White Sox

Kenny Williams, Ozzie Guillen's troubles a thing of the past

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Kenny Williams, Ozzie Guillen's troubles a thing of the past

Kenny Williams vs. Ozzie Guillen is apparently water under the bridge.

The executive vice president and former manager had an infamous falling out that led to the end of Guillen's tenure as White Sox manager.

But after being spotted chatting ahead of Friday's home opener on the South Side, Williams was asked about the status of his relationship with Guillen. And Williams said any disharmony is a thing of the past.

"We were 18 years old, so 18, it’s a 30-year friendship and a lot of laughs and a lot of good times. We suffered through some bad times together and still managed to have some laughs along the way. We both got together and decided, listen, whatever transpired over the last couple of years really had less to do with he and I and more to do with some things on the peripheral that some were just, created I won’t say falsely, but certainly created with ill intentions," Williams said ahead of Saturday's game against the Twins. "We’ve chosen to focus on all the years we had a great positive relationship and accomplished something very special than some of the other things."

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Williams and Guillen teamed to help guide the White Sox to a World Series title in 2005, Guillen's second season as manager. But after that, the famously opinionated Guillen led the South Siders to just one postseason appearance over the next six years.

Guillen's departure from the franchise was tied to discord between he and Williams' front office. And Guillen had little luck in his lone season managing the Miami Marlins in 2012, infamously complimenting Fidel Castro in the Marlins' new ballpark in the heart of Little Havana.

Though Guillen's personality hasn't always had beneficial results, Williams said that type of personality is what's missing from baseball today.

"I feel like baseball is missing something. I think misses personality and characters," Williams said, "and a guy who has had as much success as he has and has much baseball knowledge as he has and has a desire to be in uniform should be in uniform somewhere. Hopefully he gets another chance to show it.

"As we talked about yesterday, he says, ‘Kenny, I was in my late 30s when all this started. I’m 51 years old now, and I have mellowed.’ I looked at him and said, ‘You’ve what?’ I’m not completely buying it, but I know what you are talking about. I hope he can get in position again to get another opportunity, and there’s no doubt that if he does, he’ll be successful and a little more mellow."

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So Williams thinks that Guillen deserves to be managing somewhere. But that doesn't mean he's surprised Guillen hasn't gotten another gig since he left Miami.

"I’m not," Williams said. "One thing that he has, I think, grown to appreciate — and he’s said it directly multiple times is — he appreciates my honesty and continued honesty, because he hadn’t always gotten that elsewhere. That’s nice on my part to hear. And I’m not going to change, so I told him, I said. ‘Listen, a lot of what you’re going through now was self-created. And in order to have that turned around, you’re going to have to show people that there is that more mature, 51-year old man who’s ready to employ a different strategy.’”

When it comes to that strategy, Williams pointed it out as one of Guillen's better attributes.

With all the focus on analytics in the game these days, the hot managerial hires are the ones who utilize the data to their advantage. Look at Joe Maddon and the buzz he's created on the North Side of town. Williams said Saturday that Guillen, for all his comments over the years and his status as a former player, is far more in tune with the new style of the game than many think.

“He sees positioning, he sees first step quickness, he sees swings and one of the things I don’t think he gets credit for ... we as a whole were always perceived as a scouting and just old-school baseball organization, but he does factor in all of the new-fangled stuff that people talk about, with the sabermetrics and all that," Williams said. "He puts it to good use as well, so hopefully he’s not just considered by the old-guard general managers for another opportunity, but from some of the young guys who employ a different set of strategies.”

It's been 10 years since Guillen and Williams both lifted the World Series trophy. It's been three and a half since Guillen managed his last game for the White Sox.

But anything that happened between the two has apparently been put to rest. These longtime friends — before they were building and managing rosters, they were White Sox teammates in the 1980s — have, according to Williams, put bad times in the past and are focusing on the good.

Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

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USA TODAY

Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

Gerrit Cole is rightfully at the top of many White Sox fans' free-agent wish list. But might those hopes already need adjusting?

Cole looks to be on track to land the richest pitching contract in baseball history when he hits free agency after the Houston Astros' playoff run is over. The White Sox are shopping for starting pitching, and what team wouldn't love to top their rotation with the guy who might be awarded the AL Cy Young?

But whether or not you're part of the Twitter-using faction of White Sox fans that believe the team would never spend such money to land a pitcher the caliber of Cole, it might not matter.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale spoke to a couple of Cole's fellow Astros, and they told him they think Cole will end up playing in California. The South Side, at least in the Astros' clubhouse, it seems, is not a betting favorite.

"It will be west of Nevada," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "We know he wants to be a West Coast guy. He’s a California guy, so he probably wants to be close to home. I know he mentioned Oakland a couple of times because of how he’s pitched there in the past. ... But that probably won’t happen. They’d have to clear the whole roster to afford him."

