Arvia: Ventura will judge who sits on the bench
PHIL ARVIA firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-5949 January 27, 2012 9:24PM
White Sox manager Robin Ventura is introduced to the crowd Friday during the opening of SoxFest. | AP photo
Updated: March 1, 2012 8:18AM
If every managerial hire is an answer to the perceived failings of his predecessor, what, I asked Paul Konerko, is new White Sox manager Robin Ventura here to address?
Four seconds later, Konerko said, “Um, that’s a good question.”
“Uh, I would say ... ”
Fourteen seconds later.
“That’s a tough question to answer, because almost anything I say, the direct opposite, you say, ‘Well, Ozzie didn’t do that well.’ ”
Konerko, you see, is an Ozzie Guillen guy. Which isn’t to say he’s not a Ventura guy. Which, his location being the Chicago room of the Palmer House Hilton, amid Friday’s SoxFest kickoff presser, wouldn’t be a wise position to take.
“I just think there’s an arc there,” Konerko said. “It just comes time where you have to make a change.
“Before 2004, whenever they hired Ozzie, if they said, ‘Listen, you’re going to have some crazy stuff happen here ... but, in one of those years you’re going to get a World Series out of it,’ everybody would have said, ‘We’ll take it, with all the (B.S.).’ Everybody would’ve taken that. It was a success. Don’t let anybody kid you that that seven or eight years with Ozzie was a failure of some kind.”
Agreed. And if the baseball gods could guarantee another title between now and 2019, most Sox fans would take another eight years of Ozzie, sparing none of the attendant B. or S.
Still, Ventura is here for a reason. Ken Williams, without the 14-second delay and without consideration for Guillen’s ability to extract personal injury from conversations not about him, defined it thusly:
“It was more important, where we are right now, for me to get a leader of men than it was to get someone who is, quote unquote, a seasoned baseball manager.”
I don’t discount Williams’ Leader of Men stance. But I do believe Ventura would do much to extend the shelf life of his considerable goodwill reserves among Sox fans by becoming a Bencher of Stars.
More to the point, I believe he will be, if the situation calls for it.
In 2011, Adam Dunn was hitting .185 through May, then hit .136 in June, and got more at-bats in July than he did in two of the three previous months. Alex Rios was somnambulant at bat and in the field well into June, but still managed to get into 145 games.
By September, most Sox fans of my acquaintance took each plate appearance by either as an insult, or evidence that Guillen cared more about salaries than abilities, or that he was trying to get Williams fired, or all three.
Ventura is aware of the belief among many that Guillen didn’t pull the trigger quick enough on Dunn and Rios. The gun, it is worth pointing out, now rests in another holster.
“We’re different,” he said. “We have a few different people in here that are making those decisions, so it’s going to be different. It’s not going to be the same.”
So, what will tell Ventura it’s time to make a change?
“I mean, I was sat down before. It’s as a staff when we feel like it’s time to make a change, maybe give a guy a breather,” he said. “I don’t know when it is. I haven’t seen them play, I haven’t even been to spring training yet, so I can’t sit here and say, ‘I’m going to give him 10 at-bats and if he’s not hitting .900, he’s out.’ It’s an unfair thing to do to a player.”
Ventura will be watching his players the way managers watched him.
“I’m concerned more, maybe, with an attitude or how guys go about their business right now,” he said. “It goes off my experience as a player ... things that I saw, that I feel make people successful. That’s what I have to go off of. As a staff, that’s what we’re going to go off of.
“Sometimes it might be a tired bat, or mechanical, or maybe just the way I walked to the plate. And different managers handled it different ways. They talk to you differently.
And Ventura will be different still — a point he emphasized.
“Again, most of this is coming from my experience, not ‘This is the manager textbook,’” he said. “This is why I was hired, not somebody else — because it’s my decision, not a textbook decision.”
Book or no, allow me to read between the lines — and suggest Dunn had better get off to a good start.