A few hours after officially agreeing to a multiyear contract extension on Friday -- believed to be two years -- Robin Ventura walked toward the stage during the opening ceremonies at SoxFest and was greeted by a partial standing ovation.
It was a fitting reception.
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After his first two years on the job as manager, White Sox fans still seem to be ambivalent about Ventura.
Some love his laid-back style and calming influence. Others think Ventura lacks the fire of predecessor Ozzie Guillen and is still hampered by a lack of managing or coaching experience at any level before returning to the South Side, where he as a standout third baseman from 1989-98.
White Sox management and players obviously feel Ventura deserves the love -- and the extension.
"Just his demeanor," said Paul Konerko, who is soaking in his 15th and final SoxFest as a player this weekend before heading into retirement. "X's and O's-wise, there are a lot of guys who know that stuff, and (Ventura) certainly does. But with a younger team like we have now, he just doesn't miss anything, how to treat guys. He's stern with them; he can get his point across.
"But for a team of this makeup, it's a good fit. I'm glad he wanted to stay. It's a great move for the White Sox because Robin's always valued his private time and his family time so he could've said, 'I'm going to do this for another year and then go do something else.' But the fact that he wants to be committed to this, it's great for him and it's great for the White Sox."
Ventura did have one year left on his existing deal, and he could have walked at the end of the upcoming season. On the flip side, if the Sox showed little or no improvement over a 99-loss season in 2013, Ventura could have been fired.
But even after he turned down a one-year contract extension last spring, the feeling on both sides was always Ventura being in it for a longer haul.
Now, it is a reality, even on the heels of the Sox' worst season since 1970. In his first year as manager, Ventura had the White Sox (85-77) in first place for most of the season before a late collapse cost them a playoff spot.
"I will say that what we saw in 2012 and in 2013 was sort of two extremes in terms of being a first-place club and being a club that was disappointing in terms of their performance, and throughout each of those extremes Robin's leadership was unwavering," general manager Rick Hahn said. "His communication, his ability to teach at the big-league level, his enthusiasm, his baseball intellect, all the things we were looking for in a manager were the same at our highest highs and our lowest lows. And that level of stability is what we want from a leader in the dugout."
When Ventura turned down a one-year extension last spring, the immediate perception was he didn't want to continue on as White Sox manager. Ventura, 46, said he had an ulterior motive.
"I know people made a big deal last year of not adding an extra year, but I just felt it was important for Rick to have a full year of doing the job and us working together, that he had the freedom and the ability to decide if I'm the right guy for the job," Ventura said. "Nothing's really changed in my mind of where I want to be and what I want to do. It's just the first time going through that,
"I wanted to make sure he had the ability to do that. And now with the way last year went and the off-season of a lot of communication, of a lot of talks, where we're headed, how we're going to do it, I'm excited."
So, before he decided to keep doing a job he really enjoys, Ventura wanted to make sure Hahn, a rookie GM last year, was comfortable having him in the dugout. That's not something you see every day in major-league baseball, which tends to be a brutal business.
"The decision he made was a selfless one, to allow me the latitude to get comfortable," Hahn said. "I thought that was awfully special and it speaks to what kind of man he is, and actually makes a decision like this easier because of it.
"Anyone who knows him I'm sure was not surprised that what was best for the organization was ahead of his own selfish economic interests at that time, and that's what he expressed."