By Matt Spiegel-
(CBS) Kenny Williams thinks he’s smarter than you.
My first thought upon hearing the news that Robin Ventura was the surprise hire as White Sox manager was of A.J. Hinch. Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes gave Hinch the manager’s job in May of 2009, despite Hinch never having coached or managed on any level. By July of 2010, after Hinch had posted a .420 winning percentage, they both got fired.
Ventura is more likeable than Hinch, and Kenny Williams has a firmer grip on the Sox than Byrnes had on the D-backs, so a swift reaction to possible failure like that is not coming. But wow. Ventura was most recently a volunteer hitting coach at Arroyo Grande High School. The mind next goes to Notre Dame and Gerry Faust. This can’t be sugarcoated.
Hiring Ventura is bizarre, risky, and dangerous for Williams.
Maybe he’ll be great, and many of us would like to see him be great. I, for instance, want two winners in town. Lots of you love and respect Ventura for his wonderful playing career, and his willingness to accept noogies from Nolan Ryan. But if Williams thinks that a former star will automatically permit lower expectations for fans, he’s wrong. The fact that this manager has never filled out a lineup card, anywhere, changes the paradigm.
Lose with a legit candidate like Dave Martinez, Sandy Alomar Jr., or any number of guys who’ve either managed or coached at the big league level, and it’s much easier to swallow. Ventura’s lack of experience means that losing will automatically breed derision. Who wants full on managerial development on the big league level? A lot of Sox fans are, and should be, shaking their head.
Here’s the thing. Kenny Williams said yesterday that he wants another manager who will challenge him, will argue with him and stand up for alternative theories and ideas. This hire makes me simply not believe that. Robin Ventura is completely beholden to Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf for the offer that shocked him. He’ll happily carry out the organizational philosophies and long term goals, which is good, but it’s impossible to imagine him challenging Kenny any time soon. So much for the healthy disagreements of the past.
Anyone who has read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” about Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet will know why I thought of it yesterday. Lincoln surrounded himself with strong minded people who wanted his job, and thought they were smarter than the president. He used that shared consciousness to great effect. Kenny originally loved that about Ozzie, and said so often. But he tired of it. This new relationship won’t be as exhausting.
It’s Kenny’s team, Kenny’s hire, Kenny’s backside on the line. I hope for Sox fans’ sake that it works out better than it did for Josh Byrnes.