DALLAS -- On the last day of the regular season, Kenny Williams walked into the White Sox clubhouse seeking out Mark Buehrle. He gave him a hug to say goodbye.
Is this goodbye, goodbye? Mark asked.
No, its just goodbye, Williams said.
At the time, there was still hope that the White Sox would find a way to bring Buehrle back to the White Sox.
Chicago was his home. It held his heart. The White Sox were all he knew.
But when the window opened for teams to contact free agents, the Marlins came calling -- so did the Nationals, Rangers and almost half of the teams in the major leagues. Everyone wanted Buehrle -- even the Cubs -- and yes, so did the White Sox, but there was nothing they could do about it.
Well, almost nothing.
I knew what we could have done, Williams told reporters Wednesday night. Wed have to go to the ATM about 56 million times. Thats assuming we can get a dollar out of it.
Blame it on bad timing.
In 2010 at the Winter Meetings, the White Sox had money to spend. Weve heard the phrase a zillion times. They were All In. However, in 2011 when it comes to free agents, its exactly the opposite.
"All Out." Just like the Marlins were for the last several years. Not this year.
In terms of payroll, both teams are headed in different directions. The White Sox are low on money, the Marlins are apparently printing it -- spending lavishly on Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell -- so far.
For Mark, it was never about the money. According to a source close to him, he likely would have given the White Sox a hometown discount as long as the offer was fair. Yet when Buehrles agent, Jeff Berry, contacted Williams on Wednesday night to inform him of the 4-year, 58 million dollar deal with Miami, the end of his White Sox career became official.
It was goodbye, goodbye.
They came to us and told us exactly what he had in front of him, Williams said. And we simply said, Congratulations, we wish you well, and thank you. You will forever be in our hearts. Theres nothing we can do about it.
Buehrle has easily been one of the most popular players on the team for the last decade, so the decision to let him leave will certainly not go over well with White Sox fans.
I asked Williams how he thinks theyll react to the news.
I think people are going to be just as unhappy as I am, said the Sox GM. Listen, given my druthers I would rather have him here than not. Two words probably sum it up best, It sucks. But this is part of sports, part of business. Your favorite players and my favorite players will come and go.
Most athletes dont have trouble switching teams or leagues. It happens all the time. However, Mark is different. Hes about as straight and narrow as they come. All along, he was hoping his career would stay on the same path. But now its headed on a big detour, one that has him reuniting with Ozzie Guillen.
Buehrle told his longtime manager that he had serious reservations about leaving the White Sox, even though all the signs pointed to him not coming back.
One of the first conversations we had he said I dont know how Im going to handle it, going to a new city and new spring training, Guillen said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet after the news broke. I said you are going to handle it easy wearing a Marlins uniform because I'm going to be there, and Joey Cora going to be there, and he knows the way we work. But it was very hard. I know for a fact that he feels kind of funny leaving the ballclub. But this is part of the game. I told him dont blame Kenny, dont blame Jerry Reinsdorf. I think they go in a different direction. Mark decided to play somewhere else. Thats the way it was meant to be.
Wednesday night, Guillen flew back to, of all places, Chicago. He and his wife recently built a home in the city, and despite managing in Miami, he plans on living in Chicago in the winters. He said he doesnt want to leave. Why? Well, hes Ozzie, and he still loves Chicago -- apparently even when its 5-below zero.
And if you happen to live near Guillen, you might see him around the neighborhood on Thursday morning, and a lot more than normal.
I will walk my dog three times to see what they say about Mark. It will be pretty interesting to see what they say.
Memo to Ozzie: theyre not going to be happy.
So now the White Sox move on without one of their longtime centerpieces, a guy who pitched a perfect game, a no-hitter, won a World Series ring, as well as the hearts and minds of every White Sox fan from Beverly to Burr Ridge, Palos Hills to Park Forest.
Can they replace him? We know better.
For me to stand here and say that somebody is going to take that mantle and be Mark Buehrle? Mark Buehrle is Mark Buehrle. Hes a unique person, Williams said. I just told the Marlins ownership, I said, Youve got one hell of a pitcher, but let me tell you, youve got a better person.
One of the best players, and one of the best people this sportscaster has ever covered or ever met.
Chicago, I feel your pain.