By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Five years of running the White Sox came to an end for Robin Ventura on Sunday in an emotional goodbye, as he acknowledged it was time for a change at manager.
“Talking with Rick through September, you realize this is the right time to do it,” Ventura said of his conversations with general manager Rick Hahn. “You (know) you need somebody else.”
On Saturday evening, word leaked out that bench coach Rick Renteria would be named the the 40th manager in franchise history Monday in an 11 a.m. news conference. The sad realization that his voice wasn’t being heard came to the 49-year-old Ventura at some point in the summer. He knew this chapter of his Chicago career was coming to a close after a 78-84 mark and fourth-place finish in the AL Central this season.
The most likely time for this epiphany was after ace pitcher Chris Sale said in July that Ventura didn’t always have the team’s back. That comment came after Sale had cut up the teams throwback uniforms that were to be worn in conjunction with a organizational promotion, with Sale feeling the jerseys were uncomfortable. Ventura sent Sale home, and he was suspended five days by the team.
“Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department,” Sale told MLB.com on July 25. ”
That drama and those words of non-support probably hastened the semi-retreat mode by Ventura.
As late as August, Ventura had said he wanted to keep on managing the White Sox. That sentiment slowly changed with the continued up-and-down performance by the team and the conversations he had with White Sox brass.
“There are a lot of things that go on when you are together a lot,” Ventura said about players tuning him out. “You are a family. There are some tough times, tough love, a kick in the pants at other times. I don’t publicly do it. These guys all went out and played hard. That is the main thing.”
Ventura’s teams didn’t finish above .500 after his inaugural season of 85-77 in 2012. He finished his White Sox tenure at 375-435, with his teams 67 games under break even in the past four seasons.
The front office had admitted that the 2013 and 2014 clubs were deficient in talent. That said, management wasn’t pleased with the record under Ventura the last two seasons, when they felt the team had more talent.
“These are tough jobs,” Ventura said. “I wouldn’t say they are tougher, but if you win more games, it’s easier. I do know that.”
Asked about the hiring of Renteria to replace him, Ventura responded: “I don’t hire people around here. I do know he is a great guy. I know he is a very capable guy doing that But I don’t hire people around here.”
The chronology of Ventura not returning was in his court.
“Because it was my decision (not to seek a new contract), it becomes mutual,” Ventura said. “It has to be me first. Again, it was me who initiated it.”
Ventura said there was no job offered or asked for in the exit conversations he had with the front office.
“We went out to compete,” he said. “You control what you can control. We came up short, and I feel that falls on me. I enjoyed this place. I love this place. At the end, it probably needed a new voice to be able to do that (win). I have to be big enough to understand that and go to them and voice that.”
Stand-up men like Ventura are a rare commodity in any walk of life these days. He helped players learn the game. He taught them about responsibilities to their teammates, and he covered up for them when they messed up. He was a friend, ally and confidante to those in the organization.
At the end, he just didn’t win enough games.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.