By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Adam Dunn is going nowhere.
Neither is Alex Rios or Jake Peavy. They are useless and expensive White Sox property until somebody else wants them.
Kenny Williams lost his poker bet, after he pushed Jerry Reinsdorf’s chips to the middle of the table and birthed a regrettable marketing slogan. Now, he’s entrenching – cutting payroll, giving chances to whatever young players he can while hoping against hope that his bad bets can be salvaged, somehow.
Robin Ventura gets to oversee this uncomfortable, shaky time, which is better-termed “unbuilding” or “midbuilding.”
“Rebuilding,” you see, assumes you have the bricks arranged in blocks on the curb, ready to use. Coils of wire waiting to be threaded, big slabs of granite countertop coming off delivery trucks, set for installation.
The Sox are staring at a deteriorating house that needs foundation work, before it’s time to argue about bath fixtures, compare shades of paint, or select Tuscan-villa backsplash tiles.
Ventura is a nice, smart guy who may be a good manager, eventually.
He’ll get two years to learn on the job – probably next to some potbellied old salt on the bench – before the path to contention is cleared of self-made debris.
Sox fans were not going to line up for season tickets based on the announcement of any manager in this big picture. Not Terry Francona, Sandy Alomar or Dave Martinez. Not the reanimated, zombie corpse of John McGraw, packed into a three-piece suit and groaning for brains to eat. Well, maybe that.
Follow the money: they took a bath this year, and now know that the next two seasons look bleak, save for the improbable snap-backs from veteran deadweights. No reason to pay more than needed for a bigger-name caretaker, especially if they truly believe Ventura is a real prospect. Save the extra millions for players, or bonuses that can be paid to draft picks.
More importantly, Williams sleeps easy.
He’s solidified his power, installed what appears at first glance to be a passive subordinate, and publicly bought lowered expectations while he mollifies his bosses by making life less risky and less expensive.
Reinsdorf adores Ventura. Heck, who doesn’t? But neither he nor we know if the guy can do the job. It looks like he gets two years to prove it, as he rides the new bet on regression to the statistical mean by brutal underachievers.
Williams, for the first time, has made the tacit admission that he’s not going for it. It’s his fault he has to deviate from pattern, sure, but his position within the administration is stronger than ever.
Worst case, the Sox tank this year and Ventura finishes the year looking like Mike Quade, a likeable guy reduced to gibbering, overmatched loon.
(I’m betting against that, by the way. Ventura has an easygoing calm lacking in the twitchy Quade, and his sixteen years on big-league teams in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles may have better prepared him for limelight life than bumping around on backroad bus trips, eating at Denny’s.)
Best case, Dunn rebounds, Rios tries, Peavy deals and Gordon Beckham improves. Tyler Flowers earns a platoon with an aging A.J. Pierzynski. Dayan Viciedo rakes. Everybody looks smart.
I wouldn’t bet on the latter, but at least I understand the reasoning.
Whether or not Ventura is a good manager right now doesn’t really matter.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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