Sox manager Robin Ventura: Getting better all the time
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter August 10, 2014 8:29PM
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 03: Manager Robin Ventura #23 of the Chicago White Sox watches as the Minnesota Twins score 9 runs in the 8th inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 3, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 477587369
Updated: September 12, 2014 6:31AM
SEATTLE — In the more than 2 1/2 seasons since his hiring caught the baseball world by surprise, White Sox manager Robin Ventura has experienced everything from leading a division race for 117 days in his first year to a race to avoid 100 losses in his second.
This season is somewhere in between, a mixed bag of improvement, disappointment, injuries and hope for the future. Through it all, Ventura is confident that he’s better at what he does than when he first began.
“I would hope so,’’ Ventura said before the Sox’ 4-2 loss Sunday against the Seattle Mariners that dropped their record to 56-63. “You can have an idea of what it’s going to be like, but when you go through the experience of the first year, until it’s actually happening and you’re doing it, then you get a better understanding of what you’re dealing with. You’re dealing with people.’’
For general manager Rick Hahn and vice president Ken Williams, who rewarded him with a contract extension not long after the team lost 99 games last season, Ventura passed the test by remaining steady through thick and thin. They view him as the right, even-handed fit for their restructuring project.
“The first year, he was almost Manager of the Year [Ventura finished third in the American League voting], and last year was a train wreck,’’ said Williams, the GM when Ventura was hired after the 2011 season. “But the leadership never wavered. He worked with the same energy, passion, attention to detail and work ethic. He was still very upbeat and encouraging with the players. Patient, open, honest, all of that. Nothing wavered.
“When times are difficult, that’s when you find out about people, and we found out that the man we hired — and I’ll say this about Rick, as well — was determined to right the ship.’’
Ventura enjoyed watching Lou Piniella’s induction into the Mariners Hall of Fame on Saturday night, base-throwing tantrums on the big screen and all. Lee Elia said Piniella — whom Ventura speaks highly of — was competitive almost to a fault, which is something you won’t hear said about Ventura. It doesn’t mean Ventura doesn’t want to win as much as Piniella did.
“I don’t have to do that to prove to anybody in here that I’m competitive and that I want to win,’’ Ventura said. “They understand that and how I deal with them by saying things to each individual person or as a team. They understand that we’re coming to win a game. And that’s the bottom line.
“Are you going to win every game? No. But they understand why I’m not in a good mood because we’re losing or not doing things properly, and they understand when they have the freedom to maybe say a joke when other times they don’t. They can tell by a look or a way I’m walking through [the clubhouse], an attitude. But I don’t feel like I have to throw a base for everybody else to understand that. The focus is dealing with these guys and getting them to play. If you play bad, people think it’s a reflection on you, but in the end, I’m just trying to make it better.’’
Hahn and Williams are big on how a manager executes, and in most cases, Williams said, they get a satisfactory answer from Ventura if there are questions.
“I’ll ask the question the next day, and a lot of times it’s because of information that we weren’t privy to at the time,’’ Williams said.
“If we win a game, I’m smarter than if we lose,’’ Ventura said. “That’s part of the job.
‘‘As far as dealing with the people, how you’re using them, when you’re using them or when we’re forcing stuff — I’m better now than I was [in my first year]. It evolves all the time, and it does change.’’