Monday, Feb. 21, 2011Posted: 4:30 p.m.
By Chuck Garfien
GLENDALE, Ariz-- Kenny Williams said he wanted peace and quiet at spring training this season. No drama. No controversies. Just baseball and sunshine.
Well, it was good while it lasted.
With the White Sox in position to contend for an AL Central title, there is an undercurrent of hostility boiling inside him. It has nothing to do with Ozzie or Twitter. But instead, the face of baseball, Albert Pujols.
The Cardinals slugger might be thousands of miles away from Glendale, but with talk that he might command around 30 million a year when his contract runs out or re-signs with the Cardinals, Williams has looked at the present and into the future, and he doesnt like what he sees.
Consider this his warning shot to the rest of the league.
For the games health as a whole, when were talking about 30 million dollar players, I think its asinine, Williams said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. We have gotten to the point of no return. Something has to happen. And if it means the game being shut down for the sake of bringing sanity to it, to franchises that arent going to stop the insanity, Im all for it.
Considering the White Sox just raised their payroll for 2011 to around 125 million, a franchise record, one could say that Williams is just as guilty as the other big market teams who are contributing to the escalating salaries. But Williams is simply playing by the rules that the league set forth, a system without a salary cap, that gives big market teams a significant advantage over the smaller teams.
And get this: its a luxury Williams says he doesnt even want.
I personally, from a competitive standpoint, would love to be on an even playing field with everyone, Williams said. But its really difficult for me to complain too much when we still have a higher payroll than some of the others. So at least we have a fighting chance.
Pirates, Royals, Marlins...Kenny Williams is looking out for you. And hes not the only one.
Jerry Reinsdorf put it best when he and I had a conversation about it, he said, Its a shame that our game is played, and when the game starts, everybody plays under the same rules, the same 27 outs. The problem is, before the game, the rules are completely different.
Compare the Pujols situation to the NBA, where there's a salary cap. When LeBron James became a free agent last summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers, a small market team, had the money and ability to re-sign James. Forget about LeBrons intentions about where he actually wanted to play, but finances were never the issue for the Cavaliers.
But in baseball, what kind of shot do the Cleveland Indians have in signing Pujols? Zero.
If Pujols does hit the open market, only a handful of teams will be able to afford him. Would the White Sox go after him? The answer is no. Not at that price.
If (Jerry Reinsdorf) gave me 30 million dollars right now, Im not going to spend it on one guy. Sorry White Sox fans, Williams said. But I tell you what, Im going to take that 30 million and Im going to distribute it around. My team is going to be better as a whole than it is with one player who might get hurt. Then youre done. Sorry, thats just me. And thats no disrespect to a future Hall of Famer, first ballot, one of the greatest players in history.
Where is all of this headed? Nobody knows. Kenny Williams doesnt. But hes prepared for the worst-case scenario, which he believes might be the best-case scenario for the health of the league.
Youre not going to get any disagreement from me or argument from me if the game is shut down for a while until something is put in place where there is some sort of cap on the board, Williams said.
Do you think the game might get shut down?
Listen I love the game, I love the game for the players and the fans, but in order for the game to continue to be affordable for families, for guys who are hard-working guys busting their butts everyday to take their kids to a ballgame...well, hell yeah. Yes. Im okay with it being shut down.
Then Williams remembered something.
Wait a minute, didnt I say I wanted it quiet, I wanted peace? Let me shut the hell up already. I was hoping no one would ask me that this entire spring training.
And the drama begins again.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.