The Clock is Ticking on Robin Ventura

20140124_mm_soxfest0136Introductory press conferences infuse new-found optimism in baseball. They usually are that memorable starting point for a marriage between team and a major offseason acquisition.

Everybody remembers how emotional slugger Jose Abreu was when he was introduced as the newest member of the Chicago White Sox before the 2014 season. There was enormous fan fare when Melky Cabrera, David Robertson, and Jeff Samardjiza shared the stage during a joint introduction a couple months backs. Heck, even managers receive a warm welcome in front of numerous cameras, documenting their every sentence.

White Sox fans remember back before the 2004 season when Ozzie Guillen and then general manager Kenny Williams giggled like little school girls over the conversation they had when the fiery former skipper was offered the job. People point to that moment as the one that sealed their favorable opinion of Ozzie.

Back in 2012 not much was made when Robin Ventura was introduced to the world as the leader of the White Sox. The first time manager at any level was labeled from the beginning as the anti-Ozzie. Instead of dissecting why he might succeed—despite his lack of experience—many just assumed he was going to fail.

While the St. Louis Cardinals were praised for hiring former backstop Mike Matheny, the White Sox were roasted for picking Ventura. The criticism was mostly based on his inability to handle a pitching staff, which Matheny technically did during his playing days. White Sox fans though were willing to give one of the former faces of the franchise a fair shake. After the 2012 season, it appeared as if they might have made the right choice.

Looking back on it the 2012 White Sox were the definition of an overachieving team. Not a single major media outlet gave the ball club a fair chance. As the season progressed and they became buyers come mid-June, an epic collapse was still predicted to be in their future. Even though the inevitable did indeed happen and the White Sox found themselves on the outside looking in come October, Ventura ended his first season at the helm with 85 wins.

Some began saying that Ventura was cut out to be a big league manager after all. The realists though pointed to the fact that while the White Sox did exceed expectations, the skipper made a number of questionable calls that played a large part in the late-season collapse.

Ventura ended his first season without having a clear grasp of how to handle a pitching staff. His use of the bullpen was horrendous and his in-game management was questionable. Yes the players did tail off down the stretch, but Ventura deservingly received a bulk of the blame.

When the 2013 season rolled around, many predicted that the White Sox would at least be somewhat competitive. Winning the division over a dominant Detroit Tigers team seemed like a reach, but the Kool-Aid was being passed around the team. When the club eventually finished 63-99, nobody acted too surprised. The record just harped on the fact that the collection of players the year before definitely overachieved.

After a rebuilding 2014 that saw the White Sox finish 73-89 and lose a number of players in trades, the organization entered the offseason destined to spend money. With a core intact that includes Abreu, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Avisail Garcia, and Adam Eaton, general manager Rick Hahn spent a boat load of money and prospects acquiring assets that filled a number of holes. For the first time since the “All In” days of 2011, optimism surrounded the White Sox.

With expectations the highest in Ventura’s tenure in Chicago, this was the year that people could viably judge the skipper. Excuses could no longer be made about the lack of talented resources at his disposal. He has the players to finally make a run at a division title.

Through April, the White Sox sat at the bottom of the division with only eight wins. The excitement that surrounded the club has vanished for the most part. People that predicted the White Sox to win the division look like fools now.The pitching staff is being held together by tape, the offense is desperately searching for a spark, and Ventura continues to make questionable calls.

A mild-mannered Ventura is never going to call out his players in an expletive filled rant like his predecessor, so he has to find another way to rally his guys. If Ventura cannot turn this ship around fast enough to salvage the season, a press conference introducing the newest White Sox manager will be in Hahn’s future.