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Ex-hitting coach Greg Walker says 2011 Sox were doomed from start

Greg Walker

Greg Walker

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Updated: March 17, 2012 10:24AM

If there was an ideal location for a self-proclaimed ‘‘good ol’ boy’’ to get some R  &  R, a winter in Georgia should have done the trick.

But former White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker is learning that some wounds take longer to heal than others.

Walker never has been one to pull punches, but what he said in a phone interview Wednesday was as candid as anyone has been about what derailed the Sox in recent seasons. His assessment is also a red flag as the Sox move forward.

Walker insists the 2011 season never should have unfolded the way it did because most of the staff should have moved on after 2010.

‘‘You can dissect it any way you want, blame it on whoever you want, but it was not a positive situation for anyone involved,’’ Walker said. ‘‘We talked about it. There was a feeling in the clubhouse and the coaches’ office that we should have never been back for 2011. After 2010, it was obvious that the first sign of adversity was going to make things bad.

‘‘When it gets off track like it did and you have more going on than the normal team, it’s too hard to overcome. The atmosphere the past few years reached the point where winning baseball could no longer be played, no matter which players were brought in.’’

Walker took it a step further and said the idea that the players weren’t affected by the circus atmosphere — whether it was former manager Ozzie Guillen and general manager Ken Williams sparring, Williams and members of the coaching staff quarreling or the coach-on-coach distrust that existed — just wasn’t true.

All the questions about Adam Dunn’s mechanics, Alex Rios’ passion and Gordon Beckham’s overthinking were just excuses. The real reason the Sox finished where they did last season despite a $127 million payroll was because the dysfunctional atmosphere proved too big an obstacle for them to overcome.

‘‘I hope all those guys bounce back, and I really think they have a chance to,’’ Walker said. ‘‘Most of the problems that went on last year weren’t baseball-related, and it was tough on the players. We hit that first roadblock, and everyone suffered. We all should have seen
it coming.’’

Sox fans were promised a dynasty after the 2005 World Series, and Williams said they needed that to capture the city. Seven years later, all they have captured is irrelevance entering spring training.

Who’s to blame? Everyone, just like Walker said.

The Sox dressed up a
$127 million pig under the premise they were ‘‘all in,’’ all the while knowing they would be a sinking ship once the first wave hit.

And while a majority of Sox fans just want to move forward, what are they moving forward to?

Sure, Guillen is gone and managing the Miami Marlins. If feeling like he was the main culprit makes you sleep better at night, have at it. And Walker is the hitting coach of the Atlanta Braves, so he is no longer around.

But is the house really clean? Most of the roster is back, and so are Williams and pitching coach Don Cooper. The players have trust issues with both. What happens when there’s some adversity in April?

Walker couldn’t answer that. Then again, it’s not his problem anymore.

‘‘I still fight with my emotions,’’ Walker said. ‘‘It was such a bad ending. I know that I will always consider [Sox chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf like a father to me. I will never be able to repay him for what he’s done.

‘‘I had the right to come back this year if I wanted to. And while Jerry’s always had my back and I love [new manager] Robin [Ventura], I knew there were too many circumstances that told me to move on. There are some fresh wounds that still need to heal, and part of that is moving to another organization.’’

You’re right, Sox fans. You shouldn’t care anymore that Walker and Guillen are gone.

But you should be concerned about what remains.

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