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Making Sense of Robin Ventura: an SSS Roundtable

The future and present laughing with the past. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The future and present laughing with the past. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

I did not expect to be putting up the second roundtable so quickly, but Kenny Williams likes to keep us all on our toes.  Our fearless leader has dropped his knowledgeable opinion on you, our loyal readers, already but what of the rest of us you say?  Well worry no more!  My newly self-appointed offseason duty of roundtable scrivener assures you of an easy collection of thoughts in one place (and plenty of rambling sentences, much like this one).  Sitting with me today at the table are KenWo, E-gus, larry, Tdogg, Colin (he made it!), more from Jim, and esteemed friend of the blog J. Jonah Stankevitz of Beerleaguer.  And keep an eye out in your inboxes, I've already singled a few of you out for the next few.

1.  Well this was unexpected.  Are you upset the White Sox didn't go with someone more experienced?

KenWo: A little surprised that he went with someone who has less managerial experience than I do, yes.  I am not surprised, nor should anyone else be, that he hired someone with no MLB managerial experience.  Dave Martinez and Sandy Alomar obviously never managed either. I do think that Ventura needs a bench coach that has been there... what is Jeff Torborg up to these days?  How about Carlton Fisk as a bench coach?  He's been mentioned for 20 years. 

E-gus: Not at all. I tend to believe that half the regulars on sss, if not more, could do a good job managing the team. The only disadvantage one of us might have would be not having the players respect since we never played professionally, that won't be a problem here.

l: The only reason it upsets me is that it makes it difficult to analyze the move.  Other than that, experience is overrated.  Credibility is what matters for managers.  That can come from numerous things.  "Experience" as a manager or coach is one way.  But so is being a successful baseball player.

Tdogg: Naaa. More like shocked. It was probably a good "hire" for the White Sox. Whether he's a good manager who knows? I'm happy they didn't get a certain type of experience (ahem Larussa.) I suspect after the initial announcement fans will be fine with it. 

Colin: Maybe?  If it proves to be an issue, I'll be upset then.  But if he's got the respect of the clubhouse, then we're probably fine.  The guy played ball at a very high level for a long long time.  How unfamiliar with the concept can he really be?  Plus, he's Robin Ventura.  That's pretty awesome.

JJ: If by "more experienced" you mean "Dave Martinez," then yeah, I'm a little disappointed they didn't go that route. But the Sox weren't going to hire someone with any previous managerial experience -- i.e. Terry Francona or Tony La Russa -- so a first-timer was inevitable. That being said, going with someone who's never sat on the bench as a coach in the minor leagues, let alone majors, was a little curious, but less curious than U-God's obsession with Hamm's.

Jim: Not upset. Confused, though.

U-God: I find nothing curious about my obsession with Hamm's.  Just because that and Dr. Pepper are all we ever talk about means nothing.  But back to the point.  I was hoping for Davey, but so it goes.  It's hard to get upset at the team for hiring one of the stars of my childhood and I also have a hard time getting mad about not bringing in a retread.  I hate retreads.  Robin has to start somewhere, might as well be with us.

2.  How do you feel about the signing of Robin Ventura to manage the 2012 White Sox?

K: I actually think this is going to turn out positive for the White Sox.  Although I was never really a huge Ventura fan as a player, he doesn't take B.S. from people (if you recall the Frank arguments), he is going to be very good with the media and will be respected in the White Sox dugout.  Contrary to what some believe, he isn't going to be Kenny Williams puppet, but he isn't going to do any of the unprofessional things that Guillen was famous for.   Don Cooper is going to probably have full control of the pitching side of things, and I'm not too sure he didn't already have that with our previous manager.  Plus, hiring a fan favorite after firing a fan favorite isn't the worst move that Kenny could have made. 

E: He doesn't have experience coaching them up, but the guy knows baseball without question. And if his philosophy on hitting and getting on base mirrors his own career much like Ozzie's did, we are already leaps and bounds ahead of where we were in 2011. Until the Tigers caught fire down the stretch, I felt like the only thing preventing the Sox from competing for the central were simple adjustments here or there. The mistakes seemed clear as day so I assume a college hall of famer, Olympian, 2 time all-star with World Series experience will also be able to pick up on these things.

l: It's fine.

