White Sox

Williams on criticism: 'Bring it on'

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Williams on criticism: 'Bring it on'

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.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sunday marked the first surprise of White Sox spring training, courtesy of first baseman Jose Abreu.

“This year, I’m going to try to steal more bases,” Abreu said through a translator.

This might have sounded like a joke, but Abreu was completely serious.

On paper, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. In 614 career games, Abreu has only six stolen bases. However, the slimmed-down first baseman does have some sneaky speed. His six triples last season ranked third in the American League. So there are some wheels to work with.

“I like the challenge. I think that’s a good challenge for me. I’m ready for it,” Abreu said.

How many steals are we talking about? A reporter asked sarcastically if a 30-30 season is in the offing? Abreu didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility.

“Who knows? When you fill your mind with positive things, maybe you can accomplish them,” Abreu said. “The mind of a human being works in a lot of different ways. If you fill your mind with good things, good things are going to happen.”

The morning began with Abreu walking to the hitting cages with his Cuban compadres Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, who the White Sox signed last summer. He held his first workout on Sunday. At the White Sox hitters camp last month, Moncada took Robert under his wing, showing him the ropes, even telling Ricky Renteria, “I got him.”

But Sunday, Abreu was in charge, holding court with the three of them in the cage. Abreu watched closely as Robert hit off a tee, giving him pointers about his swing.

“I just like to help people,” Abreu said. “When I started to play at 16 in Cuba, I had a lot people who hounded me to get better. At the same point, I want to give back things that I’ve learned and pass that along to other people. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting anything else. I’m just glad to help them and get them better.”

What kind of advice has he passed along to Robert?

“Since I came to this country, I learned quickly three keys to be a success: Be disciplined, work hard and always be on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you’re going to be good. Those are the three keys I’m trying to teach the new kids, the young guys,” Abreu said.

Abreu lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. He said he hopes to learn more English in 2018. He also arrived at spring training sporting a scruffy beard which he grew while he was in Cuba so he “could be incongnito.”

Abreu likes his new look. Moncada thinks he should shave it off.

“If the organization doesn’t say anything, I’m just going to keep it,” Abreu said.

Well, so much for that.

Moments after Abreu spoke with the media, Renteria told reporters that Abreu will have to “clean it up a bit.”

The two will find a compromise. Come to think of it, maybe Abreu and the White Sox should do the same about a contract extension in the near future.

Yes, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires in two years, but there have been no signs of a decline with his performance. Instead, Abreu is only getting better both offensively and defensively.

Heck, now he wants to steal bases, too.

After Renteria, Abreu is the leader of this team. He commands ultimate respect inside the clubhouse. He’s become another coach to Moncada, Robert and others. He’s a huge brick in the present and too big of an influence and cornerstone to not have around in the future.

“I hope to play my entire career in the majors with the White Sox,” Abreu said Sunday. “But I can’t control that.”

At some point, a decision will have to be made whether to keep Abreu or trade him. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: What will bring more value to the White Sox, getting a high-end prospect or two in return not knowing if they’ll ever succeed in the majors? Or keeping your best player, the heart and soul of your team, allowing him to show your future stars the way while they’re developing in the major leagues?

Seems like an easy decision to me.