Ken Williams on White Sox struggles: ‘I’m not in a good place right now’

But the Sox’ executive vice president maintains there’s “reasonable expectation for early trends to change.”

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Ken Williams and Rick Hahn talk at Camelback Ranch during spring training in Arizona in 2020.

White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams (left) and general manager Rick Hahn talk during spring training at Camelback Ranch in Arizona in 2020.

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

TORONTO — Ken Williams has seen what everyone else has seen: A 7-17 team, owning the third-worst record in baseball.

“You have to know I’m not in a good place right now,” the White Sox’ executive vice president told the Sun-Times on Tuesday. “I’d be lying if I said I weren’t concerned.”

The Sox’ losing streak reached six games after a 7-0 loss against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Williams believes in the talent he and general manager Rick Hahn have assembled but would have a clearer picture of where it stacks up if Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Liam Hendriks and Garrett Crochet were not on the injured list. It’s “frustrating” that he can’t.

“But this is where we are,” he said, speaking by phone from his office in Chicago. “And I’m not so pleasant to be around right now, but you try to gain perspective. We have [138] games and 5½ months left to make up [seven] games [behind American League Central leader Minnesota]. If we are who we think we are we’ll look back on this as a good test of character and drive.”

If the Sox aren’t who they thought they were — a team with the expectation of still winning the division, Williams said — “then changes have to be made, it’s as simple as that.”

“It’s professional sports,” he said. “There’s no way around it and that’s whether it’s in the clubhouse or here with us in the front office.”

Williams and Hahn embarked on a rebuild in 2016 that produced a wild-card berth under manager Rick Renteria in 2020, a division title under Tony La Russa in 2021 and no success in the postseason. An injury-plagued 2022 resulted in a .500 finish. Since July 21, 2021, the Sox are 122-130.

“It’s really time to put our best foot forward here,” Williams said.

And if they don’t? Williams said he wasn’t putting Hahn or anyone else in the front office on notice by saying changes would have to be made if the Sox don’t win.

“No, that’s ultimately ownership’s call,” Williams said. “I’m talking about the realities of sports.

‘‘When you do not accomplish the goal at hand, and you’ve been given the opportunities we’ve been fortunate to be given to try to rebuild this thing, to tear it down and rebuild it — and we were on the right track and right now the train is off the rails a little bit — it would be naïve of me to think if things don’t correct themselves that we wouldn’t be looked at as well. As it should be.

“Accountability around here is not a problem.”

A change was made in the manager’s chair when Pedro Grifol replaced La Russa in the offseason. “He is who we thought he would be,” Williams said. “Very steady, positive and encouraging but in a very real way. He’ll stand up and tell you when he’s dissatisfied with something, then turn the page back to positivity. The in-game moves have been solid. The handling of the pitching has been exceptional.”

“It’s definitely survivable,” Grifol said Tuesday. “But we obviously have to make adjustments. We have to get better.”

Hahn became general manager 11 seasons ago when Williams was promoted. With Williams as GM and Hahn assistant GM, they built a World Series champion in 2005 but only six winning seasons since. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has overseen them all.

“I just described my mindset; he’s in lockstep with my mindset and the frustration level,” Williams said. “But at the same time there is a realization that there are [138] games left and we’re [seven] games out. And the healthier we get, the more dangerous we become.

“There is a reasonable expectation for these early trends to change. It’s not guessing, it’s not hoping, it’s looking at what you have and saying this is an aberration right now and the trends will start to change.”

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