White Sox tab popular ex-3B Robin Ventura to replace Ozzie
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com October 6, 2011 4:05PM
Ozzie Guillen (right) shares a laugh with Robin Ventura after Ventura threw out the first pitch at the White Sox vs. Orioles game on May 12, 2005 at U.S. Cellular Field. | File photo
White Sox managers since Jerry Reinsdorf took over the team in 1981:
Win Manager Tenure pct.
Tony La Russa 1979-86 .506
Jim Fregosi 1986-88 .461
Jeff Torborg 1989-91 .515
Gene Lamont 1992-95 .551
Terry Bevington 1995-97 .509
Jerry Manuel 1998-2003 .515
Ozzie Guillen 2004-11 .524
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:46AM
Michael Jordan’s two-word press release announcing his comeback: “I’m back.”
Robin Ventura’s first two publicly spoken words as manager of the White Sox: “I’m here.”
The baseball world’s one-word reaction to the even more stunning news that Ventura had been hired to manage the Sox:
There are those who are saying “bad move” and those who need time to sleep on general manager Ken Williams’ second managerial hire. But very few are lauding it as a great hire, not when Terry Francona, Davey Martinez and Sandy Alomar were out there, to name a few.
Ventura, 44, a popular, well-liked and highly respected former Sox star whose only professional coaching experience is four months of work as an advisor to Sox scouting director Buddy Bell, will have his opportunity to make it a great hire with a multiyear contract in hand.
“I realize that he wasn’t on anyone’s list out there,’’ Williams said on a conference call Thursday. “We caught many of you by surprise.”
Considering Ventura has no experience as a manager, “many of you” is the understatement of the year. That lists includes Ventura himself, who said he didn’t set out to be a manager when the Sox hired him in June to be an assistant to Bell. When things unraveled to the end with Ozzie Guillen and his impending jump to Miami, Williams heightened his interest in Ventura — whose thoughts about being in the dugout never extended beyond a coaching or instructional situation.
“Things progressed fairly quickly when Ozzie wasn’t the manager anymore,” Ventura said. “When I first went home and talked to my wife [Stephanie] about it, it really turned us upside down because I have a good thing going.
“I was easing my way back in there. Now it seems I’ve jumped all the way in. I jumped right in the deep end.”
Ventura’s lack of experience is sure to come under scrutiny. The Sox will seek permission Friday from another team to interview a potential bench coach who likely will have experience as a major-league manager.
“I realize I haven’t managed,’’ Ventura said. “But I am in a place where I will get the support to grow and do the job.’’
Not having managed before, Ventura will need it.
“Not having managed before, I did have apprehension,’’ Ventura said. “[Williams] never had to talk me into it — it was about whether I would be committed to do it. When we finally had a face-to-face last week, I knew and my wife knew. That was the time we knew it was the right thing to do.’’
Williams said he would have preferred to see Ventura develop so he would hit the ground running when he was hired, but Guillen’s departure expedited his ascension at light speed.
“The need for him at this time with the current roster, and our future roster, he is just the guy that we have to have,’’ Williams said.
Williams lauded Ventura’s communication skills “that will translate into working well with our veteran players and young players who are still trying to find themselves in big leagues, and veterans trying to rediscover themselves.
“He has ability to discipline with seriousness, he has a sense of humor and [he will] create a professional yet fun environment to be around at the ballpark every day. And he’s familiar with our minor-league system.’’
When Williams approached chairman Jerry Reinsdorf with the Ventura idea, he said Reinsdorf responded with a small grin. Reinsdorf told him the next day the idea was growing on him.
“From the very first day he put on a White Sox uniform,” Reinsdorf said in a statement, “it was apparent that Robin was a born leader.”