Honeymoon is over for White Sox manager Robin Ventura
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org July 2, 2013 9:54PM
Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics
Updated: August 4, 2013 6:38AM
It helped that he was a fan favorite as a player, and it
really helped that Robin Ventura had a pretty good first season as a manager.
Just think what would have happened if these White Sox — much the same group of players who went 85-77 under Ventura last season — had played as horribly in 2012 as they have in the first three months of 2013.
Ventura might have been laughed out of town as a rookie in way over his head. As it is, he has taken very
little heat for managing a team that hasn’t caught or hit the ball anything like it did last season — and doesn’t seem to be thinking about it much, either.
Unless the Sox figure out how to play baseball again, the hot seat will intensify.
‘‘It’s coming,’’ Ventura said before the Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 on Tuesday behind seven strong innings from John Danks and home runs from Conor Gillaspie and Adam Dunn. ‘‘I’m sure it’s coming.’’
In 14 seasons with the Sox, this is one of the worst stretches of baseball captain Paul Konerko has been a part of. But he stood firmly behind Ventura on Tuesday.
‘‘No, you can’t,’’ Konerko told the Sun-Times. ‘‘Not just him, but our whole staff. There is not one thing we do differently now than we did when everything went well last year and we were winning games. This staff is as dialed in with their departments as any staff could be. Myself and a lot of the guys feel disappointed in how we’ve played for him. I hope no one out there thinks it’s indicative of the manager and coaches.’’
As Ventura talked about knowing there would be days like these when he took the job, Jim Thome was being reintroduced to the media in the Sox’ dugout. Thome, one of chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s all-time favorites, was hired as a special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn. Later, Reinsdorf would say that Thome will manage a major-league team one day and that he will make a great manager, at that.
And just like that, Thome’s name was established as the one you’ll hear every time a critic says Ventura isn’t long for the job.
A month ago in Oakland, Calif., I asked Ventura about how tough the losses were on him and whether he felt responsible. The Sox were well on their way to having a lousy season.
‘‘Absolutely, absolutely,’’ he said when asked if he looks in the mirror when the team fails.
He went on to say that he wasn’t taking the losses home with him. But after the Sox won only eight games in June, he seemed to admit the losses have been sticking with him more.
‘‘You think about it a lot,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s always there. It’s not the easiest thing to just turn it off, especially on an off day when you’re not doing much.’’
Does he take the losses personally?
‘‘Parts of it, yeah,’’ he said. ‘‘You realize there is only so much you can do, but it comes with what you bring in, what your standards are and what you want them to do and understand about how they should be playing and what’s important. None of that has changed for me. But you don’t push it off on [the players] that it’s them. I take the hit as much as any of the players.’’
There might be more hits to come. Fans get uncomfortably hot on most days in July, and columnists only can write so many Blackhawks columns during the summer.
‘‘But that’s part of the job, and I understood that part,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘As well as they all did last year, I’m the guy. I’m the manager, [and] I end up taking the hit.’’