By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) The e-mail subject line said: “WHITE SOX NAME ROBIN VENTURA MANAGER”.
When I first read it, it didn’t register in my brain. I read it again. Then I made sure it was really from the White Sox.
Then I checked the calendar.
It’s not April 1st, right?
Excuse me for thinking it was joke. It’s nothing personal against Robin. It’s just that Ventura’s name wasn’t mentioned once. By anybody.
After a few minutes, my phone immediately started buzzing with tweets and text messages: “Robin Ventura?!?! What do you think?”
Honestly, I don’t know what to think. And I’m not sure anyone who has a strong opinion on the hire really has any ground to stand on.
Ventura has absolutely no managerial experience. And, other than instructional work, he really doesn’t have any coaching experience. That means we have just as much evidence pointing to him being a good manager as we do evidence that points to him being a bad manager.
Everyone who has ever played with or simply known Ventura raves about him. He’s been a friend of the organization since he retired in 2004. He has sat in the dugout numerous times when the White Sox were in Los Angeles. He’s called games on television with Hawk.
Of course, that doesn’t really have anything to do with managerial credentials, but it at least points to Ventura having a deep connection with the organization and caring about it deeply. No one — except maybe Nolan Ryan — has anything bad to say about him.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be a good manager either.
The point is, we can’t really judge Ventura as a manager until he’s actually sitting in that dugout.
With that said, I can certainly see why Ventura is a fit with what the White Sox are preaching right now. First off, this is a safe gamble in the sense that he’s one of the most beloved White Sox players ever. Even fans who have their doubts will at least give Ventura a chance. And when he screws up, most of them will give him a some slack.
Kenny Williams will likely surround Ventura with a veteran coaching staff. Don Cooper is still around to help. Harold Baines has been around this team forever as well. He played with Ventura.
The truth is that there will be growing pains. Ventura will be learning on the job. And he will also have a lineup next season full of young players who are also learning on the job.
Last month, Williams talked about taking a couple steps back and planning for 2013 and 2014 as much as 2012. This hire falls into that philosophy. 2012 will be a growing year for both Ventura and a number of his players. Hell, it will even be a growing year for White Sox fans who will have to adjust to this new era.
And, quite frankly, it probably won’t be a pretty year in terms of wins and losses.
But, looking back on it now, this hire makes a lot of sense. Williams said Thursday that his interview with Ventura started somewhere between 1994 and 1998. He’s long considered him a candidate for this specific job. Ventura was hired as a special advisor to Buddy Bell on June 6 and it’s doubtful that was a coincidence. The White Sox were 28-33 and 7-games back of first place that day. That doesn’t necessarily mean there was a plan in place that day to get rid of Ozzie Guillen and hire Robin Ventura, but it certainly suggests the White Sox were getting prepared for this exact scenario. It also suggests that this was not a desperate move for Williams, who has a spotlight on him now. There is a long-term plan in place here and that is an encouraging sign for the White Sox.
So, when you ask me what I think about this hire, I’m going to tell you I frankly don’t know. It’s a shock to everyone and we’re just going to have wait until next season to see if this gamble pays off.
And, if I’m being honest, I probably would have preferred to see Dave Martinez in that dugout just because he’s been standing next to Joe Maddon for so long.
But I’m OK with Ventura. He knows this franchise just as well as anyone and he fits in with the philosophy Williams is now preaching.
There’s a plan in place here, fans. Give Ventura a chance.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.