It’s all about the fight.
Not the battles of the past that simmered between the front office and field general. Now it’s “the fight” in his players that ignites White Sox general manager Ken Williams.
“I love the fight [in the team],” he said Friday. “We committed in spring training to a grind-it-out mentality, whether it be from the offensive or defensive side. We have more strikeouts than I like, but many have come in eight- or nine-pitch at-bats, and that wears down a pitcher. There are positives, but we have a long way to go.”
Williams’ most satisfying aspect of the young season is Robin Ventura, his surprise choice to manage the team after Ozzie Guillen’s departure.
“I take it back to SoxFest [in January] and the leadership qualities I knew were evident,” he said. “The way he’s translated them into communicating with the players and blended with his coaching staff. It’s a humble environment and comfortable environment.
“He has a strong personality and humbleness you don’t find often. People gravitate to it. It’s a good atmosphere.”
So much about the Sox this season will be wrapped around Ventura, whose understated personality is a sharp contrast to Guillen and Williams.
But things have been different for Williams, as well. There wasn’t the usual dip into the free agency, and his trades involved moving players, such as closer Sergio Santos, to make room for some new unknowns.
“It was boring,” Williams said of his offseason. “But there were a couple exceptions. Bringing Robin on board and the newness of that and the optimism of things I thought we could get accomplished. But not being in the free-agent or trading market as much, it was a strange offseason. It was just different. My phone bill was lower.”
Payroll remains a big concern for the Sox, who can’t sustain a $100 million-plus payroll without attendance, Williams said.
“Ideally, you build a foundation and build from within,” he said. “We’ve tried to build our brand that you could count on aggressiveness and competitiveness that it will sustain a $100 million payroll. If you overspend [in other areas, such as player development], you run the risk of not being able to support the $100 million payroll at the major-league level. We have to compete for our attendance to support our payroll.
“[But] we’ve always been in the mode that if we’re going young, we have to be right and we have to take care of the major-league club and blend in our youth. We don’t promote ourselves enough on the minor-league front. Other teams recognize it when they see [pitchers] Chris Sale or Hector Santiago or Nate Jones.”