Coming to terms Jimy Williams finds work in the minors
In company with baseball fans across the continent, the owner of a two-storey house in a fashionable Dunedin, Fla., neighborhood had his television set tuned to the games between the Athletics and Blue Jays early last week. There, near Grant Field, the minor-league complex that is the Jays’ home field during spring training each year, Jimy Williams watched his former charges lose the first two games of the American League championship series. Jays executives fired him from the manager’s job last May – when the team had an unsatisfactory record of 12 wins and 24 losses – but Williams maintains that he has no animosity towards the ball players who did not perform for him. Said Williams: “I am pulling for them, but things are not going well for them now.” In any event, Williams’s own fortunes were on the upswing last week: Atlanta Braves general manager Bobby Cox said that he had hired Williams to be a minor league hitting instructor with the National League organization.
That hiring demonstrated the strong ties that exist between Williams and Cox, a man who took the Jays to their first division championship in 1985. Williams spent three years working for Cox as a Jays coach and succeeded him as the team manager when Cox left for Atlanta in 1986. But Williams, who is now 45, had a stormy tenure at the Jays’ helm, and his teams never matched Cox’s pennant-winning achievement. In 1987, a losing slide of seven straight games – each lost by one run – at the end of the season destroyed Williams’s best chance of winning as the team finished second behind the Detroit Tigers. In addition, Jays officials say privately that Williams took the blame for top management’s 1988 decision to pull hard-hitting George Bell from the outfield and make him the team’s designated hitter. Bell promptly rejected that role and predicted – rightly, it turned out – that he would outlast Williams with the Jays.
Former Dunedin mayor Cecil Englebert said that he had frequently encountered his friend during the summer, a period that Williams spent relaxing with his wife, Peggy, and their four children. According to Englebert, that enforced leisure has helped Williams come to terms with a dismissal that occured after the Blue Jays lost a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins. Said Englebert: “He seemed to be holding up pretty well. The last time I talked to him, he said that he understood why he had been fired – because he was not winning and they had had to make a change.” Now, the man who watched the Jays finish the regular season first without him maintains that he simply wants to do a good job for his new employers – without any thoughts of returning to the major leagues. Said Williams: “I am not even thinking about that.” Just being back in the game is what matters most.