Saturday, December 9, 2023

There’s no Kenny Williams in Major League Baseball without Bob Watson.

May 28, 2020 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Sports, Weekly Columns

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( Because Major League Baseball has so much focus on analytics and sabermetrics within the front office, it is not easy for casual sports fans to identify some of the most well known general managers or team presidents. Recognizable names making personnel decisions for MLB teams includes Theo Epstein of the Chicago Cubs, Mike Rizzo of the Washington Nationals, Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees, and Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox. Those last two names, Cashman and Williams, have some connection to former MLB All-Star and general manager Bob Watson, who passed away earlier this month. Watson was the first black general manager to win a World Series and he did so with the New York Yankees as the predecessor to Cashman. Watson’s success also showed Major League Baseball that black men can build championship baseball teams, which likely led to Kenny Williams having an opportunity to build the Chicago White Sox into a World Series winning team in 2005.

Bob Watson had a 19 year playing career in Major League Baseball that spanned from 1966 to 1984. As a two-time All-Star, he spent the majority of his career playing for the Houston Astros and was nicknamed “The Bull”. After a quality playing career, Watson would start to make some significant history as the second black general manager in major league baseball history when he was hired by the Astros in 1993. Among his notable acquistions during his Astros tenure, were two core members of the 1990s Astros in outfielder Derek Bell and pitcher Mike Hampton. The opportunity to join the New York Yankees as their general manager came in 1995.

Under the pressure of building one of the storied franchises in major professional sports that were owned by the temperamental George Steinbrenner, Bob Watson acquired multiple key players that helped the New York Yankees win the World Series in 1996. He traded for Tino Martinez, Tim Raines, and Joe Girardi in 1995 and traded for Cecil Fielder in 1996. Winning that World Series in 1996 and becoming the first black general manager to do so is a historically underrated given baseball’s history with integration and that Bob Watson had built the first Yankees team to win the championship since 1978.

Kenny Williams did not have a comparable major league playing career of Bob Watson but did play six seasons in the major leagues. Following his playing career, Williams worked his way up into being a scout with the Chicago White Sox organization that was owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, who had experience owning championship sports teams like Steinbrenner did with the Yankees. Unlike Steinbrenner, Reinsdorf’s championship winning teams were the 1990s Chicago Bulls of the NBA. In the year 2000, Kenny Williams, after working various front office jobs with the White Sox, replaced Ron Schueler as Chicago’s General Manager.

Although the team is second within its own city in local and national attention to the Chicago Cubs, Williams’ moves led to the White Sox winning the 2005 World Series which was the organization’s first World Series title since 1917. Williams became second black general manager to win the World Series following the success of Bob Watson and currently is the Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox. There is little doubt that Watson’s success with the Yankees has played a part in Kenny Williams’ career and that is an everlasting mark for the late Bob Watson.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines

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