PHILADELPHIA -- Trades don’t have the same affect on manager Robin Ventura as they did the player.
He has the luxury of only worrying about the roster he has in front of him and getting his players to focus on that day’s game. The transactions belong to the front office, and the execution of the plan is for Ventura’s players to handle.
But as a former player, Ventura is acutely aware of the mood in the White Sox clubhouse in the aftermath of the Matt Thornton trade and how it affects players. Whereas everything to do with trade rumors before was pure speculation and conjecture, on Saturday the reality of a roster shakeup has begun to set in for players. Once a veteran like Thornton, a fixture in the clubhouse, is moved, it’s realistic for players to believe anything will go over the next 18 days leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
“It became more difficult when I was on teams that were rumored like this,” Ventura said. “Now it’s something that has happened to kind of open the can. You see rumors and now you have to be able to concentrate and do your stuff on the field even though there are rumors. There’s more that goes into it as far as how you are going to get there, how is the family going to get there. Just little things that people don’t really think about.”
Thornton’s departure to the Boston Red Sox signals what is expected to be 2 1/2 more weeks of difficult transition in the White Sox clubhouse. White Sox players were in a state of disbelief on Saturday morning: They’re excited their former teammate is headed to a contender but also sad he’s gone.
After general manager Rick Hahn’s comments earlier this week, players could find themselves in a similar state for the rest of the month.
Hahn said the White Sox, who entered Saturday’s doubleheader with a 36-53 mark, have earned their record and in no way does he see the current group as competitive for 2014. He intends to listen to every offer in hope of improving the future product.
With an Opening Day payroll of $111 million, the White Sox roster is stocked full of premium goodies for contenders to consume. Among the most rumored players are injured pitchers Jesse Crain and Jake Peavy, outfielder Alex Rios, shortstop Alexei Ramirez and reliever Matt Lindstrom.
Crain, who is on the 15-day disabled list, spoke to Thornton on Friday night after the deal was announced and wished him well.
“Change is always a little nerve-wracking, you don’t know what to expect,” Crain said. “He probably feels that, and he hasn’t been anywhere else for a long time so he’s so used to being here. I’m sure he’s a little nervous, but he’ll get over there and it’ll be real exciting. The team’s doing really good, has a chance to go a long way and he gets to play in Boston.”
Addison Reed also spoke to Thornton.
The club’s closer said he won’t waste time worrying about any potential deals because it’s out of his hands. Reed said shaking off bad thoughts might be the best lesson he was taught by Thornton.
“You’d never know if he gave up 10 runs or strike out three in a row,” Reed said. “That’s the best way to go about it. If anything, he showed me not to worry about things. If you’re doing well or bad, have the same attitude day in and day out because there’s nothing you can do about that previous outing. You never could tell if he was doing well or bad.”
Still, the business side of baseball is now front and center, and it’s almost impossible to not think about.
“With him being traded, you know it’s going to happen," Crain said. “That kind of opens that door.”
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Ventura and his staff hope to gently close the door and assist their players in the process. He knows players aren’t just thinking about baseball. Now they’re focused on how they'd get their families situated in their new cities, the moving process and any number of distractions. In Thornton’s case, his wife Emily is due with the couple’s second child in early September.
“Any time these guys read a paper or look at the names floating around, now one of them is true,” Ventura said. “It does become tougher to concentrate. It’s our job to make sure they are focused on the right stuff. It does become a little tougher because it was a rumor before, but now something has happened. It doesn’t mean the rest of them are going to happen.”