Ventura 'at peace' after turbulent run as Chicago White Sox manager
Robin Ventura was an unusual major-league manager.
He was as low maintenance in the dugout as he was during his 16-year playing career -- the first 10 spent as a standout third baseman with the Chicago White Sox.
In the wake of Ozzie Guillen's messy exit as Sox manager in 2011, Ventura didn't pick up the phone and campaign for his old teammate's job.
Rather, Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and then general manager Kenny Williams made the trek out to Ventura's 300-acre home in Arroyo Grande, Calif., and tried talking him into becoming the Sox's manager despite his complete lack of coaching experience.
Ventura accepted, mainly because he was still extremely loyal to the organization that selected him with the 10th overall pick in the 1988 draft following an All-American career at Oklahoma State.
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Following his first season (2012) in the Sox's dugout -- and an 85-77 record -- Ventura was offered a one-year contract extension.
Most managers would have quickly signed, but that's not how Ventura is wired. He declined the offer because he wanted to make sure new general manager Rick Hahn was comfortable having him in the dugout.
Four straight losing seasons followed as Ventura was unable to get one patched together team after another to the playoffs. In September of 2016, Ventura went to Hahn and basically fired himself, telling the GM the final month of the disappointing season would be his last.
The Daily Herald caught up with the erstwhile manager over the weekend, and Ventura was typically at ease with everything.
"I'm at peace," he said on the way to lunch with his wife Stephanie. "Not being at spring training now, yeah, it's odd. Right when you get around February, you're normally preparing to go. There's kind of an odd feeling to it, but I don't sit around every day thinking, '(Darn it), I should be there.'"
After a promising debut as White Sox manager, Ventura never seemed to be having too much fun the following four losing seasons.
"I miss parts of it, absolutely," he said. "With the White Sox, there are a lot of people that I enjoyed being around and working with. There are always tough things to every job and this job is no different. There are things about it you probably don't enjoy doing as much, but most of it you enjoyed doing. I think that goes with anybody's job."
Ventura always had a cool, calm exterior, but the 2016 season was a nightmare on and off the field.
It started in spring training, when Adam LaRoche abruptly retired after his son Drake was denied unlimited access to the clubhouse. That prompted White Sox ace starter Chris Sale and leadoff man Adam Eaton to wage a war against Williams, and Ventura was caught in the crossfire.
Sale and Eaton struck again in late July, when the former shredded up throwback uniform tops the Sox were supposed to wear for his home start that night against the Detroit Tigers. Sale was suspended for five days, with Eaton offering 100 percent support for the bizarre behavior.
Again, Ventura was caught in the crossfire, even though he could be heard yelling at Sale from outside the clubhouse the night of the incident.
"For me, you just deal with it," Ventura said of last season's off-field nonsense involving Sale, Eaton and LaRoche. "I don't sit around and think it was the reason that brought me into this year. You deal with the people. They (Sale, Eaton) are both good people. Sometimes … for Chris, he'd have moments where he'd lose it. I think that's part of growing in the game, maturity, stature and all that stuff that kind of goes in with it.
"(LaRoche), he was a good guy. It's just … that was the day for him."
Ventura's day of reckoning came in early September, when he met with Hahn and pulled the plug on his run as White Sox manager.
"I was pretty frank about it," Ventura said. "There is some of it I'd rather keep between the people that talked about it but yeah, I just went to Rick and had a conversation of what was going on and what I felt was best.
"You've been in a place a long time and you care about it a lot, but it just got to a point where that was what I felt should happen."
Before returning to civilian life and "taking care of all the (bleep) I've been putting off for five years," Ventura put in a good word for bench coach Rick Renteria, who is the new Sox manager.
"Once I knew I wasn't coming back, I just thought a perfect person would have been Rick," Ventura said. "You get the opportunity to see things from the inside instead of being somebody hired from the outside, you get to see the inner workings of it. Not only did he get to see the players, he got to see how the front office works, how everything works. He doesn't come into it kind of blind. He's able to have a foundation to work off of. Rick's going to be great."
As for Ventura, he got to see the second half of youngest son Jack's football season at Arroyo Grande High School last year, and now he can catch his entire baseball season.
Ventura also spends a lot of time on the tractor taking care of his massive property.
"Just trying to maintain, especially with all the rain we've had," he said. "Mother Nature is cruel that way. The water goes everywhere."