Friday, October 7, 2011

Robin Ventura, manager

Robin Ventura spent most of his career with
the White Sox, but also played for the Mets,
the Yankees (above, in 2003) and Dodgers.
You can't accuse Kenny Williams, the general manager of the Chicago White Sox, of hiring retread managers. By tabbing Robin Ventura — probably the greatest third baseman in the franchise's 111-year history — to follow Ozzie Guillen as the dugout boss, Williams has hired a man who not only hasn't managed or coached in the majors, he hasn't managed in the minors either.

Trying to guess what kind of strategic manager Ventura is going to be is a fool's game. We do know that he'll have Don Cooper as his pitching coach, and he'd doubtless be wise to allow Cooper a great deal of autonomy in running the staff. 

The most important attribute for a manager is his credibility with the players. It's been seven years since Ventura last played, so his players are likely to know something of his exploits. That's instant credibility.

Keeping that credibility ... Ventura's dealings with players have been as a peer, not as their boss. He hasn't had to look a player in the eye and kick the man's hopes in the teeth, hasn't had to tell him he's getting demoted, hasn't had to tell him he's out of a job. He hasn't had to find the perfect balance between encouraging a struggling player and criticizing him. 

That's the real issue with hiring a completely inexperienced manager -- not whether he knows when to issue an intentional walk or his preference for power or defense at second base, but his ability to deal with egos and emotions over the course of a long season.

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