That was my second thought to learning that one-time third baseman Robin Ventura was the new field manager of the Chicago White Sox.
My first was to believe that this was somehow a gag, and that someone was going to wind up looking incredibly stupid for reporting it as fact.
NEEDLESS TO SAY, I’m not overwhelmed by the choice, and not just because Ventura has never managed or coached baseball at any level professionally.
At least when Ozzie Guillen was hired some eight years ago, it could be said he had been a coach at the major league level and had had a chance to gain more experience beyond his years playing for (and being one of the few stars on) the White Sox, and Tony LaRussa had been a minor league manager when the White Sox made him a rookie major league manager back in 1979.
Anybody who was all upset back then with the hiring of Ozzie ought to be outraged at this hiring. Then again, I always suspected that at least some of the Ozzie opposition was dedicated to the fact that he didn’t speak English with a southern drawl.
But that is neither here nor there. We’re now moving on, which is what it seems the White Sox are doing.
I ALWAYS THOUGHT that with Guillen as manager and Greg Walker and Harold Baines as coaches, the White Sox field leadership had a heavy sense of those teams of the 1980s. All you would have had to do was make Richard Dotson or Lamar Hoyt a pitching coach, and it would have been complete.
Now that we’re having Ventura as manager, with some speculation that Frank Thomas will become a hitting coach for the team, the White Sox field leadership is moving into the 1990s and those teams that weren’t any more successful on the field than they were in the ‘80s (a lone division title in each decade).
Insofar as Baines is concerned, he wore a White Sox uniform in the ‘80s, the ‘90s and the ‘00s. So my guess is that his job is safe, even when the day comes that Ventura is replaced by someone from the last decade.
Field Manager Jose Valentin, anyone? Or maybe Joe Crede!
IN THE SENSE that the White Sox are trying to promote the image of an organization that remembers its past, it is a good move. It is one of the things I always thought the New York Yankees did right.
But I can’t help but think that the first (and only) image that most people will have of Ventura’s career was of that moment he charged the pitcher’s mound in Arlington, Texas – only to have Nolan Ryan smack him about a bit.
And for the record, I always thought the bad part of that moment was that Ventura didn’t get a solid punch in of his own – since I always thought Ryan provoked that particular moment!
But Ventura didn’t. Is that the image we really want to be replayed over and over when people think of the White Sox? I’m not so sure it is preferable to Ozzie the mouth, who will be a more entertaining character in Miami than Robin will be at 35th Street and Bill Veeck Drive.
YET THERE IS a part of me that thinks the White Sox could have done worse.
Just think of the video that would be replayed on stadium scoreboards all across the country had Kenny Williams on Thursday announced that he was naming as the new manager one-time, all-around utility infielder Steve Lyons?