Something about the White Sox’ failed run at a division title keeps nagging at me.
Would the Sox have made the playoffs with a more experienced manager than Robin Ventura?
The subject is uncomfortable because Ventura is so well liked and respected around here. Heck, even I like and respect him.
But I wasn’t sure he was the right guy for the job when the Sox hired him and am still not.
Ventura might be perfect for the Sox next year or later, but that will be too late to win this season’s American League Central title.
That issue has prevented me from patting Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams on the back the way they have been patting themselves on the back for hiring Ventura.
Terry Francona said something Monday that stoked the fires of the debate in my head.
The new Indians manager was asked whether he’s different now than when he first managed the Phillies in the mid-1990s.
“You go through experiences and you gain confidence,” said Francona, who lost with Philadelphia but won two World Series with Boston. “The more you do it … you get better.”
Ventura never managed or coached anywhere before he replaced Ozzie Guillen with the White Sox before this season.
Many consider the move a success because the Sox’ culture changed and they were in the pennant race until the season’s final three days.
But the Sox finished with an 85-77 record when they looked to me like a team that should have won 90 games. Five more victories would have put them in first place by 2 games instead of second place by 3 games behind the Tigers.
So the question stands: Would a more experienced manager have made the difference between going to the playoffs and going home?
One school of thought is that managers don’t win games anyway. If true, some club owners squander a lot of money by paying their managers in the neighborhood of $5 million annually.
If Tony La Russa didn’t make a difference during his career, he should give back his considerable wealth. If Joe Torre didn’t, if Bobby Cox didn’t, if Jim Leyland doesn’t…
You get the idea. It says here that the best managers do make a difference, though how much is difficult to quantify. They can’t win without good players, but they can get good players to win championships.
It looked like club chairman Reinsdorf and general manager Williams initially didn’t believe their team would contend this season, so they could hire someone like Ventura to learn on the job.
Then all of a sudden the Tigers waited for somebody to beat them, the Sox benefited from several players enjoying comeback performances, and the race was on.
When the Sox floundered in September, Ventura couldn’t do anything about it, and the Tigers prevailed.
Could a manager who spent time in a dugout the past few years have made a difference?
The Indians introducing the experienced Francona as manager Monday and the Sox’ hiring the inexperienced Ventura a year ago are extremes.
Between a Francona and a Ventura always are some managerial candidates who spent time managing or coaching in the majors or minors.
If the Sox hired one they might have won the AL Central and been up 2-0 in a division playoff series like the Tigers currently are.
We’ll never know, but it’s only natural to wonder.
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