Robin Ventura's lack of management or coaching experience didn't rear its head during spring training. Of course, exhibition games have training wheels fixed to them, because nobody scrutinizes the substitutions. When the games count and the matchups matter, it's a whole 'nother animal.
But it's going to take a while to get a handle on what kind of manager Ventura really is. I wouldn't blame him if he seemed ultra-aggressive or ultra-conservative over the first month or so, because he hasn't witnessed first-hand what his players are capable of at game speed.
Watching the Marlins-Cardinals game last night, Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser talked about the top of the Marlins' order, and that Ozzie Guillen will make Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and Hanley Ramirez run. And not just those three. The Marlins as a team are going to run, and they are going to run no matter who was on the mound or behind the plate.
(Attention NL East managers: Call a handful of two-out pitchouts when playing the Marlins. One of them is bound to work.)
But that's a good example of where to draw the line. The problem isn't making mistakes or pushing a player or pressing luck, because otherwise it will be hard for Ventura to know how much he can get out of a player or situation. The problem is making the same bad plays over and over again because it's the easiest way to forge an identity.
Until Ventura builds up enough of a track record to notice definite trends, restraint would probably be best. That's not to stop people from first- or second-guessing, but they're all going to be anecdotes we'll have to sort and re-sort along the way.
That said, there are some errors for which Ventura should immediately be held accountable. For instance, Ventura needs to make sure:
- Everybody on the team is wearing the same kind of jersey and pants.
- The White Sox bat in order, and every time through the lineup.
- He doesn't make multiple mound visits in one mound visit.
- The pitcher never ends up batting in an AL game.
- The no-hit utility infielder never serves as designated hitter.
- To have a pitcher warming up before he actually signals to the bullpen.
- All defensive liabilities are replaced when the Sox have a small lead in the ninth inning.
- He doesn't become a chief rival's chief marketing officer.
- Herm Schneider's opinion is given more consideration than those of oft-injured pitchers.
Some of these may seem more obvious than most, but more than half of them actually have happened, so it's good to be safe.
I have a couple other facets of the game I'll be keeping in mind, but what about you? When you begin watching how Ventura runs the ship, what are you going to be watching for early on? What do you anticipate making or breaking his first impression?