Seeking to assuage a fan base concerned that the White Sox were again hiring a manager without an extensive interview process, Rick Hahn tried to lay out a case showing the decision to give the job to Rick Renteria the day after the season wasn’t made on a whim.
The Sox knew for a month that Ventura wasn’t going to return, giving the Sox plenty of time to discuss a potential transition. Before that, Renteria "had been on the list for us as a potential managerial candidate for a number of years," Hahn said.
Hahn said they considered an open, formal interview process, but they didn’t see a point.
"We were pretty confident -- very confident — that as qualified as candidates as there may be out there in the game, we certainly weren’t going to find anyone who we would feel any better about in terms of his leadership ability, his experience, his communication skills, work ethic, openmindedness and creativity," Hahn said. He did admit there may have been equal candidates, but the ability to seamlessly shift to a new manager had added appeal, so any delay would have been counterproductive in their minds.
The promotion/hiring of Renteria makes sense on the surface, although it leaves gaps that Hahn couldn’t quite address over the rest of the session. For instance:
*The list: Talking about it brings to mind the same process that identified Robin Ventura not only as a viable candidate, but one the Sox would be foolish not to hire. Renteria is not Ventura, of course, but that’s just one thing that struck my ear.
*Continuity: David Haugh asked why the Sox would prioritize a seamless transition when the Sox have posted four consecutive losing seasons, which suggests that a more dramatic change could/should have been warranted.
"I don’t view hiring a guy who has been here for a year and, quite frankly in our opinion, is the best candidate who would be on the market this offseason, as necessarily a big triumph for continuity," Hahn said. "I think it’s a triumph for finding the highest-caliber individual who is the best fit for us going forward, and making that person the manager."
Hahn presented Renteria’s presence over the last year as a bonus, saying the Sox spent the last month "testing him on specific instances in what the new position’s going to entail." He said Renteria would be a guy they would interview if he were outside the organization, but having him in the organization for a year allowed them to conduct a more thorough process than they ever could with an external candidate.
This has some merit, more so if Renteria is able to shake up the administration beyond appointing a new bench coach. Hahn said any announcements about the future of the coaching staff will be made later this month.
*That damn leak: With Hahn saying Ventura had made up his mind for a month, why would a "high-ranking White Sox official" tell USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that Ventura’s future was still up in the air and entirely his call during the final week?
Hahn reiterated that the public may have had the wrong idea over the time frame -- that Ventura gave them a month’s notice and told the Sox they should move on from him. "There was no instance where we got to the point of presenting it as, ‘We want you to come back. Do you not want to come back?’ That’s not how it evolved."
Hahn didn’t dismiss the story as false or incorrect. He started the response to the question with "All I said was..." which makes me think that it might have been a misguided attempt by somebody above him to make Ventura’s exit more dignified, when it actually made it more convoluted.
At any rate, the White Sox have a new manager, and one who is eminently qualified. This is progress.
In his first comments to the media, Renteria said he’s "excited," but he called the news "a little bittersweet," in that he had to replace his friend. "I’m glad that this opportunity has arisen, and I’m glad that [Ventura] was a person who was encouraging me to be a part of it," Renteria said.
He described himself as "positive" and "detail-oriented," which is similar to how Ventura was billed when the Sox hired him. However, Renteria did offer some clues as to how he might differentiate himself from his predecessor with his approach.
"I kinda hope to be able to pull a pitcher one pitch too soon rather than one pitch too late," he said, bringing to mind Ventura’s struggles with the slow hook, although Renteria added that it depends on the pitcher.
Renteria also said, "I hope to bring in a little more intensity," which may be a more direct comment on the clubhouse he participated in this season.
It’s all words at this point. The bigger question is what kind of team Renteria will lead — a plausible contender or a rebuilding project? Hahn said it served no purpose to tip their plans now, and the Renteria hiring applied to either end of the spectrum.
"We all feel very strongly that Ricky’s the right guy regardless of which direction we go," Hahn said. "Even if we go with the full rebuild, take it to the extreme, Ricky’s background in player development and as a teacher is going to serve us extremely well as we go through that process.
"However, the end result of that process is a team that’s able to win a championship. We feel he’s the right man whether that championship-caliber team is on the field in 2017, or something we’ve built over a number of years leading up to that year when eventually we’re ready to win again."