VIDEO: Ventura ready for the job
For the last week, there were rumblings coming out of U.S. Cellular Field that the name of the new White Sox manager was going to surprise everyone.
Who could this mystery person be?
Carlton Fisk? Tony Pena? Bill Melton?? Hawk Harrelson???
The White Sox kept their decision an ancient Chinese secret. Nobody had a clue.
But then came the announcement late Thursday afternoon: the next skipper of the Chicago White Sox is Robin Ventura.
Sorry to disappoint those in the front office, we werent surprised at all. Shocked, stunned and completely stupefied would probably be more accurate. Absolutely nobody saw this coming.
But Kenny Williams did. Years ago.
While Ventura played third base for the White Sox in the mid-90s, Williams was working for the team in player development. He says that during the five seasons before he became general manager he was actually interviewing Ventura all along.
He just didnt know it, Williams said.
When it came time for him to assemble a list of candidates to replace Ozzie Guillen, Williams says that rumored front-runners (and former White Sox players) Dave Martinez and Sandy Alomar Jr. were a part of the discussions.
Let me assure you, when we went down the list we looked at all of the guys, all the names that you've heard about and read about, we've looked at all of them, Williams said Thursday on Chicago Tribune Live.
But through it all, Venturas name kept popping off the page.
During a recent meeting with Jerry Reinsdorf, Williams brought up Venturas name as a possibility. At first, the Chairman smiled and said, interesting. Ventura had never managed before, and had just recently joined the White Sox front office in June as a special assistant to Buddy Bell, the teams director of player development.
He seemed like a long-shot, a wild card, just like another guy the team hired to manage the team in 2004: Ozzie Guillen.
After thinking it over that night, Reinsdorf told Williams the next day that he agreed with his decision about Ventura saying, I now know exactly why you brought his name to the forefront.
From there, the wheels went in motion. Ventura was their guy.
So what is it about Ventura that makes him the right fit, not only as White Sox manager, but as a manager period?
This isn't your average bird, Williams said. This guy comes with confidence, but if you ever had one conversation with him you understand that there's a certain humility, a certain regular guy, dry sense of humor. But at the same time he's got some toughness behind it, and will get on you in a way that doesn't demoralize you, in a way that doesn't sound so critical that you can't perform.
"He's a guy that will come in and have a positive affect on the young guys trying to establish themselves in the major leagues, while at the same time some of our veteran guys who are trying to rediscover themselves," Williams went on to say. "He's been there.
If Ventura never seemed to have that burning desire to become a big league manager, should that be held against him?
I say no, just as long as he still has the same desire to win like he did as a player. This being the team that drafted him and played him in 1,254 games during his White Sox career, my guess is that Ventura will do everything in his power not to let Reinsdorf and Williams down.
Im not one to back away, Ventura said when asked about his decision to become manager. The passion was there to do it, and Im honored to have the opportunity to do it. The White Sox care about me and my family. That was big in my decision. I realize that I havent managed, but this is the organization that is going to give me the support to do the job.
Being a first-time manager, who Ventura picks as his bench coach might be the next most important hire. Ventura has found a candidate, someone who is already a bench coach on a major league team. The White Sox are expected to ask the candidates team for permission to contact him on Friday.
As for his hitting coach, White Sox legend Frank Thomas told Comcast SportsNet Ill definitely listen if the Sox called. Williams revealed on Chicago Tribune Live that the Big Hurts name has already been brought up in conversations.
I have talked about that with Robin and because we've had so much growth within our system and we got so many young players as well as guys trying to rebound, we are probably going to stay within the organization, Williams said. We've still got to have some conversations on it and whether or not Frank is spoken to about or not, that'll be Robin's choice at the time. But I'm thinking initially, because we have history with some of our young players that have now come through and have performed well, we'll probably stick with that. But Frank will undoubtedly be welcomed to add any advice he has and he'll be part of the family because he is who he is and he's got a lot to offer.
In case Ventura doesnt succeed as manager, believe it or not, his replacement might already be lurking inside the White Sox clubhouse. Just like Ventura had no clue he was on Williams radar in the 1990s, this player probably doesnt realize it either.
As I'd freely admit right now, Paul Konerko can be a major league manager just because I've had 10 years worth of conversations with Paul Konerko, Williams said. And as a result, I've come to the conclusion that this guy certainly has the necessary stuff. He's a little busy right now, you know, becoming an MVP. But one day he too will hopefully be considered if he wants to do it along the same line. This might be out of left field or a surprise, but to people who are within the organization, not so much.
Cant say Im surprised. After the Ventura announcement, very little will.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.