Williams on criticism: 'Bring it on'

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Williams on criticism: 'Bring it on'

When Kenny Williams was introduced during the opening ceremonies of Sox Fest on Friday, he knew the boos were coming.

How big and how loud? He wasnt sure. But considering his past history with an unhappy White Sox public, he was actually looking forward to them.

I was booed in 2004 and 2007 and we went to the playoffs the next year, so bring it on. Hopefully well be three for three, Williams said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. The guys on stage were trying to determine a percentage, and the consensus was 10 percent. I thought it was more like 20.

The anger and venom that has been slung in Williams direction this off-season is a complete 180 from the reaction he received last year at Sox Fest after he signed Adam Dunn and brought back Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski.

A week before this date a year ago, I walked into Chicago Cut Restaurant, and I got a standing ovation from the entire dining room. People were happy. Were back on the map, were going to challenge for a championship, Williams said. I came here to Sox Fest and there were praises all around.

After seeing him get treated like a king for two straight days, Williams new girlfriend asked him if this happened all the time.

I said, You havent been through this. Let me explain to you how this is going to work. If these guys dont play well, if this team doesnt play well, those same people that were standing and cheering will want me on the next plane out of town. Probably not even a plane a bus. They probably wouldnt want me to be that comfortable.

After his All-in White Sox proceeded to go 79-83, many fans would have ordered a Greyhound to pick up Williams outside U-S Cellular Field, and bought him a one-way ticket.

Since the end of the season, Williams has been bombarded with criticism for not resigning Mark Buehrle, for trading Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin for prospects, while hoping that Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Gordon Beckham and Dunn have bounce back seasons.

Then theres the fallout of the Kenny-Ozzie feud, which is a chapter all its own. Its a story that seems to have no end.

Is the Kenny criticism justified? Yes. But has some of the abuse been unfair? Williams singled out two members of the media.

There are two people in particular who seemingly -- thats all they know how to write about, and evidently dont have the ability or the inclination to want to write about anything other than the dead subjects theyve already covered, Williams said. Thats their problem, not my problem. Where it becomes my problem is if people buy into it, and then dont show up as a result.

Sagging attendance has become a major problem for the White Sox, who have seen their attendance drop every season since 2006, when they averaged 36,511 a game. In 2011, that number was down to 24,705; their lowest since 2004.

Many of the fans who came out last year booed Adam Dunn, who had one of the worst hitting seasons of all-time. Does Williams expect him to have a comeback season?

Absolutely," Williams said. "This is a proud man and a very successful man. He didnt just happen upon the deal that we gave him. He earned it.

And Williams says he takes part of the blame for Dunns struggles at the plate.

In hindsight, if I can think of one thing we could have done differently, I would have given him more time after his appendix surgery at the beginning of the season, because he had a whole month, or six weeks almost of getting ready for the season. After week one, he goes down and now we bring him up into cold weather. Nobody is making any excuses. Hes not making excuses, but if I had to do something in hindsight, I would have left him out another week as opposed to throwing him right into the fire.

Now the White Sox have to deal with the heat of Prince Fielder, signed by the rival Tigers this week to a nine-year, 214 million contract.

What was Williams reaction when he got the news?

I cant tell you what my reaction was. Not without you bleeping it out. It is what it is. It must be nice. You have a guy go down, Victor Martinez, and to be able to say, Whos out there? Lets go get Prince.'"

It was starting to sound like Williams might be a bit envious of the Tigers, picked by many to run away with the AL-Central. However, the White Sox general manager says he looks at it a different way.

The Tigers are clearly the team to beat in our division. Weve been clearly the team to beat in our division a number of times, too. It didnt exactly work out well for us. Lets hope it doesnt work out well for them.

White Sox expect Chris Sale's return to be 'fairly normal'

White Sox expect Chris Sale's return to be 'fairly normal'

It doesn’t sound as if there’s much ambivalence among the White Sox about Chris Sale’s expected return on Thursday.

Manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday he expects things to be “fairly normal” as Sale is scheduled to pitch the finale of the Crosstown series after serving a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property. Adam Eaton said teammates should have no reservations about Sale’s coming back after his actions Saturday left them in a bit of a bind. And pitching coach Don Cooper said he’s the first to forgive and that everyone has situations they might later wish they’d handled differently.

“Open arms,” Eaton said. “He’s our teammate. He’s our guy. All of the things that are swelling around about his character, who he is as a player … he’s my brother and I enjoy every second with him on and off the field. Can’t be a better person. I’ll be excited to see him and I’m sure he’ll be in the same form he’s been the entire year — go out and perform and be Chris Sale.

