Monday, September 12, 2016

October Surprise?

It is change,
continuing change,
inevitable change,
that is the dominant factor
in society today.

No sensible decision can be made
without taking into account
not only
the world as it is,
but the world as it will be.
Isaac Asimov, My Own View

Formerly Yours: Robin Ventura's five years helming
the White Sox is due to end in a matter of days.

Let's first establish that undoubtedly, White Sox manager Robin Ventura will be fired or reassigned within the organization at some time this month.

After a surprising rookie season in 2012 that found him entrenching the team in first place for five months, Ventura's managerial career from his first September forward has been borderline-Bevington disastrous. Specifically, Ventura's handsy treatment of the bullpen helped torpedo his smooth-groove, first-place club in 2012. And in sum over five seasons, Ventura proved completely devoid of innovation or personality (meant not as a personal criticism but a comment on his utter lack of distinguishing characteristics as a manager/strategist, beyond being a "nice guy").

Ventura for all his deserved accolades as a White Sox Hall of Fame player, is a guy who was very lucky to get three years in the big chair, much less five. But given how Ventura was hired, no decision by the front office regarding his job status truly would surprise.

Five years ago, the White Sox dealt fans an ultimate "October surprise." Rather than even interview ready-to-wear managerial candidates like Dave Martinez or Sandy Alomar, Jr., GM Ken Williams hired Ventura resumé unseen—if not sight unseen. Ventura had spent all of a half-season in the White Sox organization as a roaming coach working out of his home base in southern California. Astoundingly, he had to be convinced to take the job—a job that Martinez would have shaken off his ZZ Top beard for.

Speculation abounds that the White Sox may have a new October surprise in store for fans, and it is coming with a couple of weeks leave in the regular season for a curveball of a reason: Campbell Soup Kid A.J. Pierzynski's imminent decision to retire from baseball/prank Atlanta Braves media/belatedly celebrate Julio Teheran's spawn/pander for attention. As a feistmeister on the level of ex-jefe Ozzie Guillen, it seems natural to speculate sliding Pierzynski into the big chair as Ventura's replacement, at least among the meatheads.

Though an avowed vegetarian, count me among the meatheads. But, wait, a qualifier.

If  the White Sox opt again, as they did with Ventura, to choose someone with zero managerial experience, I'm in. Fans will get gaper's block whiplash with all the issues Manager A.J. the Skip will engender, and the front office will be told, with finality, to never again hire a manager who has never before been a manager.

In A.J.'s defense, he could be a kickass manager, if a bit Scrap Ironish for my taste. During his tenure on the South Side, for better or worse A.J. was always one to speak his mind, and though he would deny it, A.J. embodies The Fan on the field and in the dugout.

During the A.J. era, Paul Konerko was a curious choice as team captain under Ozzie (like Ventura fighting off the out-of-blue offer to be White Sox manager, PK did not want to be captain, wouldn't wear a "C," and offered little in the way of captaincy beyond meandering postgame quotes that took the heat off teammates due to beat writer narcolepsy, and perhaps powdering PK Mini-Me Gordon Beckham's hiney at regular intervals), especially when it seemed A.J. would be a natural fit in the role.

A.J. took the fight to opponents. He was mouthy. He was famously characterized by Ozzie as a guy who "opponents hate, and teammates hate a little bit less." Guillen never hesitated to call his team (or, undoubtedly seeing a touch of Oswaldo in his catcher, A.J. specifically) out. And A.J. more than once rolled his eyes in the clubhouse after getting the deets on a latest Ozzie rant to ask us on the beat, seriously, don't you guys get tired of listening to that guy spout off?

Counterintuitive or no, that's a guy I want bleeding for my team, and encouraging teammates to as well.

But, OK, that's all dropped third strikes under the bridge, because A.J. will not be the next White Sox manager.

Who will be? A hothead on the A.J. level—if you subscribe to the chill-feisty-chill-feisty pattern the White Sox seem to have established during Jerry Reinsdorf's ownership. 

A more intriguing question is whether or not the White Sox actually will conduct an interview process this time around, rather than treating the most important hire in the organization with speed-dating attention to detail.

The guess here is yes, but my next post will reveal that the snap hire of Ventura isn't the only rash skipper snatch-and-grab made in the Reinsdorf Era.

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