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The unbearable blankness of Robin Ventura

I think I can tell you what the hiring of Robin Ventura proves at this very moment.

I think it proves that Kenny Williams wanted to hire Ozzie Guillen's polar opposite. Ventura's known as a consummate professional, which means when he follows Guillen's act in the interview room, he will be a colossal bore. Think about it: We're negative-five days into Ventura's White Sox managerial career, and we already know he's better than Guillen at keeping a secret.

I think it proves that Don Cooper has the loftiest status of any pitching coach in baseball. The Sox signed him to an extension before the entire pool of candidates was open to them, and by hiring a manager who has never had to consider when to pull a pitcher, he's essentially an assistant coach until he teaches Ventura the ropes. Although he might use said ropes to hang Ventura, if Joe Cowley's conspiracy theory has any merit (I'd give it more credence if he didn't continually absolve Guillen of all blame, but we know on which side his bread is buttered).

As for what the hiring of Ventura will prove a year or four from now?


It could prove that experience is overrated, and then some.

The most important part of managing is gaining the respect of the clubhouse, and Ventura has effortlessly earned respect everywhere he goes. Living in New York, I can tell you that he's one of the few players held in high esteem by both Yankees and Mets fans.

I think this alone separates him from A.J. Hinch, the most recent out-of-nowhere coaching candidate who lost a clubhouse mutiny in Arizona in 2010, which also took down the GM who hired him. Not that Hinch wasn't respected while he played, but his saga reminded me of what Jim Bouton said about the problems with being the most intelligent player in the clubhouse. I'm not saying that Ventura isn't smart, but as a Hall of Very Good third baseman who became popular in the country's three biggest cities, I think he has more of a natural pull than a forgettable backup catcher.

It could prove that even a little experience is necessary.

Forget about managing or coaching -- the thing about Ventura is that he's never traveled with a team for five or six months in a non-playing capacity, and before he started working with Buddy Bell, he said he didn't have time to do full-time coaching at any level. Now he's responsible for helping turn around a team of uninspiring underachievers in a rather tough market.

If you told me all the elements of his hire but left Ventura's name out of it, I would place a small wager on Manager X not lasting a full first season (and I might even place a smaller amount on him not lasting until his official press conference). From what we know of Ventura, I think he's too dutiful to leave Williams twisting in the wind. Too bad he didn't hire somebody crazier, because it's a fascinating mix of volatile ingredients.

It could prove that the Sox sorely needed harmony, however they could find it.

It doesn't matter whether Williams or Ventura -- or hell, even Cooper -- is calling the shots, as long as somebody is acting when action is required. The rampant buck-passing dragged down the team over the last two years, and if the Sox had better communication and healthier respect between the GM and manager last season, they might have won six more games.

This simplified the chain of command considerably. Now Williams is clearly in charge, and the fingers will ultimately point in one direction. Let's hope he is ready for it.

It could prove the Sox are looking so far inward, they can't find their way out.

One of the primary reasons I wanted Dave Martinez (or what he represented) is that he came from a successful organization with different ideas. The White Sox are a stale franchise, and not just because they can't develop a new core of talent. Even a lot of their victories are unsatisfying, because their inability to cash in simple scoring opportunties made games closer than they had to be.

Martinez couldn't have turned the Sox into Tampa Bay North (With Money!) by himself, but hiring from the outside would have been an acknowledgement that THE WHITE SOX WAY isn't exactly something to be proud of, unless the definition is "Herm Schneider."

Instead, the Sox retreated further into their bunker, and maybe to an absurd extent. Williams is doubling down on the power of the pinstripes:

"We've seen first-hand when we brought Ozzie in what the passion of the organization and putting on the uniform again means," Williams said. "You see people throughout our organization who have been with our organization for a long time. I think there's real value there."

There's no point in taking this too seriously, because Williams isn't going to start talking about the real reason the 2005 White Sox won 110 games. This is an opportunity for marketing, and so he's going to go for your heart.

The problem is that family ties aren't a great selling point when the family resembles "The Royal Tenenbaums." Being a fan favorite shouldn't serve as the No. 1 pitch, but when the new manager has no experience aside from helping out a high school team, wearing the uniform and a general aura of "class" are all Williams has to draw from.

And that's all fans have to work with, too:

"Robin Ventura is back."
"This makes no sense."
"Maybe I can get his autograph!"

His cred as a player and his professional reputation make him the safest of hires in one respect. His lack of any kind of track record makes him the riskiest possible hire in another. Williams isn't so much showcasing his balls as he's raising questions of a chemical imbalance.

In any event, Ventura's decision-making will live under a microscope during his first season as everybody tries to see if he knows what he's doing. That means some missteps will likely be blown out of proportion. Williams might have rid himself of one headache with the Guillen family's departure, but did hiring a complete greenhorn create a whole new migraine?

The hell if I know. The hell if Williams knows. The hell if anybody knows. The hell if anybody wants to know.

The Robin Ventura Era begins under a dense fog of questions and total mystery. Good luck figuring out how it will end.