In the winter before the 2012 season, the Chicago White Sox made a shocking move by naming former third baseman Robin Ventura as their next manager. After the reign of Ozzie Guillen came to an eventful end, the Sox were looking for a person that was as different from Ozzie as possible. They ended up hiring a much quieter guy that spent the prime of his career right next to Guillen in the White Sox infield.
As manager, Guillen was a firecracker who would go off at any second. Towards the end of his career he butt heads with then general manager Kenny Williams and started to aggravate owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Both Williams and Reinsdorf believed that Guillen was taking over the team and pushing them out in the process. After showing Guillen the door in the most politically correct way possible, the two men went on a journey to find the next general of the ball club.
They ended up picking Ventura who never had any coaching experience at any level in his career. Considered by many as a coach on the field when he played, Ventura only started with the Sox again on a limited basis months before being named they new skipper.
Media members and many White Sox fans believed Ventura would be no more than a puppet for upper management that would do and say what he was told, no questions asked. At the beginning of his tenure that prediction looked to be coming true. Ventura’s management of the pitching staff and lineup was non-existent. Williams, not Ventura, would make public remarks about the team and what he thought should be done to fix a problem and poof it would happen.
Mild mannered Ventura was not leaving his imprint on the team. Then, one move changed it all.
Before the 2013 season, Rick Hahn took over as general manager. Hahn, who unlike Williams was more reserved like Ventura, started to give the skipper more leeway in decision making processes.
Ventura now would shuffle the lineup the way he saw fit. If he wanted third baseman Conor Gillaspie moved up in the order because he was red hot then it would be done. If Chris Sale needed an extra day’s rest, than Ventura would make it happen.
While not all of his decisions have worked out well (his management of the bullpen has been consistently questionable) Ventura is finally having his own voice being heard thanks to Hahn not breathing down his back. Literally, his voice is being heard. Ventura has been more argumentative with umpires and has exerted a temper on multiple occasions, calling out his team when he saw fit.
Once considered a manager that had absolutely no say in the daily decisions, it is now clear that this is Ventura’s team and will continue to be as long as he is there. Whether that is for the rest of the final season of his contract or beyond 2014, if he is given an extension, one thing is clear: Robin Ventura is no one’s puppet.