of the season, because he had a whole month, or six weeks almost of getting ready for the season. After week one, he goes down and now we bring him up into cold weather. Nobody is making any excuses. Hes not making excuses, but if I had to do something in hindsight, I would have left him out another week as opposed to throwing him right into the fire.
Now the White Sox have to deal with the heat of Prince Fielder, signed by the rival Tigers this week to a nine-year, 214 million contract.
What was Williams reaction when he got the news?
I cant tell you what my reaction was. Not without you bleeping it out. It is what it is. It must be nice. You have a guy go down, Victor Martinez, and to be able to say, Whos out there? Lets go get Prince.'"
It was starting to sound like Williams might be a bit envious of the Tigers, picked by many to run away with the AL-Central. However, the White Sox general manager says he looks at it a different way.
The Tigers are clearly the team to beat in our division. Weve been clearly the team to beat in our division a number of times, too. It didnt exactly work out well for us. Lets hope it doesnt work out well for them.