With Ventura in place, what lies ahead for Sox?
Once staff is finalized, club will chart its future course
CHICAGO -- With Robin Ventura officially in place as the White Sox 39th manager, what's next for the work in progress on the South Side?
General manager Ken Williams said following Tuesday's news conference at U.S. Cellular Field to introduce Ventura, that the new manager's staff should be finalized sometime this week. While neither Williams nor Ventura would confirm any names, Mark Parent is expected to take over as bench coach and Joe McEwing should get the nod as the team's new third-base coach.
This duo would join pitching coach Don Cooper -- who returns through a four-year extension -- first-base coach Harold Baines, bullpen coach Juan Nieves, and bullpen catcher Mark Salas, with a hitting coach to be determined. Williams views this new staff as one entity working together, and used Baines' planned responsibilities as an example.
"[The staff] will fit together such that Harold will be putting more time into the mental side of some of our hitters' approaches," Williams said. "He was pretty good at it, and remains a valuable asset in that area. But he will take a greater role along those lines ... as will Robin. That's what I meant by a coaching staff that will work together. It's all intertwined, not just on one guy to solve the problems of our hitters.
"Robin will be very involved in every aspect -- whether it be player development and offseason conversations with the players, the coaches, the scouts, everything. That's just baseball and the way we like to do things. It's an all-inclusive style of management."
Once this coaching staff is in place, the White Sox can figure out where they stand for 2012 and beyond.
Williams shot down the idea of the club rebuilding on Tuesday, but once again talked about potential retooling. The team overextended itself with the franchise-record 2011 budget of $127 million and ensuing 79-83 finish. But Williams admitted that the White Sox have been overextending themselves over the past five or six years in order to find that one extra piece to produce a championship.
Williams provided an example from 2004, when the White Sox took money earmarked for Latin American development and used it to sign Tadahito Iguchi as a free agent from Japan. Iguchi played a very significant role on the 2005 World Series championship squad.
Questions were thrown at Williams concerning left-handed starter John Danks and outfielder Carlos Quentin, both of whom are in their last year of arbitration -- as well as the possibility of moving A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko, who both have full no-trade veto power. Williams has learned to never say never on any move, but didn't foresee the White Sox going to that extreme with their catcher and/or team captain.
"Let's see what's available out there through the winter discussions, and we'll make that determination as we go along," Williams said. "We very well [could do something], with all the names mentioned, they could be out there come Spring Training. But until we have these conversations, I have no idea."
As for any progress made with free-agent hurler Mark Buehrle, Williams quipped that he has been a little busy with other matters over the past few weeks.
"We'll get to the player matters when we can," Williams said. "But it's not dissimilar to the Konerko situation last year. The market has to tell us what he's going to command, and we'll look into it then to see if it fits into our planning and budget.
"Listen, whenever it is when Mark Buehrle leaves, you're going to have a void. I'm not just talking about the player standpoint, but who he is, what he is -- all the peripheral things. You can't ask for a better guy, performance-wise and non-performance wise."
One of the numerous interesting points made by Ventura on Tuesday centered on not really wanting to know the direction of the team when he signed on as manager. He didn't want to be influenced by the White Sox willingness to spend or their desire to go the younger route -- via Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, Tyler Flowers and Addison Reed, to name a few.
Much of the 2012 fortunes for the White Sox rides on comebacks by Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Jake Peavy and Gordon Beckham. But on Tuesday, Ventura wasn't about to offer up any corrective cure-alls for the group.
"Right now, they need a break," Ventura said. "The mental grind of baseball is one of those [things] that's probably the toughest out of any sport -- because it's daily, it's daunting, especially if you get yourself in a hole.
"[The players] come to Spring Training as something fresh, and you feel different as a player every year when you come to Spring Training. There's not a guarantee any guy on our team is going to have a better or worse year than last year. You hope they do [better], but the reality is, you don't know that.
"We're hoping everybody has a great year, and that's what we're counting on. I'm not sticking a bad year on any guy coming into Spring Training, just because he might have had it one or two years before."