With all due respect to the White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, who's proven to be one of the most effective front office people in the game of baseball, his message on Wednesday transmitted and transcribed by the media is not much different than 22 of the 30 general managers message to their media after missing their chance to make the playoffs in 2009.
Williams, along with owner Jerry Reinsdorf and assistant general manager Rick Hahn, have formulated a blueprint that has been moderately successful over the last three years. Their idea is to get younger, get better, improve the minor league system and steal as many of those young top players in other people's organizations that haven't flourished where they were at.
Last year, part of the equation worked to perfection. Former No. 1 picks in other organizations, including Carlos Quentin, Gavin Floyd and John Danks all performed well as did free-agent unknown Alexei Ramirez. The once constant for all of those players was that they were obtained using the team's new philosophy in order to compete as a middle market team in a big market city.
The 2008, $125 million payroll was cut to slightly under $100 million in 2009. Contracts of Javier Vasquez, and Nick swisher were traded to the Braves and Yankees respectively, getting young talent back. Unfortunately for this year's team, those young players were not ready to make any contributions at the major league level. Veterans Jose Contreras and Jim Thome were sent packing on Aug. 31, freeing up future money for the nice additions of pitcher Jake Peavy and outfielder Alex Rios, both of whom will have $60 million-plus contracts to be paid off the next three years.
By all indications, Williams will payroll will be in the upper $90 million range again in 2010. I asked the White Sox General manager about which players will return next season. Williams had a terse and firm response.
"Right now, I'm certainly looking at it very hard, and just wondering who will make the sacrifice to win," Williams said. "Once we get to spring training, everyone who is there will be someone we have talked about as to whether they were up to that particular challenge."
Some White Sox management personnel were watching closely this week to see which players would begin to pack up their lockers. Some began as early as Monday, sending things home. Although this is the team's last home stand, players like captain Paul Konerko refused to get into the "going home" mentality, even though the White Sox's chances at that time were extremely remote.
"I'm not ready to start looking at doing anything like that," Konerko said. "I'm just concentrating on trying to win some ballgames first."