Sox GM Rick Hahn goes to bat for manager Robin Ventura
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org August 1, 2013 8:38PM
Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, from left, batting coach Jeff Manto and manager Robin Ventura watch in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Thursday, August 1, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Updated: September 3, 2013 7:44AM
CLEVELAND — The deeper the Sox tumble into abysmal territory — they fell 26 games below .500 for the first time since September 1980 with their seventh straight loss, a 6-1 dud Thursday against the Indians — the more Robin Ventura’s managerial skills will be questioned.
“It happens,’’ Ventura said. “That’s part of being in this job, and I think it’s not easy. I’m the one in charge, and you just have to take it.’’
Third in American League Manager of the Year voting as a rookie in 2012, Ventura will not receive a vote in 2013. Were there such a thing as “worst manager of the year,” he’d probably be in the mix because of the won-lost record, not for his performance, general manager Rick Hahn says.
Criticism “doesn’t change my focus on what we are trying to do,’’ Ventura said. “It’s just part of having the job.’’
Hahn was noticeably annoyed Thursday morning on WSCR-AM (670). When it was suggested that it’s time to point fingers at Ventura for the team’s lack of sharpness, focus and cohesiveness, Hahn went on the defensive for his manager.
“You’re free to point your fingers wherever you feel it’s appropriate,” he said.
The Sox (40-66), who were swept by the Indians in the four-game series, are on pace for 101 losses. They’re moving there in ugly fashion, so the question posed to Hahn wasn’t unfair. The latest example of lackluster play was a botched, six-throw rundown play Wednesday night that left Ventura looking at the dugout floor and chewing extra hard on sunflower seeds. Third baseman Conor Gillaspie’s throwing error Thursday was the team’s 76th, which is 30 more than their opponents have made.
Baserunning also has been embarrassing at times. Hahn said it might have been unfair to give Ventura too much credit last year, so it’s equally unfair to blame him for what’s going on now.
“As we look at our staff, we look at the amount of effort, communication and what they’re doing behind the scenes,’’ Hahn said. “It isn’t always available to the media, to the fans, which is unfortunate because they don’t see the anger, they don’t see the high energy, they don’t see the confrontations and communication with the players. And to Robin and his staff’s credit, that stays behind closed doors, where the players and the staff would prefer that to take place.”
Hahn said he would make changes if he saw a lack of effort.
“We don’t feel changes are merited in the near future,’’ he said.
Said Ventura: “We are continuing to work at it. You are trying to be positive, and that’s probably the hardest part right now.’’
The Sox were never really in the game, even with ace Chris Sale on the mound. The surging Indians, who are on an eight-game winning streak, have won 11 of 13 from the Sox with a pair of four-game sweeps for the first time in franchise history. The last time the Indians swept a team twice in four-game series was in 1960 against the Kansas City Athletics.
“It’s annoying, frustrating, whatever you want to call it,’’ second baseman Gordon Beckham said. “Then some great players get taken away from you in the last week [Jake Peavy, Jesse Crain in trades]. But if you don’t play well, that’s what happens.’’