T: Hard to say without hearing more. At least KW indicated in the conference call that Ventura was open minded about sabermetrics. That's a start. I think he'll bring about professionalism which is sorely needed. I'll miss some of the Ozzie drama though. Unless Robin gets a flashback and a beanfest breaks out with Texas next season, the craziness is gone. I'll be following his quotes on strategy closely the next couple weeks. Wish the reporters had asked about that instead of "when did you know you would take the job" eighteen times.

C: Ambivalent?  Managers don't matter as much as the players.  And those are going to be more or less the same.  Except Quentin and one or two starting pitchers will be probably be gone.  The manager can't do anything about that.  He can maybe help break up the sad face act in the clubhouse.  And maybe he'll bunt less.  Here's hoping.

JJ: Right now, I'm curious. Not apprehensive, not optimistic, not building a bomb shelter. Curious. And it's not just for 2012 -- these next two years have piqued my curiosity with this hire. I don't think the Sox will be any good in either of them, but if guys like Brent Morel, Gordon Beckham, Tyler Flowers and Dayan Viciedo take steps forward, I'll be more inclined to view his hire as a successful one, even if the team flounders in fourth or fifth place. Plus, it signals that the Sox will at least attempt to go young -- nobody in their right mind hires Robin Ventura for an All In season -- which could end up being a way for Kenny Williams to save his reputation. Or completely ruin it. So, again, I'm curious.

J: I said "confused" because it doesn’t seem to be doing anybody any favors. Ventura didn’t seem to have a natural desire to manage. Williams looks far worse if he flops, compared to Sandy Alomar Jr. The fans are being told it's a work in progress. I don't know. I’m not sure what Ventura brings to the table that a more traditional first-time manager doesn’t.

U: I hate that Colin beat me to the word ambivalent, because it's such a perfect word for how I feel about it.  I'm not Rhubarb or BM railing against it, but I'm not completely toeing the company line and singing the move's praise.  If this sounds like "I don't want to make a statement", that's because it pretty much is.

3.  What do you think this says about the direction the team will be taking next year?

K: I don't think this hire changes the direction of next year at all.  No matter who was brought in was going to be in the same situation.  They are going to pray the veterans have a better season, while playing guys like Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, Addison Reed and Brent Morel.  If the team is contending at the deadline, they will add.  If it isn't, they won't. 

E: I don't believe any managerial hire would have changed the course of the 2012 Sox. It is what it is, regardless of who is filling out the line up card. We know what we are stuck with for the most part. I like that they hired a guy who has to prove himself. He won't be able to rest on his laurels and talk about his money he wants two years down the road, he will have to be proactive and hands on hopefully making the proper adjustments on the fly.

l: Nothing that I can identify at this point.

T: I still think its more relevant that Kenny is staying. There will be some cuts but Williams will expect to compete next year. I doubt Frank Thomas is on the staff.

C: Nothing?  Presumably the hire is meant to last and we're already pretty sure what 2012 will look like.  White Sox Baseball: A Chip and a Chair.

JJ: If they contend next year, I'll be surprised -- and that would've been the case no matter who was taking over as manager. Contention hinges of the success of two of Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham AND Jake Peavy -- and that's if the Sox don't deal away Gavin Floyd and John Danks. But with the hire of Ventura, I've become resigned to the Sox dealing away one or both of that pair. Carlos Quentin would've been gone regardless of whether the Sox were setting up to be contenders or not. The guys I'm interested in this offseason are A.J. Pierzynski and Matt Thornton/Jesse Crain -- if the Sox look to trade those guys, then yeah, the Ventura hire definitely signals a youth movement.

J: So far, it seems like Williams is taking full advantage of the two- or three-year window Reinsdorf is giving him.

U: I feel like it means we're more likely to see young players actually get playing time, though it will be interesting to see how the established veterans take to an inexperienced boss.