Seattle Mariners: Should Kenny Williams Run The Team?


The Seattle Mariners need a new general manager. This has become something of a familiar refrain around these parts, as we’ve continued to visit and revisit the idea that this team really ought to be aggressively searching for new decision-making leadership to replace the ever-disappointing Jack Zduriencik. The notion has gained steam over the last seven years, and now finally appears to be coming to a head. Odds have never been as high as they are now that the M’s will finally replace Jack Z.

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The mainstream media has picked up on this idea, with loads of (mostly unfounded) speculation swirling upon the release of Dave Dombrowski from his contract with the Detroit Tigers. As this bad Mariners season just keeps getting worse, the notion that GMZ should be gone gains more and more traction. And now we have a new rumor. A new name has been connected to the not-yet-open Seattle GM job.

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale wrote a piece yesterday about GM turnover in the game of baseball. In it he laments how quickly teams now turn on their head decision-makers, and names the three current GMs who he sees as most likely to lose their jobs. There’s Zduriencik, usual suspect Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies, and the less-mentioned Walt Jocketty of the Reds. He also talks a lot about Kenny Williams. Here, here’s a quote:

"Jack Zduriencik, who has had seven years on the job but with no playoff berths, likely will follow Amaro out the door, with Chicago White Sox President Kenny Williams coming in, unless Williams instead goes to the Toronto Blue Jays as club president."

The Blue Jays have long had a looming opening at the top of their baseball operations department, one which they’ve thus far struggled to fill while pursuing established, oft-already-employed executives. It would make sense that they’d be interested in Williams – they’ve been hot after Dan Duquette and Dombrowski in the past, and Williams is also an established front office lifer. But Nightengale goes as far as to call Williams to Seattle “likely.” Which, up until the moment it was published, did not seem “likely” at all.

So Kenny Williams. He’s apparently the guy who the Mariners want to hand the keys to the car, though so far all we’ve got to go off of is this one report that gives a startling amount of new, single-source information. Despite the conviction with which Nightengale writes, it seems imperative to take this one with a grain of salt. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about who and what Williams is.

Jul 18, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams during ceremonies to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2005 World Series championship prior to a game against the Kansas City Royals at U.S Cellular Field. Kansas City won 7-6 in 13 innings. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

A brief biography: Williams is currently the White Sox’ executive vice president, having previously served as their GM from 2000 until his 2012 promotion to his current role. Before stepping into the front office he was an outfielder for the White Sox, Tigers, Blue Jays, and Expos, hitting .218/.269/.339 over a six year career. He transitioned into a scouting role, then became a special assistant and eventually the Sox’ GM.

His most notable career accomplishment, of course, is leading the White Sox to a 2005 World Series victory, their first since 1917. His White Sox teams were largely successful during his tenure as GM, though things have been rough since he moved up the ladder and handed the general manager title down to Rick Hahn.

It’s unclear what kind of role the Mariners would have in mind for Williams. He’s already been there, done that with regards to being a general manager – it seems unlikely he’d leave a comfortable position at the very top of the White Sox to be a GM in Seattle. He, like Dombrowski, would almost certainly be seeking a president’s role. If he’s seeking anything, that is.

This report is the first to name Williams as a candidate to do anything other than exactly what he’s doing right now. Maybe there’s something to it – Williams’ has been with his current team for a long time, and that team is now worse than they’ve ever been in his time there. Maybe he wants to move on, but if that’s true then it’s certainly something we hadn’t heard about until yesterday. Or maybe he, like Duquette before him, is just an attractive target who really can’t be had.

Plus there’s the little bit of information we recently learned about the Mariners being unwilling to pay top dollar for established executives. If they didn’t want to pay Dombrowski, odds are they won’t want to pay Williams, who is a similarly-established exec but with a little bit less of a track record. Maybe that report was untrue – the Mariners weren’t going to sign Nelson Cruz because of an anti-steroids policy, remember? But maybe it is. And if it is, Williams probably isn’t a fit.

This is, at the least, a situation worth monitoring. There’s a new name out there, and it’s another big one. We just watched the Mariners miss out on a big name, and now we might get to watch them do it again! But as long as these rumors are swirling, we have reason to believe Jack Zduriencik might not be safe forever. Which is just fantastic, as far as these things go.

Next: Say Goodbye To The 2015 Seattle Mariners

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