White Sox’ Don Cooper set stage for upheaval that led to Robin Ventura
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org October 6, 2011 10:16PM
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper (right) played a big role in bringing the Ozzie Guillen era to an end. | Steve Nesius~AP
Updated: November 16, 2011 10:38AM
It was a little error in the press release that had to be fixed minutes before Ken Williams took center stage of the teleconference Thursday to proudly announce his new hire as manager.
The White Sox listed Robin Ventura as the 38th manager in franchise history until a call from the Elias Sports Bureau clarified that he was, in fact, their 39th.
The confusion was the result of two days with Don Cooper at the helm last week. Or, as I like to call it, the two days Fredo was allowed to run the family.
Ventura might be a great manager when it’s all said and done. He might, in fact, be the guy who can help lead this franchise back to a World Series. Covering him when he was a player, he was a leader, he was thoughtful when dealing with reporters and he was a straight shooter with everyone. Basically, a laid-back version of Paul Konerko. I like him. The decision was bold.
It’s not his fault that he also happened to be a pawn in a game of sleight of hand that started in June.
Look, most Sox fans don’t care how this went down or why it went down. Ventura is the new manager, and that’s all that matters to the average fan as he or she makes the decision to buy into the 2012 Sox product or avoid it.
But what are you spending your money on?
Is it people who have the best interests of the organization they work for in mind, or is it people who care about making sure their own paycheck clears and they stay on the job for as long as possible? Survival 101.
“Coop is obviously now the GM, assistant GM, manager and pitching coach the way he’s been acting the last few weeks,” a member of the organization said late last week.
A major-league coach outside the organization took it a step further Wednesday, saying the idea of all these rumored candidates floating out there “was complete BS. None of the candidates being mentioned even wanted a job where the pitching coach was going to have more years and maybe even more money than them.”
Another Sox source said there was a reason former manager Ozzie Guillen sent Cooper a text on the first of the two days he managed that read, “You finally got what you wanted.” It’s because by the time Guillen finally figured out who the Judas was, it was too late. The wheels were in motion.
I actually applaud Williams and Cooper for how methodical and calculated they were in the coup that toppled the Guillen regime.
Maybe if they spent more time on the product, Jake Peavy wouldn’t have been mishandled by Cooper since he arrived and Williams would actually make baseball decisions based on winning rather than trying to show up his former skipper.
According to a major-league source, Cooper sidestepped Guillen — and the rest of the coaching staff — in June, going directly to Williams to beg for an extension. Cooper was breaking protocol because Williams had publicly stated two years before that the coaches’ fates were in Guillen’s hands.
And why would Williams want to retain Cooper, who got an un-Sox-like four-year extension? The feeling among the coaches was that Cooper was all too eager to share with Williams what was being said about the GM and club on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, the source said Guillen went to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in late July to fight for extensions for his staff one more time, only to be told that Cooper already was working on his with Williams.
“That’s when Ozzie checked out,” the source said.
By late August, Guillen was disgusted and wanted to send a message to the organization by complaining about his contract. After all, if Cooper was given an extension for a pitching staff that had quit the last month, why shouldn’t Guillen?
The rest played out just like Williams and Cooper wanted.
Out of respect for Reinsdorf, Guillen’s last public tweak at the two was small — almost hidden — coming in his declaration at his farewell Sox news conference that “I’m Chicago tough,” as he stood up from the table.
The running joke with most of the staff for years was that Williams often spoke about being “Chicago tough,” but “Kenny and Coop had the biggest rabbit ears and were as sensitive as anyone to criticism,” a source said.
So welcome aboard, Robin Ventura.
Different face, different voice, but the same damn people are running the asylum.