Stocking stuffer

HOUSTON -- If you read the book Moneyball, you might remember how Kenny Williams was duped.

Snookered. Played.

Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane got the Chicago White Sox GM to take backup catcher Miguel Olivo for reliever Chad Bradford. Beane also sent Billy Koch to Chicago for closer Keith Foulke.

Tee hee.

Well, Olivo was dealt to the Seattle Mariners for right-hander Freddie Garcia and there was a minor-leaguer who came in the Koch deal -- lefty Neal Cotts.

Garcia and Cotts accounted for 7 1/3 shutout innings as Williams' White Sox scored their first World Series win since 1917 with a 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

Williams and his seasoned staff of executives were sipping champagne after their four-game sweep. The Moneyball teams had October off.

Williams has come a long way since his wars of words with the Chicago media. Williams, the third African-American GM in baseball, is the second to win a World Series.

"This is Kenny's eighth year, he has matured, by osmosis he would have to mature," said Bob Watson, who won a Series ring as GM of the 1996 New York Yankees. "I tip my hat to ownership for giving him the opportunity and giving him the money to get free agents. It takes free agents, trades, your minor-league system and the Rule 5 draft -- he used each and every area very well."

Bill Lucas of the Atlanta Braves was the first African-American to serve as a GM.

Who would have predicted this for Williams when he was a backup outfielder with the 1990 Blue Jays -- behind George Bell, Mookie Wilson and Junior Felix. Back then, he was a non-factor, hitting .194 with eight RBIs. Mark Whiten and Williams each made 30 starts that season.

The Jays had claimed Williams off waivers June 18 and by June 4 of the next season -- after 62 games with the Jays -- the Montreal Expos picked him up the same way.

Backup outfielder then. Front-line GM now with the White Sox.

A lot of planning went into building the 2005 world champions, who erased their 0-for-87 Series streak with 11 wins in 12 post-season games after 99 regular-season victories, and it all began about a year ago.

Williams, who had a $75-million US budget this season, used the Blue Jays of the 1990s as his model. In fact, he wanted former Jays manager Cito Gaston to return to the dugout in 2004, before owner Jerry Reinsdorf settled upon former Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen.

So, Williams and assistants Roland Hemond and Dave Yoakum set about coming up with a plan to win this season. Coming up with a plan is easy. Successfully executing one is something else.

The Sox had four power hitters in Carlos Lee, Magglio Ordonez, Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko.

"We weren't diverse enough," Williams said during the post-season. "We needed to get better in certain areas: Pitching and defence. We didn't try to reinvent the wheel. We fell back on what has been timeless."

Ordonez was allowed to walk as a free agent to the Detroit Tigers.

Lee was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Scott Podsednik and reliever Luis Vizcaino.

Podsednik stole 59 bases during the season for Chicago and also hit a game-winning walk-off homer in Game 2 after going homerless in 557 plate appearances during the season. Vizcaino worked a runless 10th inning in Chicago's 14-inning win in Game 3.

"Yoakum insisted we go after Podsednik," Hemond said. "He was a guy who had a great rookie season (.314) and slumped in his second year (.244) with Milwaukee. Dave thought he could back to where he was (rebounding to .290)."

With the salaries of Ordonez and Lee off the books, Williams spent $2.45 million for free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, called a cancer in the San Francisco Giants clubhouse a year ago. Today Pierzynski is called a winner.

After watching video of Tadahito Iguchi, Williams signed the second baseman for $4.95 million for two years after the Boston Red Sox passed on him.

Williams also chose to sign Jermaine Dye over Randy Winn. The $10.15 million over two years was money well spent as Dye was the most valuable player of the World Series.

Closer Dustin Hermanson was added for $5.5 million over two years. And when that didn't work out, Williams claimed troubled closer Bobby Jenks off waivers for $20,000.

"He has developed his farm system, he has matured and," Watson said, "he has been lucky -- not many guys are able to claim a guy off waivers who throws 100 m.p.h. in Jenks."

Backup infielder Geoff Blum, who hit the game-winning homer Game 3, was acquired from San Diego before the trading deadline. Williams went looking for Sean Burroughs and accepted Blum. Blum hadn't had an RBI in a win since July 3.

"They all have one thing in common," Williams said of his pickups. "Every last one of them has been doubted, criticized."

Certainly shortstop Juan Uribe, who came over from the Colorado Rockies for Aaron Miles in 2004 on David Wilder's recommendation, fits the mould. He made two fine plays in the ninth inning of Game 4, preventing the game from going into extras.

Bringing in aging Orlando Hernandez didn't exactly draw praise, but Hernandez picked up on how fellow Cuban Jose Contreras was tipping his pitches. Williams made the Contreras-Esteban Loaiza deal and Contreras was the best arm in the post-season, and that alone should be enough to win him executive of the year.

So, which current Sox player is going to the Hall of Fame? This is a team without superstars, without a .300 hitter and a rookie closer.

Their closest is Thomas, who celebrated the Series win with his foot in a cast on the disabled list.

Who would have thunk that Williams could build a team to win the World Series when as a Blue Jay he could not even negotiate his way around the bases at the SkyDome.

"Unfortunately, Kenny is in one of the worst highlights bloopers ever," Watson said with a laugh.

Williams was on second base Sept. 17, 1990 against the Yankees and he was off and running on the hit-and-run when Manny Lee popped up near first. Williams didn't see third-base coach John McLaren point skyward.

Williams flopped face down sliding into third. Realizing he was in danger of being doubled off, he raced to second and he would have been out, had Kevin Mass's throw not sailed into left.

Williams was off, running to third and looking over his shoulder to see left fielder Mel Hall lying injured after diving for the ball. Williams barrelled around the bag and knocked down coach McLaren.

And that wasn't even the craziest play Williams had been on the field to see. As a freshman on the 1982 Stanford Cardinal football team, Williams watched as the Stanford band prematurely took the field as the Cal Bears used a last-second, five-lateral kickoff return to score the winning touchdown in John Elway's final college game.

And the Sox GM has come a long way from trading daily barbs with Jays GM Gord Ash over the David Wells-Mike Sirotka deal in 2000, as the Jays claimed Sirotka was damaged goods.

"When Kenny first came on the job, he was outspoken, now, he's low key," Watson said. "That's a sign of maturity.

"When I was with the Yankees I wish I had veteran people to help me, like Hemond and Yoakum. Kenny didn't do it all himself. Kenny has a nice, running dialogue with Roland."

While Watson's success did not open the door for more black GMs, he is asked whether Williams will.

"What I'd like to see is more guys get jobs as assistant GMs, more farm directors and more scouting directors," Watson said. "That's how Kenny started. The new crew right now are all Harvard guys ... they have those jobs. We need to get into the pipeline. To get to know an owner is another ideal way."

Watson says the top minority GM candidates are Mike Hill of the Florida Marlins, Muzzy Jackson of the Kansas City Royals and Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Philadelphia Phillies.

A third-round pick of the White Sox in the 1982 draft, a lot was expected from Williams an major leaguer. When it didn't happen, Williams moved on, but the ever-loyal Reinsdorf brought him back to be the assistant GM.

Now, he has given the city of Chicago a World Series title, something it has not had for 186 combined seasons of watching the Cubs and the Sox.

That's one reason Reinsdorf said the Series win meant more to him than all his wins as owner of the Chicago Bulls.


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