Well Ozzie, it’s your move.
That was the message from White Sox general manager Ken Williams on Saturday, as the team continued to debate amongst themselves whether or not Jim Thome should be brought back into the mix and off the free-agent market.
The Sun-Times reported on Friday that Thome had jumped back into the mix, despite manager Ozzie Guillen comfortable with the idea of designated-hitter-by-committee entering camp next month.
Williams seemed in favor of bringing back Thome, as well, but didn’t want to step on his skipper’s toes, either.
“I’m resigned to the feeling that Ozzie is sold on wanting to do it this way,” Williams did say Friday night. “Is it a little different for me not to have that left-handed power guy in the middle of the lineup? Yeah.”
In a town-hall type meeting with Sox fans on Saturday morning, however, Williams wasted little time letting everyone know who had the final say on Thome back on the South Side.
“No, not really,” Guillen said, when asked if the pressure was now on him. “That’s the reason I manage the ballclub. We’ve talked about it, we’re still thinking about it, if Thome is the right fit for the ballclub or what we should do. When it’s time to make this decision … I said a couple days ago, sometimes when you think with your heart you make the wrong decision. In baseball, unfortunately, you have to think with your brains.
“I have to see what’s best for the ballclub. The next couple of days, I’m going to look around, and if Jim Thome fits in the ballclub then I will make the decision. It’s not any pressure at all. This is my job.”
To be fair to his players, as well as Thome, Guillen said he wanted to make the decision before he left SoxFest on Sunday to head back to Miami.
Adding to the drama is the fact that the Minnesota Twins also have interest in adding Thome.
“That’s not going to be fair for Jimmy,” Guillen said about dragging this on. “We don’t care about us. We don’t want to do, ‘wait, wait, wait, OK all of a sudden we need you, come in.’ If we’re going to make that decision then we should make that decision before I leave for Miami [on Sunday].”
Thome, who will turn 40 this season, hit .249 with 23 homers and 74 RBI last season for the Sox, before they traded him to Los Angeles.
If Guillen does decide to bring him back it would have to be with the understanding that he would be another piece in the DH puzzle – not the everyday DH – and Guillen would have to be comfortable with the idea of carrying 11 pitchers and not 12.
“The only reason I’m thinking about this and the conversation with Jimmy is I don’t know how many at-bats I’m going to get him,” Guillen added. “It’s not fair to Jim Thome and the ballclub to play with that. I’m not going to lie to Jimmy and say, ‘We’re going to bring you, you can play every day,’ then all of a sudden I change my mind.
“I want to walk into the clubhouse with my head up. I don’t want to walk into the clubhouse and try to avoid Jimmy because he’s not playing. I have to make it clear about the situation on both sides, not just him. I said a couple days ago, I wish I hated this guy. I wish I can say to Kenny, ‘I don’t want to have him in my brain, I don’t want to talk about him.’ But this guy is so special to us, that’s why we’re still talking about bringing him back.”