Spiegel: Ken Williams’ Shock And Awe

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.

More from Matt Spiegel
  • mike in davenport

    This season the White Sox were “All In.” Now, Williams is “All In.”

    If Ventura turns out to be a good manager, Ken looks like a genius and his place in the organization is safe. If Ventura turns out to be a bust, I think he takes Williams down with him.

  • roger

    I thought I was the only one questioning this move! This is like a Cubs move, cubs fans accept this kind of thing. White Sox fans won’t ! I wonder who the new general manager will be next year on the south side? Thanks

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      Yeah, because the Cubs have such a history of hiring recent former Cub players to run their team… Pinella… Baker… Baylor… It took research to realize that the last Cub manager tp lay for the team was Bruce Kimm, and that was 11 AB in 1979. Nice comment, Troll!

  • Tom in Campbellsport

    It will take the Sox 6 years to recover from this year. We will have to fire Kenny (which should have benn done this year), hire a good GM, Fire Ventura and hire a good manager. And Oh Yeah maybe sell the team to someone smarter than Jerry.

    As for Robin’s manageral hire: I am sure we had to rush to get him because I heard that Orange County Comminty College was in the Hunt for his services

    This is a real train wreck!

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