By Bruce Levine–
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — Dealing with picking up the pieces of a fractured clubhouse is now the thankless job of Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura. This aspect of trust in the sanctity of a professional locker room is the key ingredient to winning. The cohesive mantra that emanates from players as they approach the long season with a manager and coaching staff must be united.READ MORE: Caught On Video: Man Steals Car, Crashes It Moments Later In Back Of The Yards
At this point and time, White Sox players don’t exactly know who to trust or even who to turn to for support following the week-long Adam LaRoche drama, in which he retired following the request by executive vice president Kenny Williams that his teenage son spend less time in the clubhouse. With the leaking of information about players or coaches complaining about the presence of a 14-year-old boy in the clubhouse, no one’s quite sure what’s real and what’s contrived for purposes of self-interest. Trust is at an all-time low for the White Sox players and their bosses.
Ventura was asked whether he, instead of Williams, should have delivered the message to the club on the Adam and Drake LaRoche issue.
“Look, as manager you get second-guessed for everything,” Ventura said. “I am not worrying about stuff on the outside. It matters what goes on inside. This comes with territory, and I know what is going on inside there right now. That is the important stuff.”
Was Williams the bad guy in forcing an issue on a player and a team in mid-spring? Or was Williams the quiet hero who took it upon himself to be a bad guy and protect his general manager and manager from suspicion among the troops while do the heavy lifting?
The national fallout from this story is clearly split. Some believe the White Sox backed out of a promise with a trumped-up story. Many others feel that Williams was putting the team before the individual and just doing his job. As the chief baseball officer under chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, Williams’ job is to oversee everything in the baseball department and help establish policy in the organization.
Ventura now has the dubious distinction of gluing the broken pieces of trust back together. This means getting the coaches and players back on the same page and making them one again. Will they believe his message from here on out or doubt the veracity of his comments? That’s Ventura’s present challenge.
Please try and take my word for this: Ventura has never lied about a thing to another person since I have been around him as a player or manager over the last 27 years. It’s doubtful he would stay on the job for one second if he had to or were asked to mislead or lie to a player or coach.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Lows In The Upper Teens, Possible Snow Showers Over The Weekend
All of my ramblings, however, won’t prove anything to a new player or coach dealing with this clubhouse implosion right now. For Ventura, the test is to re-establish trust in the clubhouse and refocus the players for the 162-game journey ahead.
I asked Ventura if he and the front office were all on the same page.
“Yeah, we will be fine,” was Ventura’s honest response as to the present state of the relationship. “Right now I am looking more at what is going on in the clubhouse. They are doing well. We have bigger things going on as to far as getting ready for the season. That is our biggest challenge and has always been our biggest challenge. They (players) are headed in that direction.”
Ventura confirmed he spoke to ace Chris Sale, who on Friday blasted Williams for the latter’s role in the LaRoche debacle.
“I have had conversations with him,” Ventura said. “Anyone who knows Chris understands he has an opinion and has a right to talk about it. I don’t think that is going to stop. The guys are going to have opinions and speak their mind.”
Entering his fifth season and last under contract on the job, Ventura will need to use all of his communication and leadership abilities to get his club focused. The championship season begins in two short weeks.
“This has obviously been a tough couple of days, getting through everything,” he said. “We will be fine. They are a tough group. Out of anything, I am glad it’s a veteran team and that they are able to handle it.”MORE NEWS: View Live Radar
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.