“FENWAY'S BEST PLAYERS”


 
1997-2001
#8   JIMY WILLIAMS

Jimy Williams is the former manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros. As a player, he was a shortstop with a reputation for good defense, and showed a decent bat in 1965, his first minor league season. Playing with the Waterloo Hawks of the Midwest League, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, he hit .287 in 115 games. That prompted the St. Louis Cardinals to select him in the minor league draft for the 1966 season, but after only playing in 13 games over almost four months, in which he went 3 for 11, he was called for military service and missed the rest of the year. He started 1967 with the AA Arkansas Travelers but was promoted to the AAA Tulsa Oilers after 28 games in which he hit .208. Even though he only hit .226 in AAA, he still received a call-up to the Major Leagues in September, but went hitless in the only game he played. He did collect a World Champions bonus cheque that year, though.

On February 8, 1968, he was included in a trade of defensive catchers with the Cincinnati Reds, accompanying another future major-league manager, Pat Corrales, to Cincinnati, while Johnny Edwards headed to St. Louis. He spent the entire 1968 season in AAA with the Indianapolis Indians but only hit .226 while alternating between second base and shortstop. His lack of hitting motivated the Reds not to protect him for the 1969 Expansion Draft and he was selected by the Montreal Expos with the 32nd pick. However, he hurt his shoulder moving some furniture during the off-season and had to spend all but a month of the 1969 season on the disabled list. When he played, for the AAA Vancouver Mounties, he hit .258 in 66 at bats. He returned to AAA in 1970, with the Buffalo Bisons who became the Winnipeg Whips a few weeks into the year; the team was terrible, however, and Williams only hit .230 in 109 games playing all three infield positions. No longer considered a prospect, he returned for one more season in AAA. He began the year in Winnipeg, but his association with the Expos ended in tears as he was suspended for a week in June 1971, then sold to the New York Mets organization, finishing the season with the Tidewater Tides, hitting .257 overall with a career-high 5 home runs.

He began managing in the Angels organization in 1974 with the Quad Cities Angels of the Midwest League, leading them to the first half title and the league playoffs. Promoted to the AA El Paso Diablos in 1975, he was briefly a player-manager, getting two hits in 17 at bats as a designated hitter. He managed in the minors until 1979, winning a Pacific Coast League championship with the Salt Lake City Gulls in his last season. This success led to a job with the Toronto Blue Jays as a coach, and eventually to his first major league managerial appointment. Williams has had success at all three places he managed. He had a reputation as a no-nonsense type who cared little about his relationship with the media, but emphasized fundamentals and managing by instinct. However, he had several run-ins with players and was criticized for having too much of a "quick hook" with starters, as well as incessant shuffling of his lineups.

As manager of the Blue Jays, Williams had a well-publicized clash with George Bell in 1988. It started when Williams attempted to move Bell, the reigning MVP, from left field to designated hitter during spring training, and Bell balked at the move. Bell was re-installed as the full-time left fielder by the middle of April. On July 26 of that year, Bell made an error in the field and Williams yanked him from the game. Bell yelled at him on the bench and after the game announced his intention to get Williams fired. Williams was indeed fired, but not until on May 15, 1989 after the Blue Jays got off to a terrible 12-24 start with what was one of the most talented squads in the American League. His replacement, Cito Gaston, led the team to the 1989 division championship. Following the season, he was hired by Bobby Cox as a coach for the Atlanta Braves. He eventually served as the Braves' third base coach.

The Red Sox hired Williams to replace Kevin Kennedy as manager after the 1996 season, bypassing more famous options like Whitey Herzog and Jim Leyland.  When Williams was hired to manage the Boston Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette, the move was heavily criticized based on his unsuccessful tenure in Toronto. Many speculated that he had been hired because Duquette perceived that he was easily controllable. However, Williams did have good success with the Red Sox.  In his first year, he led Boston to a 78-84 record, 20 games off the pace in an ultra-competitive AL East. In September 1997, he gave oft-injured Steve Avery a start so that the left-hander could exercise a $4 million contract option for the 1998 season.

In each of the next three seasons, he took the Sox to the playoffs, garnering Manager of the Year honors in 1999. He won praise for using his entire roster and his manage-from-the-gut style. On August 14, 1999, Red Sox star pitcher Pedro Martinez arrived at the stadium 30 minutes before a scheduled start and Williams refused to let him pitch. Martinez was unhappy, but other Red Sox players sided with Williams. He also successfully replaced injured closer Tom Gordon with the unconventional duo of Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield. However, by 2001 he had worn out his welcome and the team turned against him. On May 5, in a closed-door clubhouse meeting in Oakland, several Red Sox yelled profanities at him. The complaints generally related to his tendency to shuffle lineups without offering any explanations to the players. It also became clear that Duquette had lost confidence in him. Williams often had trouble getting along with hands-on Duquette, and was eventually fired in August 2001 -- even though his club was five games behind the Yankees in the AL East and just two games out of wild-card contention. Williams was replaced by pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. The Red Sox finished 13.5 games back.

Williams was then hired by the Houston Astros as the 13th manager in their history on November 1, 2001. He led the Astros to 2nd place finishes in 2002 and 2003, but again faced criticism for shuffling lineups and also for utilizing a quick hook with starters. Williams was named a coach for the 2004 All-Star Game in Houston, but was booed mercilessly by the hometown crowd. He was fired a few days later.  In 2006, he was named the Philadelphia Phillies bench coach and continued with that role through the Phillies 2008 World Series championship season. He decided not to return to his position for the 2009 season.

Jimy Williams had the most wins by a Red Sox manager in the second half of the 20th century.