Robin Ventura was asked late Monday afternoon what he thought of being mentioned as a candidate for manager of the year.
"That's for somebody else (to evaluate)," the White Sox' manager said in his usual calm manner.
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A bit earlier, Tigers manager Jim Leyland pretended to be mad at Ventura for making the job look so easy despite being a rookie manager.
A bit later, somebody brought up this week's matchup with Leyland, who was managing in the major leagues before Ventura was in organized baseball.
"He's going to kill me," Ventura deadpanned.
So went the playful banter before the Sox and Tigers opened a four-game series that will go a long way to determining the American League Central title.
It might take a bit longer than this week to give Ventura a grade for his performance this season, even though the Sox lead the division by 3 games following a 6-1 victory over the Tigers.
Detroit waited for the Sox to win this game, and they finally did. The Tigers also have waited for the Sox to win the Central, which they are favored to do now.
The Tigers are playing terribly, as evidenced on this night by their sloppy defense and increasingly customary lack of clutch hitting.
"We (still) have a chance to make this a very good season," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said, "and a chance to make it a very disappointing season."
The latter appears more likely with three games remaining in this series and 22 left in the season. Maybe the Sox finally, finally, finally are primed to create separation atop the division.
That would clinch a high grade for Ventura, even though measuring managers is so difficult. Some already have given the Ventura experiment -- yes, experiment -- an "A" grade, but right now "incomplete" is more appropriate.
Like, would the Sox have a bigger division lead under somebody else? Would they be better than 12 games over .500 under somebody else?
Somebody else means a more experienced manager. That was at the root of the Leyland crack because previous baseball wisdom was that a manager had to work his way up to a big-league dugout.
Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Kenny Williams knew Ventura from his time here as a third baseman, have tremendous respect for his baseball acumen and professionalism, and were confident that he was a rookie who could do the job like a veteran.
So far Ventura has, but nothing has been decided.
Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy have had terrific comeback years under Ventura … but exactly how much has he had to do with that?
The White Sox have been uncannily resilient under Ventura … but isn't resilient just another word for inconsistent?
Some analysts guessed these Sox would lose as many as 96 games … but didn't Leyland suggest early in the season that those predictions were stupid?
This is a good Sox team. It says here that it should be better than 12 games over .500 with the contributors Williams has assembled for Ventura.
Injuries notwithstanding, it's maddening that the Sox slump just when they look ready to streak.
Ah, but all plusses and minuses on Ventura's report card are merely phoo-phah today because managers pass or fail in September.
Discussions about them always are incomplete at least until teams qualify for the playoffs or are eliminated from consideration.