Sox GM Ken Williams offers praise but also some veiled shots before lopsided loss
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org September 4, 2012 10:40PM
Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana is taken out of the game during the Twins seven run second inning of the Chicago White Sox-Minnesota Twins game Tuesday September 4, 2012 at U.S. Cellular Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: October 6, 2012 2:00PM
Whether manager Robin Ventura’s first season ends as Ozzie Guillen’s second season ended — with a World Series championship — or out of the postseason altogether, general manager Ken Williams already is planning on handshakes for Ventura, coaches and players.
“What makes me feel the best is no matter what happens this month I know that everybody in uniform has given us his very best,’’ Williams said before the Sox’ 18-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday. “Given it their all in preparation, the study of their opponent in the video room and scouting reports. They talk about ideas, they come out early en masse to work on little fundamental things you take for granted in this game or are considered old school.
‘‘So at the end of the day if we don’t achieve the goal we don’t set out to achieve I can’t think of a better group I’d love to go down with than these guys. And I mean that as much as anything I’ve said all year long. We don’t want to do that — we want to be the last club standing, but in the event that we’re not I will walk in and thank everyone in uniform for their efforts.’’
No matter how Williams packages his praise for the admirable job Ventura has done in his first season — the Sox held on to their one-game lead in the AL Central despite the loss before a modest crowd of 15,698 at U.S. Cellular Field — it’s impossible to get past comparisons to Guillen, with whom Williams shared a stormy existence despite their shared success.
It’s impossible as well to get past the notion that Williams, while singing Ventura’s praises, was probably taking a veiled poke at the Guillen regime’s level of preparation. There’s a good chance it’s being construed that way in South Florida, even though Williams didn’t mention Guillen Tuesday.
Not that the Ventura-led Sox are perfect. Jose Quintana, Dylan Axelrod and Philip Humber were shelled for 17 runs in the first five innings, prompting Ventura to empty his bench in the fifth and use outfielder Dewayne Wise to pitch the ninth. And Williams questioned the team’s approach against the Tigers over the weekend, saying it didn’t intelligently take advantage of Tigers weaknesses. While that would seem to be directed at Ventura, be assured the players were encouraged to bunt on hobbled third baseman Miguel Cabrera but didn’t.
“You can’t not be proud of them,’’ Williams said. “But we’ve got to do a better job of staying focused and committed to the grind and not letting our guard down, because you can see what happens when you let your guard down.’’
The Sox staked Quintana to a 3-0 lead in the first but the rookie lefty couldn’t finish the Twins’ seven-run second. He lasted 32/3 in his last start in Baltimore. Afterward, Quintana insisted he’s not tiring as his innings mount.
Humber gave up eight runs in one-third of an inning to see his ERA climb from 5.81 to 6.50.
“I’m not even looking at this as a sign of anything,’’ Ventura said. “It’s just one of those games. Put it behind you and play tomorrow.’’
Because the Tigers lost again to the Indians, the Sox stayed in first.
“Every day is agonizing,’’ Williams said. “You’re committed to that grind and one day you’re feeling like, ‘OK, we’ve got everything lined up’ and the next day it’s, ‘OK, we’ve got to regroup.’ ’’
Wednesday will be one of those days, with Jake Peavy pitching against P.J. Walters.
“This is September, man. … There are common denominators for the teams that will ultimately survive this stretch,’’ Williams said. “It’s the will, the intellect and the talent, and not necessarily in that order.’’