Jimy Williams did not begin to suspect the trouble that awaited him last Nov. 19 when he was officially introduced as manager of the Boston Red Sox. But it didn't take long before he knew.
Like his first formal news conference with the Boston media, which was more than happy to enlighten the onetime manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.
"I remember my opening-day press conference up there," Williams said before the Red Sox Williams opened a two-game series against the Orioles. "They were talking about all the problems, and I wasn't familiar with any of it. I was lost in my own little world in another city."
Williams, 53, was fresh from his insulated world in Atlanta, where he had spent seven seasons as third base coach for the perennial National League champion Braves.
Little did he know of the cold war that raged between the front office and the clubhouse, or the strong feelings that existed for deposed manager Kevin Kennedy, or the fact that Roger Clemens would soon bolt for Toronto.
"We've had our challenges, maybe from the outset," Williams said. "[But] coaching third base is a challenge. Being on a team in contention is a challenge. I was just glad I had the opportunity to come to Boston."
It's been a roller-coaster ride, to say the least. Not only did Clemens depart, but the two name pitchers the Red Sox picked up -- Steve Avery and Bret Saberhagen -- both have spent time on the disabled list. So has first baseman Mo Vaughn (knee) and third baseman Tim Naehring (elbow).
Then there was the Wil Cordero affair. He was charged with assaulting his wife, hitting her with a dangerous weapon and threatening her life. The Red Sox and Major League Baseball opted to serve an administrative suspension that only recently expired.
The fallout is that the Red Sox have plummeted to the AL East basement, 17 games behind the Orioles. They are last in the league in fielding with a major-league high 87 errors. They were're 12th in pitching, where the bullpen has blown 10 saves so far. Yet, true to their history, they can hit. Going into last night, they led the league with a .292 average.
"I think our starters have pitched a lot better of late," Williams said. "Defense-wise, I feel our athletes are a lot better than what those numbers indicate. We've had to move guys around. With Mo getting hurt, with Naehring getting hurt and the Cordero situation, you'd think our batting average would go down. In fact, it went up.
"The rest of 'em can hit, too. There are a lot of good hitters on this team."
What has helped Williams cope with the siege is his experience in Toronto, where he managed the Blue Jays from 1986 to 1989. In 1987 and 1988, he had the Jays within two games of the AL East champ. After 36 games in 1989, he was fired.
"I learned an awful lot up there," he said. "I try to keep things in perspective a lot more. As important as this game is to me, I can't make it so important that it affects my personality, or how I react to situations.
"I put my best players out there and let them play. I get feedback. I don't get too excited about one particular incident, if in fact something doesn't go the way I think it should."
If he is different now than he was in Toronto, it is in how he handles players, he says. He is not as loud as he once was.
"In the long run, it creates a more serene situation," Williams said. "A player will be better by talking to them than talking at him. I don't believe in screaming and hollering."
He's got two seasons to find out if that approach works in Boston, where problems don't seem to go away.
Pub Date: 7/17/97