White Sox react to Manny's suspension
General manager Williams offers candid thoughts
CHICAGO -- Since taking over as White Sox manager in November 2003, Ozzie Guillen has cornered the market on outspoken commentary related to controversial topics inside and often outside of baseball.
On Thursday evening, it was not Guillen, but Ken Williams, the team's eloquent and direct general manager, who minced no words when asked about the subject of Manny Ramirez being suspended for 50 games for the use of performance enhancing drugs.
"My reaction to Manny is not an isolated reaction. It's the same as any reaction I've had to all these guys. I think it is fraud," Williams said. "You enter into a deal. You enter into a deal with a certain understanding, a certain expectation of past performance and projection of future performance.
"From my perspective, if I enter into a deal with a player with those assumptions, it's incumbent upon them to be above board with everything. And if they're not, I think it is fraud."
Williams said he asked a few years ago about a mechanism for baseball owners to combat this perceived fraud, but he was told there's not too much of a leg to stand on.
White Sox players, and even Guillen, were not as quick to condemn Ramirez. Jim Thome, who played with Ramirez in Cleveland from 1993-2000 and previously praised his friend for the intense work ethic he showed when he reached 500 home runs, chose to avoid specific talk of the topic.
"I know about as much as you guys do," said Thome. "If anything, it shows that Major League Baseball is trying to clean our game up and do the things they have to do. The bottom line is that MLB is doing a great job with our drug testing program. That's really all I will answer on that."
"All I can speak for is myself," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "I can't speak for anyone else, and I'm not going to speak for anyone else. It's not my job or my place. I don't want anyone to speak for me. It's their own problem and their own thing. I'm not going to judge anyone. I don't know the situation. It's just a bad situation for everyone involved."
Guillen was at the dentist late Thursday morning when he received a call from his son, Oney, who works for the White Sox organization, telling him of the Ramirez report. Guillen was glad it was not one of his players who faced a suspension, a matter he talked about again with the team on Thursday. But he added praise for the moves being taken by MLB to provide a level playing field for current and especially future Major Leaguers such as his son, Ozney, a standout high school player in Florida.
"I'm not going to protect him, and I'm not going to go against him," said Guillen of Ramirez. "It's something, no matter what you say wrong or right, you're not going to be right. No matter what my opinion is going to be, it doesn't mean anything.
"Unfortunately it happened to one of the best players we have -- to me, the best hitter we've had in the last 10 years. But the players have to be aware now that this is not a joke. To me, it's got to be drastic. That's the only way we're going to shut it down. Be drastic, be real, and whoever it is, come down and do it right away."
Williams would not cut Ramirez any slack about not knowing medication prescribed by his doctor was banned under the drug policy, as stated in Ramirez's prepared remarks released Thursday.
"Listen, Major League Baseball has put forth a drug enforcement initiative that is outstanding. It has broken ground in sports," Williams said. "And it has been simplified to the point where if anyone has questions about this coffee that I'm drinking now, then you can go to a trainer, conditioning people. If they don't have the answers, they will very shortly get you the answers. So there is really not too much excuse, as far as I'm concerned.
"If there is a gray area, don't do it. If there are questions or you aren't getting concrete answers, you just don't do it. It's pretty simple. There is a responsibility to be caretakers of the game and conduct ourselves the way that people before us did so. If anyone tells you it's not a black mark each time any of these things happen, I think they're kidding themselves.
"I can be a little draconian about it," Williams added. "At the same time, I understand some of the pressures and reasons why people go down these roads. That's not to excuse it, but to understand."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.