"I got the Angels," pitcher Wade Miley said, "and paying him at least $250 million."

Well then.

Certainly the Los Angeles Angels are not a new suggestion in the "where will Cole sign" discussion. Cole went to high school a 10-minute drive from Angel Stadium and pitched his college ball at UCLA. The Oakland Athletics? That's a new one.

Anyway, a lot of White Sox fans are probably out there thinking "here we go again" as we begin poring over every bit of minutiae in this winter's free-agent market, just like we did last offseason, when Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were both out there for the signing — and both White Sox targets. That months-long reading of the tea leaves, of course, was all kicked off when MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the White Sox interest during the GM Meetings in November.

So far, there's nothing out there connecting the White Sox to Cole besides pure speculation, that and the fact that Rick Hahn has said his front office will be in the market for starting pitching. Cole, being a starting pitcher, fits the minimum requirement as a potential target.

In fact, in listing a boatload of teams that might make a run at Cole this winter, Nightengale left the White Sox out. He mentioned four of the five California-based teams: the Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants and every White Sox fan's favorite, the San Diego Padres, who landed Machado back in February. He also mentioned the Astros, the New York Yankees (who Cole will pitch against in game 3 of the ALCS on Tuesday), the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals and the Texas Rangers.

No White Sox.

There are plenty of other variables in this sweepstakes than just geography, and chief among them figures to be money. The White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility gained as a goal of the ongoing rebuilding process, but Hahn said that's not the most attractive element when it comes to free agents signing up to play on the South Side.

"The biggest advantage we have is the talent base we've accumulated so far and the excitement to come and be part of that," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. "We do have some economic flexibility. That was part of the plan from the start. But I think if you're looking at advantages, a lot of teams have money. A lot of teams don't offer the ability to play with some of the players that are joining us here already and joining in the coming years and the opportunity to win a championship in a city like Chicago."

Whether that appeals to Cole or whether the White Sox will set their sights elsewhere remains to be seen. Certainly his fellow Astros' predictions aren't the be all, end all. Remember last winter when it was a foregone conclusion Machado would be a Yankee because he was a fan of that team growing up? Didn't work out that way. (It's here that I'll mention a pretty cool nugget in Nightengale's piece about Cole sitting in the front row cheering on the Yankees during the 2001 World Series. Is he destined to wear pinstripes because of it? No.)

For the White Sox, they certainly should chase Cole, who would count as the biggest free-agent splash in team history and do a heck of a lot to vault the team out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. But Hahn is hoping that whichever players he lands this winter can do that, along with the team's talented young core, and there are plenty of starting-pitching options out there not named Gerrit Cole: Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler and maybe even Stephen Strasburg. It's an impressive list of possibilities, one that remains impressive for the White Sox even if they fail to meet any imaginary Golden State requirement from Cole.

Even as Cole readies to face off against the Yankees in the ALCS, attempting to go 19-0 since he lost to the White Sox on May 22, his role as the star of the hot stove season is already beginning.

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MLB'ers think Lucas Giolito was one of the comeback-iest players in baseball this year

MLB'ers think Lucas Giolito was one of the comeback-iest players in baseball this year

It isn't "the" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, but it is "an" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

The MLB Players Association announced Monday that White Sox hurler Lucas Giolito is a finalist for its "Players Choice" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, voted on by the game's players. He was joined by outfielders Hunter Pence of the Texas Rangers and Jorge Soler of the Kansas City Royals. On the NL side, the three finalists were Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The whole "voted on by your peers" element is pretty cool, as certainly they know how different the 2019 version of Giolito was from the one they saw a year earlier. James McCann, who played against Giolito as a Detroit Tiger in 2018 and then caught him as the White Sox backstop in 2019, constantly talked about how transformed Giolito was from one year to the next.

A totally different pitcher.

That's precisely what Giolito seemed like to us non-player types, too, after he went from the worst statistics of any qualified pitcher in 2018 to an All Star and the ace of the South Side staff in 2019.

Giolito gave up more earned runs than any pitcher in the game in 2018, also leading the AL in walks during a season he finished with a 6.13 ERA. Then he went to work in the offseason, making mechanical changes and overhauling his mental approach to the game. It resulted in the kind of breakout season the prognosticators foresaw when they ranked him the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball once upon a time.

In 2019, Giolito posted a 3.41 ERA, went to the All-Star Game, struck out a whopping 228 batters — that particular feat accomplished by only two other pitchers in White Sox history — and will likely place somewhere in the AL Cy Young vote.

His season was highlighted by a pair of complete-game shutouts against two of the best teams in baseball, the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins. Both shutouts came against 100-win teams on their own turf.

Presumably some Astros and Twins threw a few votes Giolito's way.

Giolito's status when it comes to "the" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award will be revealed next month, after the World Series is over. But for now, this is a pretty cool feather in the cap for him, another example of how far he's come.

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