SAN DIEGO — The Toronto Blue Jays looked at White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams’ résumé and reportedly put him on a short list of candidates to succeed Paul Beeston as their team president. That comes as no surprise.
As general manager before chairman Jerry Reinsdorf promoted him to executive VP two years ago, Williams oversaw perhaps the finest 12-year stretch in Sox history, one that included a World Series championship in 2005 that will be celebrated at a 10-year reunion at SoxFest next month.
That Reinsdorf balked at granting the Jays permission to talk to Williams a few weeks ago is another matter, and a curious one at that. Lateral moves are one thing, but protocol generally allows for executives to receive the go-ahead for promotions to higher positions.
“It would make sense that [Jays CEO] Paul Beeston would call Jerry and say, ‘I’ve had enough, who would you recommend for the job?’ And he recommends Kenny, but to deny permission doesn’t make sense,’’ a former major-league team executive said.
Reports surfaced Sunday that the Jays are searching for a replacement for Beeston, a respected executive and a close ally of Reinsdorf’s. ESPN reported the Jays have discussed Baltimore Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and Williams. Another report linked Minnesota Twins GM Terry Ryan.
But the reverberating report, at least the one reaching Sox circles, came from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, who tweeted that Williams is considering resigning because of it. To which Williams, who is in San Diego with general manager Rick Hahn and others in the Sox’ brain trust for the winter meetings, had this to say in a text to the Sun-Times after first saying he wouldn’t comment after being bombarded with texts and emails:
“Sorry, I’m just fed up with it all and hate that this actually got out. All I said when asked the question — ‘Will I think about resigning after being denied the opportunity?’ — was I have considered all the options anyone would given this set of circumstances.
“This may be a new story, but it is not a new development to me, so I’m here and working toward making our club the best it can be. I’d rather keep my focus in that as it’s the only thing I have control over anyway. I’m sure you know where I’m coming from.’’
The last thing Williams and the Sox want this week is to awkwardly draw attention from the team whose arrow — after being 36 and 16 games under .500 the last two seasons — is pointing up thanks to personnel upgrades, team-favorable contracts and farm-system improvements since Hahn took over as GM, allowing Williams to be an overseer and spend more time scouting.
Williams said at SoxFest last year that he had received feelers from other teams, and he was linked to the Los Angeles Dodgers when they sought a president of baseball operations. It’s possible Williams may be getting the itch again to work in a more pressure-packed, high-profile role, and if it’s something Williams wants, a source close to Reinsdorf said he would be surprised if he didn’t relent and give his blessing. It would, after all, save the Sox years of dollars left on Williams’ contract, and Hahn has proved more than capable at the helm.
Duquette reportedly wants to leave the Orioles, though, and might be Toronto’s first choice. Williams has an interesting history with the Jays, including 62 games as an outfielder over the 1990 and ’91 seasons. As a rookie Sox GM in 2000, his trade of left-hander Mike Sirotka for lefty David Wells in part of a multiplayer deal was labeled “Shouldergate” by Williams himself after Sirotka, who would never pitch again because of a bad shoulder, was labeled damaged goods by Jays GM Gord Ash. Ash appealed the trade to commissioner Bud Selig, who refused to overturn it.