By Tom Halliburton
November 2, 2001
HOUSTON — Jimy Williams made no promises, gave very few thoughts, saying he had seen the Houston Astros play in nearly five years.
The 58-year-old major-league manager of nine seasons — four at Toronto and five at Boston — and 1999 American League manager of the year was introduced as the Astros’ 13th manager in a Thursday afternoon Enron Field press conference.
General manager Gerry Hunsicker called Williams on Wednesday night at his Dunedin, Fla., residence to offer him the job.
“I told him ‘I’d sleep on it’,” Williams said. “I called him back in 45 minutes and told him, ‘I’d slept fast’ and then I gave him an answer.”
Major league baseball normally prohibits such announcements during the World Series but Astros’ owner Drayon McLane, Jr., requested and received Commissioner Bud Selig’s permission to present Williams on Thursday.
Williams interviewed for the position a week earlier. The Astros interviewed former major league manager Jim Fregosi, New York Yankees third base coach Willie Randolph, Astros assistant coach Mike Cubbage and two Astros minor league managers, Tony Pena from Triple-A New Orleans and Jackie Moore from Double-A Round Rock.
“The thing we unanimously felt was that we needed someone with major-league managerial experience,” Hunsicker said, speaking on behalf of a selection committee.
That committee consisted of McLane, Hunsicker, club president Tal Smith, farm director and assistant GM Tim Purpura, incoming president for business operations Pam Gardner, and outgoing president for business operations Bob McClaren.
Williams has history of being regarded as an excellent teacher of younger players. Hunsicker pointed out that quality Thursday.
“Jimy is going to be great for this organization,” Hunsicker said. “The fact that we have so many young people on our current major-league roster and more to follow, I think the fact that he loves to teach and is a terrific teacher helped to make him a unanimous selection.”
Williams (695-593 as a major league manager) did not attempt to elaborate on how his style might differ from that of Larry Dierker who resigned Oct. 18 after leading the Astros to four NL Central divisional titles in the last five years.
“I’m not here to compare what’s the difference,” Williams said during a 35-minute press conference that was described as “more combative” than the usual introductory press conference.
Williams has had a history over the last five seasons in Boston of having awkward communication problems with the Red Sox news media. Historically, the Houston-area news media has experienced a friendly, pleasant relationship with Astros managers over the years.
“What are you going to do different,” Williams said. “I can’t answer that. I’m just going to be me. There’s only one reason to play. That’s to win.”
Williams paid tribute to the Astros’ successful minor-league system, as well as its scouting and player development system. He did not elaborate on the selection of possible members on his coaching staff.
“I can work with just about anybody as coaches but we will talk in the coming days about our coaching staff,” he said. “This organization has to have some good people here. Whether I got the job or not, what was very impressive to me was the emphasis on the scouting system and player development.
“I think that was probably exemplified by the number of players the Astros had through their farm system that came and played at some particular time during the last season.”