clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

MLB Network's 'The Club' Exposes Publicity-Shy Sox Honchos

Just how much of "inside White Sox" do we really see in "The Club"? George takes a look.

Getty Images

If Jerry Krause watched "The Club" last Sunday, he must have died a thousand deaths.

Cameras from MLB Productions chronicling a season in the life ot the White Sox stuck their lenses into the team's "war room" during the June amateur draft. And there was ex-Bulls GM Krause, normally as secretive as the chief of the old KGB, featured in close-ups of his craggy facial expressions. Krause would never even want a squint of his portrayed in a team's inner sanctum, and yet here he was, three baseball scouting incarnations after his basketball days ended.

"The Club" doesn't record any Krause conversations. Wish there was a hidden camera present when he drafted the immortal Jason Caffey for the Bulls. No way does Sox GM Ken Williams, who loves his privacy in player transactions, even compare with Krause in keeping the lid on things.

But there was not going to be unlimited access for "The Club's" production crew. Williams has his limits. He certainly is no Herman Franks, who as Cubs interim GM in 1981 allowed Chicago Tribune sportswriter Dave Nightengale to sit on his trade talks to dispatch ace Rick Reuschel to the Yankees for the immortal Doug Bird and Mike Griffin -- and $400,000.

The most potentially fascinating view of the Sox -- how Williams works the phone in doing a deal -- was verboten. The mystique of a trade is one of the most alluring things for baseball fans. They wonder how the horse-trading is accomplished. Does a GM open with small talk, beat around the bush, talk in tongues or simply cuts out everything to ask for Player A for Player B? Legends have abounded over inebriated GM's, back in the mid-20th Century, having stars wheedled out from under their three-sheets-to-the-wind personas.

The Williams dealmaking style will for now be consigned to conjecture, far from the cameras.

"You're not going to see that," Williams said of a visual record of his trade talks. "This deadline part is going to be a struggle for me, this process. I like to keep things really tight. I guess I have a responsiblity to the game so that people are able to put their arms around it to a greater degree and understand some of the dynamics of it. But at the same time, that's not my nature. And how do I know what's being said right there is going to stay there?

"You don't want to jeopardize a deal by running your mouth. That's why we've gotten so many more things done by not promoting what we're trying to do out here. We could look better nationally and be the talk on the radio shows and the TV shows nationally by saying the White Sox are after this guy or that guy or whatever. I kid you not, the percentages of when things get out, that we're after Player X, and then that gets debated in this city or that city -- it never works out.  You never get the player. You never get the player."

The human side of a baseball team is the biggest attraction of "The Club." The show does not have to be an expose or deal with Baseball Babylon to be worth watching. The single-best scene is where rookie Sergio Santos, less than a year from converting from the infield to pitching, is told by Williams and Ozzie Guillen he has broken camp with the Sox. Santos shed tears of joy, and everyone could relate to that.

In the same sequence, the cameras showed the Sox brass informing Daniel Hudson he has not made the cut, even though he pitched well. There were five starters blocking his path, a fact Hudson knew. The Sox declined to keep him as a long reliever.

"I like Santos' reaction," Williams said. "When you get to tell a guy something like that, that's always the good part. The bad part is when somebody does not make the team or is at the end of his career, I sat in that chair. I know what it feels like. I know what your heart feels like and what your stomach feels like and what your mind goes through. I struggled with that part of it.

"Hudson knew the situation -- we had the five starters. He knew he performed well. That was the only guy that I was  comfortable with saying, 'OK, we can allow the cameras in on that.' But somebody who is going to have an emotional struggle for it, that's not fair. That wouldn't be right."

Williams has only seen parts of the first two shows. He's too busy, too "grumpy" with the dynamics of trades, to relax and watch himself on TV. He'd rather watch someone else if the truth be told.

"I'm a little uncomfortable because it's my face on TV a lot," he said, preferring Sox business executives get some airplay instead. But that's not as interesting as wheeler-dealer Williams.

I'd like to see a sequel to "The Club" during the winter -- behind the scenes at the 2010 World Series with the Sox as the American League  entrant. For that, Williams won't mind going Hollywood.