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Manager notes: How Robin Ventura and Chris Sale get along

Also: The Twins do the unthinkable and fire Ron Gardenhire, and the Astros hire A.J. Hinch

Ed Zurga

A day after benches cleared in the White Sox-Tigers finale last Wednesday, Robin Ventura shot back at Brad Ausmus in response to his Detroit counterpart's comments about Chris Sale being "a little weak" for drilling of Victor Martinez amid suspicions of sign-stealing.

Sale wasn't available for comment that day, as he was allowed to leave the team for "personal reasons." According to Paul Sullivan, it turns out that it got personal between Sale and Ventura.

What wasn't known at the time was that Sale and Ventura engaged in a heated shouting match just before Sale's exit.

According to a team source, the two got into an argument in Ventura's office Thursday afternoon while Paul Konerko was meeting with the media in the Sox dugout. Sale was originally upset with comments from Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who called him "weak" for allegedly drilling Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez on purpose in Sale's final start Wednesday. [...]

As the season ended Sunday, Ventura confirmed he and Sale had a "loud" disagreement but declined to give specifics. But the alleged spying incident in Detroit likely was the precursor to the discussion, and the two began shouting.

Ventura said Sale apologized the next day, and that the two have a good relationship. It's a unique relationship at the very least, because while Ventura is widely praised by players and the front office alike for his personal skills, Sale's made his displeasure known a couple of times.

Back in 2012, Sale went over Ventura's head when Ventura moved him to the bullpen, calling Kenny Williams to dispute the move. Afterward, Williams said Sale was "adamant about it to the point to where he almost crossed the line." And last year, Sale had to apologize to Ventura after poorly disguising his disgust with an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera.

I really have no idea what to make of this, if anything, because I don't know what Ventura thinks of Sale's suspicions. Neither party could go on the record about it without facing a fine or suspension, so I don't know if Ventura also smelled a rat, or if he thought Sale was distracting himself. Ventura's response to Ausmus gives the appearance of the former, so at least he's not letting Sale fend for himself.

I'm also not sure whether Sale should be criticized for airing his grievances, or issued a small amount of praise for saving it for the manager's office this time (unless he's Sullivan's "team source"). If the Pissed Sale transmogrifications aren't just confined to the field of play, then maybe Ventura is handling something that comes with the territory as gracefully as possible.


The AL Central was already going to look a lot different without Paul Konerko. Now the division has lost its longest-tenured manager.

In a surprise move on Monday, the Minnesota Twins fired Ron Gardenhire. Sure, Gardy's Twins have lost 99, 96, 96 and 92 games the last four years, but he signed a two-year extension after last season, and it's not like the Twins were expected to compete.

Plus ... the Twins never fire managers. They've only had two of them over the last 27 years, which is the same amount of time Gardenhire has spent in their organization. Tom Kelly served his first full season as Minnesota's manager in 1987, while Gardenhire toiled for Triple-A Portland, his last season as a player. The next season, Gardenhire entered the system as a minor-league manager. In 1991, he joined Kelly's staff as the third-base coach, and remained there until Kelly's retirement opened the door for Gardenhire to take over the Twins for the 2002 season.

The guy who fired Gardenhire has been with the Twins nearly as long. Terry Ryan has spent most of the last 20 years in the GM seat, holding the position from 1994 through 2007. He then yielded the duties to Bill Smith while retaining a senior adviser role, but he returned to the job after the 2011 season when the club's fortunes turned south. Smith wasn't even fired, really, but reassigned in the organization.

So, yeah, change doesn't really happen in Minnesota. Or when it does, it's incremental. The bond between Ryan and Gardenhire is so strong that they held a joint press conference about the decision, and Gardenhire was the one cracking jokes.

Ryan, on the difficult nature of this decision: "I feel like he's my brother, not my manager." (At this point Gardy removed his cap and rubbed his bald head to drive the point home.)

Gardenhire heads into the open market with a lifetime record of 1,068-1,039 over his 13 seasons with the Twins. That includes a 126-115 record against three different White Sox managers:

  • 21-17 against Jerry Manuel
  • 80-67 against Ozzie Guillen
  • 25-31 against Ventura

Ryan says the search to replace him will be thorough, but since the Twins seem to operate on a loyalty program, Twinkie Town offers three internal possibilities, headlined by coach-of-all-trades Paul Molitor.

Should Gardenhire find a post somewhere else, we'll get a better idea of who is more responsible for the Minnesota Twins brand, for better or for worse. It's a distinctive style that ran into problems once the pipeline got clogged and their pitch-to-contact preferences played to the strengths of a strikeout-prone league, and the manager and front office have been so intertwined that it's difficult to tell from a distance who was the tastemaker.

By the way, Gardenhire's firing makes Ned Yost the Grand Old Man of the Central.


The Houston Astros made a very Houston Astros hire by bringing in A.J. Hinch to manage the team until they win the World Series. If he doesn't, GM Jeff Luhnow will have a quote to explain:

"I think A.J.’s going to be the manager when we win the World Series."

Hinch was put through the wringer during 1½ years managing the Diamondbacks. He was thrust from farm system director to replacing Bob Melvin in the dugout despite no managerial experience. The players loved Melvin, and so Hinch had to win them over before they even played a game for him. It didn't work out, but given the Diamondbacks' trajectory with his recently fired replacement Kirk Gibson, it's possible Hinch won by losing.

He isn't a typical baseball man. He has a degree in psychology from Stanford, which he completed instead of signing with the first two teams that drafted him. The first was the White Sox, who took Hinch in the second round of the 1992 draft. Hinch's rejection upset the Sox so much that they tried reporting his relationship with an agent to the NCAA.

If you've read "Ball Four," you know educated ballplayers can rub their colleagues the wrong way without doing anything. The Astros also generate their share of negative sentiment with their heavy reliance on data, as some thinks it causes them to handle interpersonal relationships poorly. There may be little to no truth to either, but it does make them a match.

If nothing else, Hinch is a departure from Bo Porter in just about every respect. And when you combine Porter's dismissal with Gardenhire's, it's been a bad few months for Hawk Harrelson favorites.