About this time last year, Robin Ventura insisted that he wasn't all that different from Ozzie Guillen.
Ventura is entering the second year of the three-year contract he signed in October of 2011. But when the White Sox went to him this winter and offered a one-year contract extension, Ventura said "no."
This isn’t to say that he won’t manage after his current contract expires. He’s just not ready to commit to anything past it.
"You can see doing it longer, I think there’s also a point where it needs to be somebody else," Ventura said Tuesday in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "I think you can either burn out or people stop listening to you, or that affect goes away. When that happens, then it’s time for somebody else to do it."
This would be unusual for any other manager -- we all remember the gall Guillen showed by demanding a long-term commitment for the post he abandoned -- but it doesn't surprise me that Ventura passed it up. He didn't campaign for the job, and he refused to entertain any talk about the long haul during his first season. Accepting an extension would effectively be a statement about his worth through 2015, and that would be an uncharacteristic move for him. So far in his young career, he hasn't struck me as a guy who needs to have the job.
That could be a positive attribute, because it doesn't lend itself to ego-driven/job-preservation tactics that ultimately harm the team (see Guillen's attempted power plays). It could also manifest itself in more unseemly ways, but I don't see Ventura going through the motions while waiting for Rick Hahn to let him go. By all indications, Ventura seems professional enough to see tasks through, and to step down before he starts another one when his heart isn't in it.
Moreover, the White Sox front office might be the most loyal environment in baseball, which eliminates a good deal of pressure to secure a future. He might've been inclined to grab an extra year if the GM were in trouble, or if the owner had a Jeffrey Loria-like track record, but as long as Jerry Reinsdorf is around, he can be reasonably assured that the White Sox will reward him for holding up his end of the bargain.
If you need proof -- well, the White Sox offered him a contract extension less than halfway into his first contract! And after a heartbreaking second-place finish!
Remove the warm fuzzies from the equation, and it's pretty confusing that they'd offer him an extension at this time. Three years is a standard length of a manager's contract to begin with, and the Sox showed more confidence in Ventura than other teams did with their greenhorn hires. The St. Louis Cardinals gave Mike Matheny a two-year contract with a club option for 2015, while the Colorado Rockies only committed to Walt Weiss for one year, which is bizarre.
I can understand when teams give an extension before the final year of the contract. If a team has firm designs on retaining a manager after his last year, it makes little sense to expose him to questions about an uncertain future that really isn't.
But Ventura is still a year away from dealing with those issues. In the meantime, I think we're going to learn more about his managerial abilities in his second year than we did from his first. We'll be better able to define patterns and habits, and we'll know that his ability to run a clubhouse is based on his own people skills, and not just because the guy before him ignored it. Ushering in an era of enhanced preparation and accountability is one thing, but maintaining it is a whole 'nother deal.
I think he's unassuming enough to enforce standards without fostering resentment, and if that hunch is true, he'll get another crack at that extension one year from now. Whether he'd accept that one is anybody's guess.