White Sox manager Robin Ventura feeling comfortable heading into second season
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org February 10, 2013 4:37PM
Sox manager Robin Ventura in the dugout in the ninth inning of the Chicago White Sox 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals Wednesday August 8, 2012 at U.S. Cellular Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: February 10, 2013 11:17PM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Learning on the job during his first season as a manager, Robin Ventura passed with high marks, keeping what might have been an overachieving White Sox team in first place for 117 days.
Halfway through the season, Ventura had a firm handle on what the job required. Whatever self-doubts he might have held gradually disappeared and were replaced by a growing self-confidence in his qualifications.
As he handles his first official media session of spring training Monday and kicks off his second camp when pitchers and catchers report Tuesday, Ventura knows a lot more than he did a year ago. He knows his players’ strengths and weaknesses. He knows what it’s like to push the button on a crucial pitching change. He knows how to handle players and media. He knows he loves his job.
And, perhaps most important, he knows he doesn’t know it all.
‘‘Any time . . . you think you know it all or are done learning, you’re going backward,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘Hopefully I’m getting better with in-game stuff, in-between-game stuff and even after-game stuff. I’m excited to do what I do. I love it.’’
Ventura didn’t love that the Sox’ fade in September knocked him out of the running for American League Manager of the Year (he finished a distant third behind the Oakland Athletics’ Bob Melvin and the
Baltimore Orioles’ Buck Showalter). That he was even in that conversation was remarkable, considering his hiring with no experience had come as a huge surprise a year earlier.
‘‘I don’t see it as I was good at it,’’ he said. ‘‘I can get better. That’s hopefully what happens.’’
It’s not like Ventura needed to see the Sox blow a three-game lead over the Detroit Tigers with 15 to play to learn a lesson about managing. He always knew how hard playing and managing were. Through good times and bad, he was quick to remind his audience how difficult playing 162 games could be.
‘‘It’s baseball,’’ he said of the Sox’ September swoon. ‘‘When you lose, you can use a bunch of different words to describe it. You are outplayed because you didn’t win. Were you fatigued? Yeah, but so is everybody else. Did you choke? Yeah, you can say, in a way, that if you don’t win, you choke. But it just didn’t happen.
‘‘Our worst stretch of baseball happened at the very end. We didn’t hit very well. For that period of time, it felt like we couldn’t score. And if we did score, we didn’t pitch well that particular night. The effort was there. Being prepared and all those other things were there. It just didn’t happen. That’s baseball.’’
Ventura admitted there were times when the game sped up on him, but he said he never felt overwhelmed. Bench coach Mark Parent sat alongside him and watched him progress.
‘‘I told him about halfway through the year that he was getting so much better,’’ Parent said. ‘‘His knowledge of how he wanted to run a pitching staff
developed really well — not necessarily my way or [pitching coach] Don Cooper’s way, but his way. . . . He was doing things his way, and that was good.
‘‘And figuring out when to bunt and hit-and-run. He got to know the guys, what makes them tick, and he was very good at it.’’
Ventura opens camp with a handle on his players’ strengths, weaknesses and personalities, which puts him miles ahead of where he was last February.
‘‘It’s a different feeling,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s about putting the plans in
order for spring training. I’m more confident with that stuff now.
‘‘Last year, there was a little bit of unknown that went into it because I hadn’t done it yet. This year, I know what it is and I know who I’m working for. I love where I’m at. I’m
excited. I like the team we have. I’m ready to get to spring training.’’