White Sox’ Robin Ventura rarely needs Buddy Bell’s advice anymore
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org July 12, 2012 10:36PM
The first-half success of rookie skipper Robin Ventura has come as no surprise to White Sox VP Buddy Bell. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
SOX AT ROYALS
The facts: 7:10, CSN, 670-AM.
The pitchers: Jose Quintana (4-1, 2.04 ERA) vs. Bruce Chen (7-8, 5.22)
The rest of the series
Saturday: 6:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 670-AM. Jake Peavy (7-5, 2.85) vs. Luke Hochevar (6-8, 5.14).
Sunday: 1:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM.Chris Sale (10-2, 2.19) vs. Luis Mendoza (3-5, 4.50).
Updated: August 14, 2012 6:37AM
When manager Robin Ventura became the White Sox’ surprise hire last winter, his relationship with Sox vice president of player development Buddy Bell made Bell his logical go-to guy for advice. A mentor, if you will.
One very successful half-season into his first job as a manager or coach at any level, Ventura rarely calls anymore.
“No,’’ Bell said. “He doesn’t need a mentor. The game is really slow for him already.’’
Having managed nine years in the majors, Bell knows how fast the game moves from that hot seat in the dugout. But Ventura was a quick study when he reported to Bell after he got back into baseball last June as a special adviser, and Bell had no reservations about Ventura defying the conventional wisdom of having a former manager as his bench coach and wanting Class AA manager Marc Parent alongside him instead.
“This [Ventura] guy is a little different,’’ said Bell, who had a hand in helping Ventura assemble his staff.
Even though Ventura had spent most of his post-playing days being a family man and hadn’t even managed a high school game, Bell said that chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, general manager Ken Williams and assistant GM Rick Hahn had few doubts Ventura would handle the on-field aspects of running a major-league team.
“I never thought he would struggle with it,’’ Bell said. “He’s a really smart guy who doesn’t miss a whole lot. My biggest concern was the grind, him being such a family-oriented guy, of dealing with the seasonlong grind of media, front office, different moves. That he would understand the grind of it. And I don’t think he knew how dealing with the front office worked. I was a little concerned about that.’’
With his team in first place in the American League Central heading into the second half, which begins Friday night at Kansas City, Ventura appears to have it figured out. His managing has kept postgame second-guessers at arm’s length. His handling of day-to-day off-field decisions has drawn rave reviews from players.
“He’s always calm,’’ team captain Paul Konerko said. “He manages people well. He knows how to talk to people. A lot of the things a manager does are not just about the game. During the year you have to make calls on workouts, batting practice, little things.’’
In other words, little things that matter a lot to players.
“He’s good on all of those with good, common-sense calls that make sense to everybody,’’ Konerko said. “That’s what a manager does. He’s smart.’’
Bell wasn’t surprised to hear that.
“He respects the players, and he respects the people in the organization,’’ Bell said. “He respects the job everybody has, which is really nice. He doesn’t hold himself up on a pedestal. That’s refreshing.’’
Whether that translates into wins and losses is difficult to quantify. It does translate into a work environment that’s conducive to productivity, and Ventura’s players have been so successful that Ventura’s name has been dropped in midseason manager of the year conversations.
His No. 1 asset?
“The way he handles people,’’ Bell said. “I played for quite a few managers and the ones who were really bad weren’t honest. This guy is respectful and he’s honest.
“He has a great sense of humor. He doesn’t take himself all that seriously. And he never complains about anything. He’s really a legit, honest guy.’’