By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Right now for the Chicago White Sox, the days are darker than the team’s uniforms. And we can only imagine the blackness of Robin Ventura’s mood as he watches his sophomore season as Sox skipper not just result in a slump, but devolve into a full-blown disaster.
One month ago, after the White Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 on July 1, Ventura said about a hot streak for his struggling team, “It’s coming. I’m sure it’s coming.”
But it hasn’t. Instead, the only that has come have been losses.
Lots and lots of them.
The latest arrived on Wednesday night in the form of a blown save by closer Addison Reed that resulted in a 6-5, 10th-inning heartbreaker to the Cleveland Indians that extended the Sox’s losing streak to six. With the setback, the Sox fell to 40-65, marking the first time since Sept. 11, 1989, that the team has been 25 games under . 500.
With the Sox also now on pace for 100 losses for the first time since they lost a whopping 106 in 1970, the team’s fan base has wandered into uncharted territory – although Cubs fans surely could give them the lay of the land.
As bad as the numbers are for the ballclub, they’re particularly painful for Ventura’s resume, which got off to an impressive start last season. Heading into the 2012 campaign, there were questions aplenty about the former White Sox star’s ability to manage considering that he’d never even coached before at any level.
Sports Illustrated projected the Sox to lose 95 games in their first season without the combustible Ozzie Guillen, but they surprised with an 85-77 mark under the guidance of the even-mannered Ventura.
This year, however, the team has sung a different tune and Ventura is finding himself in increasingly unenviable territory. This past weekend in my Wisch List newspaper column, I wrote about how since 1945, the Sox have had 16 rookie skippers, and of them half produced a winning season in their first year at the helm – including Ventura. Among those eight, however, only Terry Bevington failed to also produce a winning record in his second season. And Bevington’s winning percentage in 1997 was still .497 as his team fell just one victory shy of .500 with an 80-81 record.
To finish with just 81 losses, the White Sox would need to play .719 ball (41-16) down the stretch. Considering that they’ve won at a .381 clip so far and just traded Jake Peavy to Boston, that’s not happening.
What is going to happen, though, is that Ventura will end this season as only the fourth White Sox manager in 55 years to lose more games in his second year with the team than he did in the first.
Since Al Lopez went 90-64 in 1957 and followed it up with an 82-72 record in 1958, the Sox have had 11 managers last at least two full seasons. The only two others besides Lopez to lose more in Year 2 than Year 1 have been Tony LaRussa, who went 73-87 in 1979 and 70-90 in 1980, and Jerry Manuel, who went 80-82 in 1998 and 75-86 in 1999.
In his second season, Lopez saw his winning percentage fall by .052, while LaRussa dropped by .022 and Manuel by .028. Ventura, meanwhile, is currently on pace to see his plummet by .144.
That’s not good. But, hey, perhaps all isn’t lost. After all, despite experiencing sophomore slumps, Lopez, LaRussa and Manuel all ultimately went on to guide White Sox teams to the postseason.
So, who knows, maybe Ventura will one day get there, too.
Although, right now, the only reason he’s looking forward to a postseason is because it will mercifully end this year’s regular one.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.