Rozner: Back to the future for Renteria, White Sox

  • Chicago White Sox bench coach Rick Renteria smiles after being named the 40th manager of the team, replacing Robin Ventura during a baseball news conference Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Chicago.

    Chicago White Sox bench coach Rick Renteria smiles after being named the 40th manager of the team, replacing Robin Ventura during a baseball news conference Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 2/12/2017 7:31 PM

Rick Renteria had every right to be bitter.

Who would have blamed him, right? Who among us wouldn't have been disheartened by the unfairness of it all?

 

In his first major-league managing job, Renteria did nothing wrong during his 2014 season with the Chicago Cubs, a 4-A team that lost 89 games and was on the verge of turning the corner.

But Joe Maddon became available, the Cubs fired Renteria and the team made the playoffs in 2015 with a 97-win team.

Fresh off watching the Cubs win the 2016 World Series, and now the manager of the Chicago White Sox, Renteria insists there are no hard feelings.

"I think you learn really early in your career that certain things happen in the game that are out of your control, and you can only worry about the things you can control," said Renteria, who was a first-round pick of the Pirates at age 18 and played parts of five years in the big leagues. "So you look in the mirror. If you can say you did everything you could to enhance the organization during the time you were there, that's where you leave it.

"You reflect on it and you try to figure out if there was something you fell short on. I'm not perfect. No one is.

"But I don't think about it too much. I don't think about how that could have been my team. I just take it as an experience, a great opportunity. Try to take advantage of it from a learning standpoint and move on."

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That makes Renteria a better man than most, and a class act, but it's also a life lesson that can translate to young players in any language.

"It's like Rocky Balboa," Renteria said. "How hard can you get hit and get up again and keep moving?

"That's what you're supposed to do. That's what life is about. I'm an optimistic person by nature."

So after signing on with the Cubs in the middle of a total rebuild, Renteria is back at the starting line with the White Sox having just begun the process, with many more veterans to be dealt.

But when he took the job at the beginning of October, he says the Sox had not yet pulled the trigger on a teardown.

"I wasn't necessarily expecting it," Renteria said. "But I know that some of the conversations we had were having to do with what kind of club would I be willing to work with. My answer was, 'I can work with either side of the coin.'

"The moves we're making are best suited for long-term success. It takes a lot of studying by the scouts and front office to pull off the deals that we made, and I'm really happy with the talent I see coming through.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There have been five or six clubs over the last five or six years that have gone this route, so it's not unheard of for this model to work."

No one goes to big-league camp expecting to lose. At least, no one accepts it. Everyone at this level has won a lot in their lives and wants to win again.

But given what Renteria has been through, he knows he will have to balance patience with the inevitable desire to win.

"It would be foolish of me to say I didn't learn from my experience on the other side of town," Renteria said. "It's really easy for me because I look at it from a different perspective.

"After a tough loss, you deal with it. If there are more positives than negatives in that specific game, those players need to know that they're on the right track and in a position in the long run to have success.

"Most of my messages are through encouragement. There's a lot of different ways to motivate. It can be a pat on the back or something firmer if needed.

"Maybe it's the experience I have from working in development. Every business is resulted oriented. But all of us have to understand that there's a process to the ultimate goal that you're seeking.

"There's always something to be learned, and we should always be doing that whether you're winning or losing. That applies to all of us."

That certainly applies to the 2017 White Sox -- and Rick Renteria sure seems like the right guy for the job.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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