White Sox give Robin Ventura contract extension
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter January 24, 2014 11:08PM
Updated: February 26, 2014 6:16AM
Much has been made of Robin Ventura’s desire to manage, even though he made it clear in September he wanted in for the long run.
Any doubts about that — and general manager Rick Hahn’s desire to have Ventura lead the Sox into the next several years — were cleared away when the Sox announced before the opening ceremonies at SoxFest 2014 that Ventura had agreed to a multiyear extension.
Ventura, who signed a three-year deal as a surprise hire by Ken Williams before the 2012 season, has one year left on that deal. The Sox did not announce terms of this one, which is believed to be for two years and would take him through 2016.
Ventura’s laid-back demeanor has a way of masking his desire to manage. When he turned down an extension during spring training last year, after the Sox finished second in the American League Central, some took that to mean that he wasn’t in it for the long haul. But all he wanted was the Sox to be sure they knew he was their guy. Ninety-nine losses and looking ragged doing it didn’t change Hahn’s mind.
“The decision he made was a selfless one that allowed me the latitude to get comfortable,’’ Hahn said. “I thought that was awfully special. It speaks to what kind of man he is and makes this decision easier.’’
Paul Konerko, who has played for a variety of managers, including Jerry Manuel, Ozzie Guillen and Ventura, called the extension “a great move for the White Sox’’ because of Ventura’s manner.
“He just doesn’t miss on how to handle guys and treat guys,’’ Konerko said. “Stern with them, and can get his point across, but for a team of this makeup, it’s a good fit. The fact that he’s committed to this is great for him, but I think it’s better for the White Sox.’’
It made sense to give Ventura an extension and keep him out of lame-duck status during a rebuilding year that will see growing pains for numerous young players. Only five managers are entering the last year of their contracts — Ron Roenicke, Fredi Gonzalez, Ron Washington, Clint Hurdle and Kirk Gibson — and the extension relieves Ventura of having to answer questions about his future.
“We work in sports,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘The length of our contract really is just indicative of how long we get paid when something goes wrong.
“We still have to perform. The length of the contract is nice . . . but it’s performance that dictates decisions.’’
The club’s poor performances made some question Ventura’s ability, but Hahn never did.
“You lose 99 games, there’s going to be questions like that, where this organization is headed and why they think the people in charge are the right people to get them to their end goals,’’ Hahn said.
But through the extremes of 2012 and ’13, Ventura’s leadership “was unwavering. His communication, ability to teach at the big-league level, enthusiasm, baseball intellect — all the things we looked for in a manager — were the same at our highest highs and lowest lows,’’ Hahn said. “That level of stability is what we want in the dugout.’’
Ventura said going through last season was the toughest thing he has dealt with “player-wise” and that it only solidified his passion and love for the job.
Hahn said he has no doubt Ventura is the right man for the job. Continuity is key through the current transition process. Ventura agrees.
“It is a group of people that will be there for an extended period of time,’’ Ventura said. “Is someone going to pick us to win our division? Probably not, just because of the age and the guys that we have. Does that mean we can’t? No.