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White Sox GM Ken Williams stands by Ozzie Guillen, coaches

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



NEW YORK — As if things aren’t bad enough for Ken Williams, a 21/2-hour delay at O’Hare subjected the general manager to some quality time with a bunch of fans who are up in arms over the team’s 9-14 start.

“I almost didn’t make it’’ to New York, Williams said.

Suggestions came in droves, but one that fell on deaf ears was to fire a coach, or the manager. While answering questions about his struggling team, a generally upbeat Williams stood by hitting coach Greg Walker, manager Ozzie Guillen and the other coaches.

“The coaching staff is not throwing the baseball and not hitting the baseball,’’ Williams said when he arrived in New York to “give some hugs” to his team that opened a four-game series at Yankee Stadium. “They’re doing what they’ve always done.

“The first 10 games of the season people talked about how well our offense was performing. We were hitting off the charts. When it turned around, we have to stand up and take the heat.’’

Walker “is used to taking the heat, and he’s been consistent over the years the way teams have rebounded offensively,’’ Williams said.

“In professional sports, fingers will be pointed your way. None of them has gotten any dumber the last couple of weeks. They’re the same guys, and I have a lot of confidence in all of them.’’

Guillen, never short on emotion, heightened his passion when the subject of his coaches came up.

“If somebody has to get fired here, it has to be Ozzie Guillen,’’ he said. ‘‘It doesn’t have to be Greg Walker. It doesn’t have to be [pitching coach] Don Cooper. It has to be Ozzie Guillen because I’m the one who makes the lineups, I’m the one who tries to get the best from my players and I don’t know how to do that right now.’’

Ownership invested $125 million in payroll in this team, marketed it with an “All in” campaign, then watched it play poorly or inconsistently in all phases of the game. Three weeks into the season, fans not distracted by the success of the Bulls and (of late) the Blackhawks have had enough.

“Chicago White Sox fans, you have to earn their patronage,’’ Williams said. “And we haven’t earned it, so I don’t expect people to show up in droves until we earn it. This is the third week in April, there are a lot of games left, and we will earn their respect and their patronage. Until then, I wouldn’t expect it.’’

Williams said he is confident the team will play better. The Sox have been giving credit to the string of good pitching performances they have been up against, and Williams echoed that.

But only to a degree. The criticism is warranted.

“It’s not easy,’’ Williams said. “It’s been a collective effort from the GM, the manager, the coaches. I think the grounds crew had a bad day last week in Chicago. Right now we’re not looking too good.

“Call me crazy, but I happen to think we have a pretty good team out there. You just wait for the day for it to all click. The good thing about baseball is we play 162 games. I’m not going to draw conclusions about this start and say we’re not what we think we are.

“I have no choice but to look at this as a [9-14] team because that’s what we are. And we’ve earned every bit of it. We haven’t hit, pitched consistently and have not caught the ball. We’ve played as poorly as we possibly could.

“If I knew [how to fix it], it would be fixed by now. All I can do is go to the clubhouse and offer some hugs, support them that way. The good thing is we have talent.

‘‘We’ve been down this road where we’re not playing well and didn’t have the talent. This is a different scenario with guys who’ve proven themselves in the major leagues and on championship clubs. We’ve got to weather this storm and come out of it sooner rather than later.’’

Reminded that the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays turned it around after horrible starts, Williams said he should have called them for advice:

“They would have advised me not to walk in an airport.’’

And how did Williams respond to those fans at O’Hare? “I gave them Ozzie’s number and said, ‘Call him,’ ’’ he said with a laugh.



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