White Sox manager Robin Ventura gets A on midterm
BY TONI GINNETTI email@example.com July 8, 2012 9:14PM
White Sox right fielder Alex Rios went 3-for-5, including his 12th home run (above), and had four RBI Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: August 10, 2012 6:34AM
Robin Ventura doesn’t believe in grading himself on his first three months as a major-league manager.
‘‘I have a boss who does that, so I don’t feel the need to try to assess it,’’ he said Sunday before an 11-9 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays ended the team’s five-game winning streak.
White Sox general manager Ken Williams doesn’t need to write the A on Ventura’s report card. The standings already have.
The Sox are in first place in the American League Central by three games over the Cleveland Indians and 31/2 ahead of the Detroit Tigers.
It’s their first time atop the AL Central at the All-Star break since 2010, when they moved a half-game ahead of the Tigers. Since 1991, the Sox have made the playoffs four of the six times they’ve led the division at the break (1993, 2000, 2005, 2008).
The Sox lost despite 14 hits. Starter Dylan Axelrod (0-2) lasted only three innings.
But it was a minor setback, given Axelrod’s place-holding role in a rotation missing John Danks and Philip Humber.
The Sox have overcome those injuries and the loss of third baseman Brent Morel. The comeback seasons of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios (3-for-5, home run, four RBI) and the surprise contributions of rookies such as left-hander Jose Quintana have made a difference.
So has Ventura’s steady hand.
‘‘Robin has been great,’’ captain Paul Konerko said. ‘‘The whole [coaching] staff has been. They had a plan coming in from the offseason on what they wanted to do, and they have stuck to it, regardless of the schedule or how we played — good or bad — and just wanted to be consistent with the way they gave us things as we went.
‘‘Everyone knew he hadn’t managed or coached before. I guess if there’s a natural at doing it, he’s got to be right up there.’’
Ventura credits his staff for the success: ‘‘I’m in a place I want to be with a staff I like. I got lucky my first year.’’
He credits the team for ‘‘bringing effort every day’’ and said the young players have ‘‘infused energy for the veterans.’’
The addition of Kevin Youkilis has been significant, Ventura said.
‘‘You add a guy like Youkilis,’’ he said, ‘‘and it changes the makeup of what you thought you’d have.’’
Others might be looking ahead to a second half that will see the Sox play 42 of their remaining 77 games on the road, including the last three games in Cleveland.
That’s far from Ventura’s mind.
‘‘I just want them thinking about today,’’ he said. ‘‘Guys can talk about it, but if they see me thinking about it, they’ll start thinking about it.
‘‘It’s about making it simple. If you think too much about the consequences of what can happen two weeks down the road, it can overwhelm you as a young player. That’s my focus. It might as well be theirs.
‘‘I think in baseball you try to take things a little faster and then it gets confusing. You can forget about the [fundamental] things you have to do first. It has always been a simpler approach for me, to make sure you do the simple things, and the rest is just playing baseball.
‘‘When they get back, just be ready to go [for the second half]. The expectations will be the same. The focus is on winning games, and we still have more to do.’’