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updated: 8/12/2013 5:59 AM

White Sox kind of caught in between on Ventura

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  • White Sox manager Robin Ventura, left, talks with team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf during batting practice earlier this season at U.S. Cellular Field.

      White Sox manager Robin Ventura, left, talks with team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf during batting practice earlier this season at U.S. Cellular Field.
    Associated Press

 
 

Many baseball teams would have fired Robin Ventura as manager by now.

After all, the White Sox let a division championship slip away last season by fading in September. This season the Sox spared themselves similar ignominy by fading in May and settling into last place with a 44-72 record.

Sox general manager Rick Hahn defends his manager as if Ventura were one of his own children rather than one of club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

Ventura was a curious and confusing managerial choice to begin with because he hadn't managed anywhere anyplace anytime or been in the major leagues since retiring as a player.

So this was an experiment from the very start and one that it's difficult to call a success to this point.

One way some scouts assess a manager is how good he is at getting a team out of a slump. Well, Ventura couldn't do it last year late in a pennant race. Nor did he do it this year when the Sox began 24-24 and then went on a slide that continued Sunday when the Twins beat them 5-2.

In Hahn's mind, Ventura deserves credit for the Sox still playing hard. The manager did earn points by pulling Dayan Viciedo out of a game for dogging it and a few games later pulled Alex Rios for the same reason.

That's a sign of a manager not allowing a team to quit. But are the Sox really still playing as if they cared? No, not really. The only reason they aren't going through the motions is this is all new to some of the young players filling out the roster after a flurry of trades dispatched veterans.

None of this concerns Ventura's future as Sox manager because management has decided to bring him back for a third season and he has decided to accept.

This seemed in doubt this spring only because Ventura rejected an offer of a contract extension. Now he sounds like he's all in.

The Sox are sort of caught between Ventura not distinguishing himself in the job yet and on wanting to get some return on the two seasons already invested in him.

Just as logic says Ventura wasn't going to be terrific while learning on the job, logic says he will be better in 2014 with two seasons of experience.

Maybe Ventura is ready to realize the potential Sox ownership and management thought he had when they hired him. Who knows? Maybe he still will become a Hall of Fame manager like Tony La Russa became after being an inexperienced manager when Bill Veeck gave him his first managing job.

The problem is that the White Sox need a manager to have a presence that can command both a clubhouse and the community. This isn't a player-producing team like the Cardinals or a town-owning franchise like the Cubs.

The Sox have to have a manager who can get his players to play somewhat above their talent level and at the same time be noticed by sports fans around here.

Ventura hasn't been either of those to this point. He has been a manager who every few games must remind people he's in charge and whom his general manager has to defend.

All Ventura and the Sox can say is he will be back next season to manage the club's rebuilding process.

It'll be interesting to see whether the Sox will have him work on the last year of his contract or maintain enough confidence to offer him that extension again.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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