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Ken Williams: ‘I can work with anyone, and that includes Ozzie’

Sox GM Ken Williams says he has not talked with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf about whether he’ll be back next season.

Sox GM Ken Williams says he has not talked with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf about whether he’ll be back next season. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 30, 2011 12:16AM

Two weeks ago, White Sox general manager Ken Williams was having a conversation about the future beyond this season.

“I told Jerry Reinsdorf sitting in his office that I can work with anyone, and that includes Ozzie,’’ he said. “If the desire is for him to be here, I can make it work.’’

That’s in sharp contrast to the perception that Williams wants Guillen out as manager. The fact that nobody seems to truly know where any of this is going — and that includes Guillen — is in keeping with the messiness that follows this team like Pig-Pen’s dust cloud.

But Williams made it clear in an interview Thursday that whether Guillen stays or goes will not be his choice.

“At this point, it’s Jerry’s decision,’’ he said.

Last year, Reinsdorf seemed to be definitive on the chain of command.

“You can’t make a general manager have a manager he doesn’t want,’’ he said.

Reminded of that comment, Williams reiterated that Guillen’s future is in Reinsdorf’s hands.

“I’m just telling you what the reality is,’’ he said.

Williams also disputed a recent column by the Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley that quoted sources as saying Reinsdorf had informed Williams he would be back next season as general manager.

“When Jerry and I have talked, our focus has only been on how can we get certain guys back to their career norms and how can we get better,’’ he said. “That’s for today, and that’s for tomorrow.

“There hasn’t been one discussion or one declaration that I would or would not be back. If it happens that I’m not, I’m prepared for it.’’

‘Full responsibility’

It has been a very disappointing season for the Sox, who had hopes of a division title and beyond. Williams stood before the team in spring training and, instead of his usual 15-minute speech, spoke for 15 seconds about wanting to still be playing ball in October.

That’s not going to happen, thanks in large part to a stunningly awful year by Adam Dunn and a very bad one by Alex Rios.

“I take full responsibility,’’ Williams said. “I’m the person that brings the talent in. I did not see certain things coming, and that is the bottom line.

“But along with our talent not giving us what we thought we’d get, I’m a little disappointed that the focus hasn’t been to the level I expected, as well.’’

Guillen touched on a lack of fight from his team after the Tigers finished a sweep of the Sox on Wednesday, but Williams said it went beyond that.

“I think we need to do a better job of limiting distractions all around, distractions from the goal at hand,’’ he said. “One of the reasons you haven’t heard me speaking on this is because I don’t want to be part of taking away from what’s needed. Once you lose your focus in professional sports, it’s tough to get it back.’’

But life with Ozzie involves disruptions, distractions and drama. Williams has dealt with it for eight years, and he knows that Guillen is going to vent when things aren’t going well. It raises the question: Can a man bury himself alive with his own words?

Asked whether there were any conditions for Guillen coming back next season, Williams said:

“I’m not done listening yet. There’s a time to sit still and think, and that’s what I’m doing. A lot of time, a lot of emotion comes into play. There’s a lot of disappointment within our ranks. We had great expectations. With great expectations, the disappointments become greater.

“In my position, sometimes you have to make allowances for calm to set in so that reasonable, logical decisions can be made.’’


“Right now, all I’m left to do is listen, is to sit still because Ozzie hasn’t talked to me about his feelings. All I can do is read about them.’’

Nothing is easy

It would help, a lot, if Reinsdorf got both men in a room, and they all talked with each other. It seems easy, but nothing is easy with this team. And maybe that’s the way Reinsdorf likes it. I say “maybe’’ because no one has heard from him as the flames seem to be licking the walls of the Cell.

Then again, maybe there are no flames. Maybe the whole situation isn’t as bad as it looks. Maybe Guillen is firing and then aiming. Who knows?

“The interesting part is all the speculation that Jerry would make a change of any sort,’’ Williams said. “Although we have not been able to bring home another championship, it was only three years ago that we won the division. Last year, we were in first place in September and got a little distracted then, as well.

“Aside from the record prior to this tough stretch that we’ve been in, we were right there with the Tigers and Cleveland all year. So we had a shot, and we had a shot in the midst of some guys having some tough seasons.’’

Until everyone involved sits down, there will be no clarity. Excitability, yes. Clarity, no.

“Everything is in front of everyone for people to pass judgment,’’ Williams said. “Pass judgment, but pass judgment on the facts. The facts are we did not achieve what we set out to achieve this year. That’s just the facts.

“Personally, on your question of staying or going, it’s professional sports, and I don’t feel I have any right based on what’s transpired the last couple of years to any expectations that I’ll get further chances to accomplish my goal, which is to bring another championship to the city.’’

Which brings us right back to the question of the day, the week, the year: Who really knows?

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