How Kenny chose Robin Ventura as the new Sox manager

Updated 10/6/2011 10:30 PM
  • Robin Ventura

    Robin Ventura

The White Sox' new manager has ties to the organization.

But no, Ozzie Guillen's replacement is not Sandy Alomar Jr. or Dave Martinez, a pair of former players and aspiring managers.

And no, it's not Terry Francona, who began managing in the Sox' minor-league system in 1991 before leading the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles.

It's ... Robin Ventura.

In a stunning announcement Thursday, the White Sox hired Ventura as manager.
The former all-star third baseman has no managing experience at any level, and no coaching experience, either.

In June, the 44-year-old Ventura rejoined the Sox as an adviser to director of player development Buddy Bell.

"I realize he wasn't on anyone's list out there, and I think we caught many of you by surprise," White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said. "I think it's important to note he's been on our list for a long time; he's been on my specific list for a long time.

"I think I started interviewing Robin from 1994 to 1998, he just didn't know it. He's one of the classiest people I've ever met in this game, along with his wife Stephanie. He's a smart person that I believe is the man we need for this position at this particular time."

When Guillen opted out of his contract with two games to play in the season and landed as manager of the Miami Marlins, Williams officially interviewed Ventura.

"With Ozzie's situation in Chicago, I honestly thought he'd be there for a long time," Ventura said. "I think coaching was more along the lines of what was probably going to happen by me taking the first step and coming back in the organization this year. I probably couldn't tell you two weeks ago ... things progressed fairly quickly once Ozzie was not the manager anymore."

Ventura played 16 major-league seasons, the first 10 with the White Sox. He won six Gold Gloves and played in two All-Star Games.

"It really turned us upside down," Ventura said of his family's reaction to the offer. "I have a good thing going. I kind of had the freedom to go places and coach and come back home."

Now, he is back in the game, and Ventura's hiring is already being greeted with heavy skepticism given his lack of experience.

Signed to a multiyear deal and likely to manage a White Sox team in 2012 that is heavily infused with young players, Ventura is not under pressure to bring home a World Series trophy on his first attempt.

"We do not expect him to hit the ground and be the guy he's going to be two years, three years from now," Williams said. "We are committed to a growth process, and a growth process we think will ultimately result in one of the best managers in the game."

Ventura played on the South Side for a decade, so he is well aware of fan backlash and second-guessing.

It's already started, so maybe that's why Ventura wasn't making any big promises during Thursday's teleconference with reporters.

"Not having managed before, I did have apprehension," Ventura said. "It wasn't as though ... (Williams) never tried to talk me into it. It was more of what was going to be there, what was going to be available. Ultimately, it was going to be my decision if I was going to be the one committed to do it.

"We finally had a face to face (meeting) last week and I knew right there. My wife knew. That was the time, and I knew this was the right thing to do."

Williams is convinced Ventura is the right man to lead the Sox, just like he was convinced Guillen was the right man in 2004.

Ironically, Ventura and Guillen manned the left side of the White Sox' infield from 1989-97.
The two remain very close friends, although Ventura has not yet discussed his new job with Guillen.

"We've seen first-hand when we brought Ozzie in what the passion of the organization and putting on the uniform again means," Williams said. "You see people throughout our organization who have been with our organization for a long time. I think there's real value there. (Ventura's) getting this position because we think he's the guy to help lead us to another banner, not because he was once a fan favorite."

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