White Sox manager Robin Ventura has digested way more than he’d like to this season.
As his predecessor noted at the All-Star Game last week, managers learn far more about themselves and their players when seasons don’t go well.
Through 97 games this season, including a 6-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night in which Ventura was ejected and the White Sox committed a season-high four errors, there have been an infinite amount of chances for Ventura to soak up useful information.
Whether he has had to deal with myriad injuries, how to take his lumps as the team has endured a two-month long slump or in disciplining his players in full view of the public eye, Ventura has had plenty to deal with.
But despite all the acrimony that has come with the team’s 39-58 start to the 2013 campaign, Ventura hasn’t drifted away from his calm and collected self and his style continues to earn him applause from his peers.
[NOTES: Crain moving closer to return]
“He’s got good instincts for people,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s got a good disposition about him. He obviously knows the game. He’s not really excitable. I think he’s going to be a terrific manager. …This is just the reality of it --- that things don’t always go well as the manager. So he’s already at an early stage of his managerial career seen both sides of it and he hasn’t panicked and he’ll get ’em going. … This is probably a good experience for him.”
Ventura has certainly gained plenty of knowledge in his second season. One season after he finished third in the vote for the American League manager of the year, Ventura admits 2013 has been full of challenges.
The campaign started on a rough note with injuries to John Danks, Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo and has never really slowed down save for a brief rally in mid-May.
Key offensive performers have slumped, a defense expected to be rock solid has been in tatters and mental mistakes can be found in every aspect of the team’s game.
But aside from letting players know what is acceptable and what is not, Ventura has maintained the even-keel nature that made him popular with his charges when he took over as manager in 2012.
Ventura said he has relied on his own experiences as a player to guide him though these difficult times though he realizes the significant difference between the two roles.
“The situation we’re in, injuries and things like that, you deal with different things, different people and emotions,” Ventura said. “When you’re not winning games it’s always more difficult inside the locker room than it is when you’re winning. … I’ve been through it as a player on a team so, it’s not like I haven’t seen it before. But being the manager, it’s different.”
One major difference between last season and this is Ventura has had to discipline players more often in 2013.
Last month, he removed outfielder Dayan Viciedo from a doubleheader for poor base running. Alex Rios was yanked from Friday’s game after he failed to run hard to first on a routine ground ball. And Ventura stood his ground after Monday’s loss even though Chris Sale wasn’t happy when he was ordered to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera, which resulted in a heated discussion.
Though they might not like Ventura’s decision at the time, Addison Reed said his teammates’ respect their manager’s position and, more importantly, how he handles those situations.
“We know we’re expected to give our best,” Reed said. “He does it in the right way. He doesn’t call a player out in front of everybody or anything like that. If he has an issue with somebody, he’s going to pull them aside and talk to them. … We all have a tremendous level of respect for him and nobody is going to disrespect him and go against what he says.”
The day after his two most visible incidents, both Rios and Sale said they occurred in the heat of battle and were over.
This isn’t the first time Ventura has had to discipline players. Last season he held shortstop Alexei Ramirez out of the lineup for a late arrival to the park.
It’s just that this season, with the team playing poorly, Ventura has had to send a message more often so things don’t spiral out of control.
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“It hasn’t changed,” Ventura said. “You still do what you have to do.”
The performance has impressed Ozzie Guillen because Ventura’s temperament hasn’t shifted significantly. One of Ventura’s best assets is that you wouldn’t know if his team has won or lost five straight games, Guillen said.
“He’s very professional, he never changes the way he is,” Guillen said. “That’s the way he is. I think he’s managing better this year than he was last year. People think you’re a good manager when you’re winning. Well, you’re a good manager when you’re losing. That’s when you have to be a manager. He has a lot of guys on the (disabled list), a lot of guys playing bad. He has handled it pretty good.”
Veteran manager Davey Johnson recommends more of the same.
The Washington Nationals manager has seen his share of bad teams. He knows a manager is given credit when many times it’s the poor performance of players and not the skipper’s performance that is the real culprit.
So he’d advise Ventura to stay the course.
“You just have to stay positive,” Johnson said in New York last week. “There’s a lot of adjustments you have to make up here and players sometimes don’t make ‘em. Guys can have off years. But you’ve just got to remain positive and keep putting guys in situations where they can do well and that’s what he does good. It’s part of it.
He’s got the good temperament for it. That’s the way you ride it out.”
Ventura seems to be buckled in for whatever 2013 can throw his direction. Back in late April, when a team with postseason aspirations began to show signs of inconsistency and poor all-around play, Ventura cautioned things could always get worse.
He just looks at everything as another chance to learn something new.
“It’s been a little different and when you’re not winning as many games it becomes more difficult,” Ventura said. “So it is different and, you know, every day just kind of brings a new challenge.”