I wanted to take a look at the job Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams has done since taking the position shortly after the squad won the AL Central in 2000.
It started off rather bumpy. Stupid trades were made. There were some horrible teams from 2001-2003 and the farm system was horse dung.
But the program righted ship towards the end of 2004, when groundwork was laid for the eventual World Series title in 2005 and subsequent solid teams in 2006, 2008 and while it's still early, 2009.
Despite the relative year-in-year-out success, Williams is still harshly criticized among fans and media alike for his wheeling and dealing mentality and his will to rip a farm system in half while getting fleeced in trades.
I've always maintained that Williams hardly ever "loses" in a deal but rather, if it doesn't come out in his favor, the trade didn't work out for either team. I point to the crappy farm system up until this year as one of the primary reasons for the latter.
In the early parts of Williams' career he attempted to acquire "big fish" with less than sexy results.
It started off with a trade for hefty Toronto Blue Jays starter David Wells. Wells was one of the top-15 pitchers in baseball to say the least at the time and Williams decided to bolster the rotation which folded in the playoffs by trading for him.
But Wells folded though an injury filled, sub-par season in his only year on the south side of Chicago.
People were up in arms at the time of the deal, trading away a "future ace" in Mike Sirotka and three other "prospects" for Wells.
This is one of the trades you chalk up to nobody winning as Sirotka blew out his arm immediately after the trade (quite possibly on the plane ride to Toronto). The three other prospects, along with Sirotka were never heard from again.
Can't really call that a loss on Williams' part though.
The next two years, he hit a rough patch. The trades for Todd Ritchie, Billy Koch and Jon Adkins were complete train wrecks.
People make a bigger deal out of the Ritchie one than they do about the Koch and Adkins one which blows my mind. Ritchie was acquired for two journeymen starting pitchers in my opinion and while he flamed out as bad as Koch and Adkins did, the bounty wasn't nearly as much.
Koch required Keith Foulke, a dominant closer at the time coming off a bad year. We don't need to be reminded of how bad Koch was. Adkins was a swap for second baseman Ray Durham, a fan favorite, but more importantly a Type-A free agent at the time.
It could have netted the White Sox to compensatory picks at the end of the year but then again, I never trusted the Pale Hose to make a decent draft pick.
In 2003, things started to turn around for Williams. Although the season ended in dissapointment with manager Jerry Manuel getting fired, the White Sox were at least competitive during a year they held the All-Star game.
Williams started the year off scooping up Bartolo Colon to be the staff ace for a bunch of nobody prospects that never amounted to anything. He also landed all-star slugger Carl Everett, ableit at an expensive cost of future Texas Rangers closer Franky Francisco. Williams also made a shrewd move in signing starter Esteban Loaiza, a man without any track record of success. Loaiza nearly won the Cy Young in 2003 and was shipped out in 2004 for Jose Contreras and a bag of cash with a dollar sign on it.
The White Sox also landed a all-star at the end of the line (signature Williams move) in Robbie Alomar. While the second baseman didn't make a difference between contender and pretender he didn't cost anything in the sense of prospects.
Shortly after the 2003 season, Manuel was fired and replaced by Ozzie Guillen. In seperate deals in the offseason Aaron Miles and Matt Ginter were shipped out for Juan Uribe and Timo Perez.
Miles is having a decent career and Ginter has been a journeyman for a while but Uribe and Perez were both key contributors in 2004 and more importantly, 2005.
Midseason, Williams once again traded for Everett, this time for two solid bullpen pitchers but not stars. Everett offset the injuries to Frank Thomas during the White Sox championship season in 2005.
Ace Freddy Garcia was also acquired for prospects. Again, people were worried that Williams had given up too much in future "all-star" catcher Miguel Olivo and outfielder Jeremy Reed. Neither player given up in the deal turned into anything more than a solid second option.
Garcia? Well the rest is history. Big win for Williams here.
In the rare instance where a trade has worked out for both teams, lazy left fielder Carlos Lee was shipped to Milwaukee for his counterpart, Scott Podsednik. Both players performed well but Podsednik provided the spark Guillen's offense needed in 2005.
Tuesday, I'll take a look at the moves Williams made after winning the World Series in 2005.