When OSFIB posted this link today, I found my muse for the off day. As most of our readers (and White Sox fans in general) have probably noticed, ripping on Kenny Williams and calling him a below average GM has almost become accepted as common knowledge outside of the state of Illinois. Even other SBN sites have jumped in on it. The thing is, it hasn't been a correct assumption for a while. Further analysis (and an almost complete GM history) after the jump.
The man has made his mistakes and there is no denying that. The Todd Ritchie trade was awful, giving up Ray Durham for Jon Adkins still hurts, and who can forget the confusing multiple trades for Carl Everett and Roberto Alomar. And then there was his unfortunate attacks on Frank Thomas after the Big Hurt had some disparaging remarks towards the only organization he had ever known. The thing is, the man has improved. Over the course of his career he went from the sheep being fleeced to the man holding the shears. Over the past few season Kenny has turned minor leaguers and stable veterans into Freddy Garcia, Jim Thome, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Matt Thornton, Orlando Cabrera, and Carlos Quentin. He snagged Bobby Jenks off of waivers from the Angels. He brought A.J. Pierzynski, Tadahito Iguchi, Jermaine Dye, and Orlando Hernandez in as free agents during a time when other teams were more desirable. He kept Paul Konerko, Mark Buehrle, and Jermaine Dye in town when they could have made more money elsewhere. He gave Ozzie Guillen his first chance to manage a baseball team. He played a large part in the magic that was 2005. He took over an ineffective draft plan, and since he started being more hands on with it the Sox have drafted Aaron Poreda, Gordon Beckham, Daniel Hudson, Trayce Thompson, Jared Mitchell, and Jordan Danks. He opened a pipeline to Cuba using Contreras and El Duque that has helped result in Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo.
Does he still have his flaws? Yes. His hands were pretty much tied during the Nick Swisher fiasco. He still tends to get tunnel vision and focus on getting a player no matter what or when (Ken Griffey Jr and Jake Peavy). But he isn't the rube he was back in the day. The article OSFIB linked us compared Kenny Williams to a gambler that loses a good deal of money. I like the gambler comparison, but I really don't see the second half being true. This could be me simply being a homer. I do tend to give KW the benefit of the doubt with his moves, but it's not as if he hasn't earned it. He inherited an okay team with no farm system to speak of. He has given us one losing season, two trips to the playoffs, and improving farm system, and a World Series championship. He's even starting to get more credit from actual journalists, which is nice. Is he the best GM in baseball? No, granted I don't know who I would give that title to. Do I believe he is in the top 10? Yes. The man does his best to make sure we remain competetive every season without completely mortgaging the future. Remember that the next time you read about how big of a stooge or over-aggressive moron Kenny Williams is.
GM History from 2000-2008 courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors