Rick Hahn says he expects Robin Ventura to be back for 2014.
Robin Ventura says he expects to be back for 2014.
That much seems clear as the White Sox's general manager, manager and captain discussed the roads ahead before Friday's 6-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals, their 98th of the season.
*If anything, we've seen a very wide spectrum of situations that Robin's had to confront in his first two years," Hahn said in a media conference Friday afternoon. "I think he's met the challenges the team's put in front of him, both the good and the bad, extremely well."
Asked about Hahn's endorsement later, Ventura echoed the sentiment, and said that the most crucial assessment period took place as the Sox dumped salaries at the trade deadline, requiring both parties to be on the same page for the next stage.
"Once he decided to trade guys and go in a different direction, that's part of discussing playing guys, who fits, who comes up, " Ventura said. "That's been going on for a while. I'm motivated to be back and turn this around."
Whether all the coaches return remains a question for another day ... perhaps two days from now.
If it were up to Ventura, he wouldn't lose a single lieutenant. "I'm happy with the work everybody's done here, regardless of the record," he said. "I know they've done the work and what went into it. That's one of those, [the decision] comes from somewhere else."
Hahn -- aka "somewhere else" -- did not tip his hand, but the door is open for a new face or two.
"I don't want to get into coach-by-coach, or evaluating each guy, just as I won't sit here and go through each player and say, 'This player had a good year,' or 'This player will be back,' or 'That player won't be,' but certainly we're all accountable for the performance on the field, even though it's the players ultimately that are the ones doing the performing."
Measured responses were the theme of the day, and they're probably the trademark of this administration at this point. That's not necessarily a welcome sight (or sound) to fans who wonder how the Sox can live with themselves or each other.
Regarding the lack of contentiousness -- which would be a byproduct of "edge" -- Hahn didn't dismiss the value of intangible, but said the record of the team goes a long way in framing its effectiveness. "If our record was reversed, I think we'd get a load of credit for having 25 good guys who all work hard, are all good competitors and are all pulling in the same direction," Hahn said.
But a lack of finger-pointing and overturned buffet tables doesn't indicate a lack of chewing-outs..
"Robin and the coaches have addressed issues privately, behind closed doors," Hahn said, emphasizing the adverbs. "That may not be satisfactory to people on the outside who want to see that anger or see that passion, but quite frankly it's how we prefer it handled."
That interpretation of edge might cut both ways, in the clubhouse and the front office. Hahn might have ideas on coaching changes, but he's loath to itemize them to those writing about it all. Likewise, when he makes a direct statement like, "We have to get better, and quickly," he elaborates with conditions afterward.
As he's done before, he's leaving the door open that the shape of the pitching and the addition of Avisail Garcia could accelerate the turnaround. But Hahn didn't force big contracts on a creaky roster the last time around, and he says they're again going to avoid "band-aid-type repairs" that buy a few wins in the short-term but don't improve the team's direction. Hahn said a splashy free agent isn't going to draw fans nearly as much as winning over an extended period, evoking memories of "All In."
There's still room in free agency for the Sox, who have the payroll for a decent signing or three, accommodating different shapes and sizes. Hahn said short-term contracts might be called for in order to buy time for a prospect who isn't ready, but they could make a sizable investment if it makes sense for several years.
Preserving the long-term play is Job One, and listening to Hahn, he sounds like a guy who thinks the big picture looks better than what's currently on display. He pointed to the progress of Marcus Semien, Erik Johnson and Micah Johnson as players who helped build up a healthier prospect base, putting the first year -- or at least an early year, depending on when you count the start of the transition -- on track toward a larger plan.
"I feel good about the health of the organization, I feel good about where we are from a scouting standpoint, I feel good about where we stand reputationally in the international market. And as painful as it has been to sit through this year, come next June and July, with a sizable amateur draft and international signing pools that we're going to have, we should have in the vicinity of $15 million to spend on amateur talent. I think we're in a great position from a staffing standpoint and operational standpoint to spend that well, which will further solidify our direction toward a long-term sustainable success here."
Then there's Paul Konerko, the undisputed champion of word-weighing. Over a 20-minute session with reporters that gave a digital recorder the same heft as a gallon of milk by the end of it, Konerko didn't offer any clear answers about his future -- mostly because it's not a given that he factors into the White Sox's future plans.
On his side, Konerko isn't even sure whether any retirement urges are only a reaction to a potential 100-loss season. "I could go fish out 20 guys in that clubhouse that don't feel like playing baseball again right now, and I'm probably right there with them," he said.
"But how much of that is real? Because I guarantee you, as November clicks into December, they're going to want to play again, and so will I. But I'm in a different situation."
The key takeaways from Konerko's mind-mapping:
- If he were to come back, 2014 would be his last season.
- If he only found part-time work in 2014, he could only do it for the White Sox.
- If he comes back in any capacity, he has to try to temper his expectations in terms of production, and turn his focus outward toward younger players.
As a result, Konerko is stuck in no-man's land when it comes to a potential farewell this weekend.
"I could play Sunday, get two or three at-bats or play the whole game, and then find out a month from now ... that was it ... and look back and say, 'Hey, I wish I would've done that,'" Konerko said. "And that's possible, but I don't know what other way to do it right now, because that's where we're at at this moment."
In other words, closure isn't going to be easy to find this weekend, and it might not be easy to find in October, either.