On Thursday, the White Sox achieved something notable. They managed to complete a managing hire more divisive than the reign of Ozzie Guillen.
Even more notable, they managed to do so with Robin Ventura, who is generally about as divisive as marshmallows, or track lighting.
Three seasons removed from a playoff appearance, and fresh off a less than harmonious parting with the last manager to deliver a franchise a World Series, Kenny Williams was already on shaky ground.
In Ventura–a fan favorite*, but a man with no professional coaching experience, hired from within the organization, with little prior interest and little public persona–Williams has handed over to the fans and press an empty picture frame . There’s nothing that can be seen in Ventura other than that his presence is Kenny’s decision.
*Personal digression, Ventura is my favorite player ever-ever-ever. The mix of thrill to see him again and terror at the possibility of his fall from grace only adds to the confusion.
As many have stated, there’s really no way to asses Ventura’s prospects as a manager right now. He could be a incredible natural, need a great deal of seasoning, or a hopeless mess whose career ends when his own pitcher beans him as he’s walking out to the mound.
His hiring is an act of faith by Williams, and a clear sign that his approach will continue to the absolute driving force of the organization. If Ventura fails, it won’t be Robin who let everyone down, it’ll be Williams to answer for passing on qualified and willing candidates in Sandy Alomar and Dave Martinez.
With the possible downsides obviously being that Robin won’t know what the hell he’s doing (asks for rules clarifications, lineups missing multiple positions, loses confidence of EVERYONE, etc), and that Williams didn’t give due diligence to the manager search, there are some clear positives.
Positive things I’m fairly sure about, but can’t really be sure about because–what the hell, Robin Ventura?
-The last White Sox manager social media/homophobic slur/contract extension whining incident has occurred for a while. Everything but that last one that Guillen did, I was ready to overlook, but now with Ventura there’ll be none of it. Nothing even close to it. Ventura is reserved enough that most will soon come to miss it.
-It could be nice to have the front office and management in lockstep again. With any new hire there’s going to be a honeymoon period, but that honeymoon lasts even longer when the new hire is a first-time coach learning on the job. Possibly because he’ll need to be told when the honeymoon is over.
-If Ventura has any experience at all, it’s in instruction. He worked as a special assistant to Buddy Bell to the minor leagues, and at least he’ll be continuing that work with the small smattering of installed youngsters the White Sox have
-While the hiring itself isn’t the most reasonable thing the White Sox have ever done, perhaps it further signals that the organization realizes that its current position of massive investments in age and experience at the cost of a completely demolished farm system is untenable, and they will be re-grouping as Ventura grows comfortable.
In what little gauging I’ve been able to bring myself to do of the viscerally furious reactions to the Ventura hire, this seems to be the biggest sticking point; that the lack of aggression shown by passing on any hot commodity signals that they Sox are packing it in for 2012.
For the fans of a team that has recklessly pursued banners for so long, that’s hard to take (and will continue to be), even if “we’re going to play the young guys” should have been plenty of warning.
As likely it is that there are some hard years ahead on the South Side, at least with Ventura it can be said that we really don’t know.
I’m sure there’ll be more, but I have a lot of plans tonight, had a perfectly not-time-sensitive post on WPA readied, and the Ventura hiring jumped in the way. Later, y’all.