Over the years, Kenny Williams has learned there’s nothing to be gained from kicking a player on his way out.
Chris Sale certainly provided enough material over the years for a parting jab or two. Perhaps eight to 10 years ago, Williams might have indulged himself. Instead, he told the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo nothing but good things about his most successful draft pick.
He had the opportunities, because Cafardo reviews the blow-ups. There’s the combative phone call in 2012, the impassioned Drake LaRoche defense before the 2016 season, and the jersey-slashing incident during it. Each time, Williams took the high road. There’s this overarching perspective of their relationship:
“If Chris Sale walked through my door right now, I’d give him the same hug I gave him when he first joined our team six years ago. I love the guy and he knows that.”
And this reaction to the jersey-slashing:
“It’s a shame that such a thing would be part of a Google search on Chris Sale. He’s so much more than that.”
The paternal tone and protectiveness reminds me of a running gag in Anchorman, with Ed Harken repeatedly trying to downplay his son’s actions over the phone. Of course, his son’s name is Chris.
But I’m guessing Williams enjoyed the challenges to his authority, because this has been a recurring theme over his 16 years running the show. Otherwise, he probably wouldn’t find himself in that situation as often as he has, especially relative to his job title.
The regret mostly goes unsaid -- what they weren’t able to accomplish as a team, and what Sale never got to experience personally in Chicago. It refreshed another one for me: I wanted to see whether their second attempt at the 1977 uniforms succeeded since they shared my criticism of the first:
“Actually the year before, the throwbacks were too big. We got together with players and coaching staff and made sure they were fitted and tailored to a greater degree,” Williams said.
Don Cooper expressed a similar sentiment, although through more of a company-man filter:
"Listen, again on the one hand, I'm disappointed that Chris is gone. But it simply had to happen. We had to make a move."
He did go on to say more, but I don’t know if he is as willing or able to shift into “wistful” mode.
"I love the guy. I had the best seat in the house to watch one of the best pitchers pitch every five or six days. I had a real nice conversation with Chris the day after it shook out. I have nothing but good thoughts about Chris Sale's tenure. I have nothing but best wishes for him."
Cooper’s thoughts are more incisive when looking ahead with the pitchers he has remaining. Scott Merkin picked Cooper’s brain about starters across the excitement spectrum, from James Shields to Michael Kopech, and he’s not pointing to anything physically wrong with his most disappointing project:
"The newness of a fresh season, not being traded for the first time at the Deadline, all the other stuff that surrounded him, the hammering of the [Padres] owner on him, the over-trying to make good on the trade and show us what he can do, it just didn't work out the way we wanted it to work out. We got a fresh start and that's kind of where I'm at with James Shields. I'm looking forward to the fresh start."
When it comes to Kopech, Lucas Giolito and other White Sox farmhands, Rick Hahn says he’s going to use the new-found luxury of time after years of using prospects as patches.
"No guy is going to get to Chicago until we feel they’re ready to have success at the big-league level, that they’re ready for that finishing element of their development that happens at the big-league level," Hahn said last week at the Winter Meetings. "No one’s going to be promoted any time in the foreseeable future simply because there’s a need at their position."
Regarding the farm system, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper took the first stab at reordering the White Sox prospect list after the Sale and Adam Eaton trades.
- Yoan Moncada, 2b/3b
- Lucas Giolito, rhp
- Reynaldo Lopez, rhp
- Zack Collins, c
- Michael Kopech, rhp
- Zack Burdi, rhp
- Luis Alexander Basabe, of
- Carson Fulmer, rhp
- Spencer Adams, rhp
- Dane Dunning, rhp
It’s weird seeing a White Sox top-10 list without somebody like Trey Michalczewski, and while the influx of talent could put eventually put obstacles in his way, the reduced pressure might benefit somebody like him more than most.