“I’m sure he’ll be well-rested and a clear mind for him I’m sure is going to be a good thing. We’ll welcome him back.”

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The pitching staff could use some innings from Sale without question. When he didn’t pitch Saturday, the White Sox filled those innings with a committee of relief pitchers. Prior to Tuesday’s win, the bullpen had pitched 19 1/3 innings the previous four games.

But the White Sox have handled the drama extremely well. They’re 4-0 with one game left in Sale’s suspension and they look forward to having their ace back. Cooper said he hopes to move on, sentiments that were previously echoed by Ventura and executive vice president Kenny Williams.

“Welcome back, let’s go,” Cooper said. “Let’s go to work. Let’s move on. Listen man, who would want to be held responsible for the (stuff) they did at 22, 24, 26, 27, you know what I mean? He’s way too good of a kid. I don’t think anybody would. Everybody screws up from time to time or has some missteps.”

One of the actions that has caught Sale flack is his criticism of Ventura’s handling of the situation. Neither Ventura or Williams responded to Sale’s comment on Tuesday that “Robin is the one who has to fight for us.” Ventura said he wouldn’t have done things any differently and Williams applauded how Hahn and Ventura handled a difficult, “unique” situation.

Ventura said he doesn’t expect much out of the ordinary.

“I think it’s going to be fine,” Ventura said. “Players always have their teammates’ backs, and that’s no different with our clubhouse, and it’s going to be fairly normal, as far as he’s going to be prepared to pitch and our guys are going to prepare to play and it’s going to go from there.”

White Sox C Dioner Navarro has a good story behind the best game of his career

White Sox C Dioner Navarro has a good story behind the best game of his career

There’s a good story behind the best game of Dioner Navarro’s 13-year career. 

On May 29, 2013, Navarro — then playing for the Cubs — hit three home runs and drive in six in a 9-3 Crosstown victory at Wrigley Field. Both were career highs. 

And Navarro did it without a whole lot of preparation. 

“I got to the ballpark and I didn’t see the lineup, I thought I wasn’t playing,” Navarro recalled. “So we go out for stretch and the first group is hitting and they called my name and I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ And they said ‘You’re playing.’ It was already too late to get into the group so I went inside.”

Navarro only took two rounds of batting practice in his haste to get ready. But he also took those swings thinking right-hander Jake Peavy was going to start for the White Sox, so he hit left-handed during batting practice. 

The White Sox, though, were starting left-hander John Danks, so the switch-hitting Navarro wound up batting right-handed when the game started. 

The pregame mixup hardly hurt Navarro, as it turned out. He homered off Danks in his first and second at-bats, and then launched a three-run homer in the seventh off White Sox right-hander Brian Omogrosso. 

“It was one of the best experiences of my career,” Navarro said.

Navarro is one of a handful of people to play for both the Cubs and White Sox since the two teams began their annual interleague series in 1997 (others include pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Bob Howry, Edwin Jackson and Neal Cotts, among others). His perspective from playing off the Addison and Sox/35th Red Line stops is one he said he’ll cherish after his career is over. 

“I’m really fortunate to be part of it from both sides,” Navarro said. “A little bit bittersweet because the Cubbies had lost 100 games the year before and we were onto our way to lose 100 more games that year (2013). But still the rivalry against this team was something that people always talked about. Being part of it with the Cubs and now being part with the White Sox is a tremendous experience, something I look forward to share with my kids when I get older.”

White Sox happy to retain, and drink beer from, Crosstown Cup

White Sox happy to retain, and drink beer from, Crosstown Cup

The White Sox had a little fun with the Crosstown Cup trophy after securing it for the third consecutive year.

Well, at least one player did for sure: Left fielder Melky Cabrera, according to first baseman Jose Abreu, drank some beer out of the trophy after the White Sox beat the Cubs, 3-0, Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. 

The White Sox retained the Crosstown Cup by virtue of winning the season series in 2014 (three wins, one loss), splitting in 2015 (three wins, three losses), and assuring themselves of at least a split in 2016 (two wins with two games to play). 

This isn’t like a college football rivalry trophy that gets passed between campuses every year. And baseball players generally aren't keen to over-emphasize four or six games over the course of a 162-game season. 

But the Crosstown Cup is still a trophy, and it’s one White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton appreciated receiving again. 

“Any time you win an award — I don’t care if my grandma gives me an award during checkers, I’m excited,” Eaton said. “I don’t really care. But if you play for anything there’s some extra emphasis there. I definitely do think guys take pride in it for sure. But more pride in it that our side of town is happy with us in that sense that we’ve taken the cup back. 

“You don’t want to put too much emphasis on any particular series. But at the same time, if it makes our fans happy that we got the cup back then that’s what we do.”