October 06, 2011
GM Kenny Williams and owner Jerry Reinsdorf looked at the field chart from the 1993 AL West champions and simply moved one position to the right of Ozzie Guillen and Joey Cora.
If the pattern continues, Ron Karkovice better make sure he's not busy in a year or two.
Unorthodox would be one way to describe this move. Insanity that only Guillen could love would be another. Ventura has not managed or coached on any level in professional baseball since retiring in 2004. A profile in the Los Angeles Times this past summer said he recently worked as a volunteer assistant for Arroyo Grande High School. He has occasionally worked on College World Series and White Sox broadcasts, and he started serving as a special assistant to the White Sox in June. Old teammate Frank Thomas calls him "a great instructor."
"When I met with the media as our season ended, I identified one person at the very top of my managerial list," said Ken Williams, White Sox general manager. "I wanted someone who met very specific criteria centered around his leadership abilities. Robin Ventura was that man. His baseball knowledge and expertise, his professionalism, his familiarity with the White Sox and Chicago and his outstanding character make him absolutely the right person to lead our clubhouse and this organization into the seasons ahead."
Look, no one's going to question Ventura's credentials as a player. He put together an excellent 16-year career and might even be a good candidate for the Hall of the Very Good. Also, no one should be stupid enough to say that he won't be respected in the clubhouse because he got his tail whipped by 46-year-old Nolan Ryan at age 26. That event was all-time hilarious, but irrelevant to Ventura's life 18 years later.
Where this decision deserves scorn is that Tampa Bay bench coach Dave Martinez was thought to be the frontrunner for the job. It would have been a natural fit as the ex-Sock had been learning under Joe Maddon, knows plenty about winning without a lot of resources and, perhaps most importantly for Reinsdorf, would come on the cheap. (The salary that Terry Francona made in Boston made him a pipe dream for exactly this reason.)
The Pale Hose are instead going with a choice that all but indicates they think they have no shot of winning in the near future. That may actually be true given the team's age, and perhaps White Sox brass wanted the anti-Ozzie after eight years of dealing with all the extra baggage that Guillen brought to the table. But if this had been their plan all along, why hadn't Ventura been managing in the team's minor-league system prior to this?
Simple explanation: Reinsdorf, the man who allowed Jerry Krause to tell Michael Jordan that "organizations win championships," doesn't want to be told how to do anything. It will also likely save him quite a bit of dough as he continues to pay for Adam Dunn(notes), Jake Peavy(notes) and Alex Rios(notes). As for Williams, he'll finally get the spotlight that Guillen hogged for so long. There will be no doubt who's running the show next season.
But as our own Jeff Passan alluded, this is a Faustian gamble — as in Gerry — in every sense of the term. Fans aren't owed much, but a manager with a little experience leading men old enough to vote is one of them.
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