10/06/11 11:34 PM ET
Ventura's lack of experience not an issue
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Nowhere amidst the All-Star selections and Gold Gloves for his slick work at third base will a managerial record be located for Ventura. And that's because Ventura's hiring as the 39th manager in franchise history, with a multiyear deal between the 44-year-old and the White Sox announced on Thursday, marks his first professional coaching or managing appearance at any level.
Judging by the reaction of the White Sox charges who will be working with him, that lack of experience is not even a remote concern.
"I don't think managing in the Minors makes you a good manager or even managing previously in the big leagues," White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham said. "To be honest, what makes a good manager is, do his players believe in him? And I imagine we are going to believe in Robin.
"We are looking for a guy that can motivate people. That's what the hire [is], it's not based on credentials. The manager, all he has to do is get his player to play hard for him. That's all a manager can do. We need to go out and believe in him and each other. If we do that, we'll be OK."
Buddy Bell worked as Ventura's direct boss from June until the end of the 2011 season, with Ventura holding the title of special advisor to the director of player development and set to work with and evaluate some of the Minor League players. Due to a family illness, Ventura was taken away from his schedule and didn't do as much as he would have liked on the job. Yet, Bell was looking forward to Ventura coming to Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League and continuing his growth with these duties.
Although most of their contact came via the phone, including when Bell and general manager Ken Williams talked to Ventura about the managerial opening, Bell remembers nothing but positives when managing against this talented and knowledgeable player.
"It's very hard not to notice this guy when you manage against him," Bell said. "His field awareness, the way he treats teammates, the way teammates treated him, his respect for the game and how he played the game.
"As a manager or teammate, I can't imagine finding anything you wouldn't like about this guy. When they brought the name up, I was like, 'Wow, that's perfect.'
"He sees everything, and the game seems real slow for him," Bell said. "Nothing surprises him. When you've played that long and if you are playing the game the way he did, you are way ahead of the manager and pitcher. You just see the game at a little bit of a different pace than most of us. That's what always intrigued me about him."
There were three managerial stints for Bell, covering stops in Detroit (1996-98), Colorado (2000-02) and Kansas City (2005-07). Eventually, Bell was brought in as a bench coach for Eric Wedge when Wedge took over in Cleveland.
The object was to give Wedge an experienced sounding board or some in-game guidance. It's the same sort of bench coach Ventura and the White Sox will be looking for, but Bell believes it's not exactly necessary when factoring in Ventura's baseball acumen.
For example, after Wedge quickly got his managerial feet under him, Bell admitted there wasn't much for him to do.
"There will be critics saying he didn't manage before, and there's going to be a little bit of a transitional period," Bell said. "But it's not going to take him long.
"It's hard to explain to somebody never in that position. It's a very important job. It's a job where you have to be on top of things and be aware of your players and what they are going through and what they need at that particular time. But the strategic part of the game is what it is.
"He's going to make decisions he was making every day as a player, but he just didn't know it," Bell said. "I understand the concern, sort of. But with guys like Ventura, and guys that are like him, that's the last thing to worry about."
Beckham has met Ventura on a few previous occasions during his visits with the team on the West Coast or in Chicago. A.J. Pierzynski actually has played against him.
Much like Bell, by simply watching Ventura in action, Pierzynski knows his new manager understands the game. That idea was reinforced by chatting with Ventura. It's a definite surprise due to Ventura's lack of experience, but the White Sox believe it will be a pleasant one leading Ventura back to his baseball home.
"If they don't have that connection, it's not a shoot them down thing right away," said Pierzynski of Ventura's personal White Sox ties, having played for the team from 1989-98. "But it can't hurt. He gets what being a White Sox is all about, and he gets all that comes along with doing that and did it for a long time.
"One thing the White Sox aren't afraid to do is pull a surprise on everyone. I'm happy it's over with. Now, I'll quit getting asked who is going to be managing. I'm excited to know Robin better and see how he handles the pressure of managing in Chicago. It will be different not having Ozzie [Guillen], but I'm happy for Robin."
Some times change can work out best for all parties involved.
"Just a brilliant choice," Bell said of the Ventura hire. "[White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] and Kenny would never hire somebody who they didn't think could handle this. They are not bringing in somebody just for a name."