The 2015 season was a disappointment for pretty much everyone and everything involved with your Chicago White Sox.
There was all sorts of hope and expectations surrounding the team after a flashy off-season filled with moves that were supposed to help the team to compete now and moving forward. And why not? They had some excellent pieces in place in Sale, Abreu, Quintana, and Eaton, as well as last year’s first round pick, Carlos Rodon. Surely by adding some key pieces to the bullpen, a top of the rotation starter, and a couple veteran bats they could compete with a depleted Tigers team and an overachieving Royals team, right?
Instead the team got off to a horrific start and never really recovered. Sure a brief stretch at the end of July attempted to infuse some hope into the fans, but that was quickly snuffed out after a quiet trade deadline and another losing streak. At the end of the year the additions of Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, Zach Duke, and Carlos Rodon were worth exactly three wins. The team once again finished in fourth (although they did overtake the Tigers!) and were actually farther out of contention than the year before.
Now it’s the off-season, and this “season” is starting off about as well as the regular season did for the White Sox. Instead of doing what most thought (and hoped) the team would do, the Sox chose to bring back manager Robin Ventura for another season. Yes, he is still under contract for one more year after the Sox gave him an extension after the 2013 season for some reason. But managers being fired with a year left on their deal is not uncommon and might actually make more sense if you are a team that is actually trying to compete, as the Sox claim they are.
And yet, here we are, getting ready for our fifth season of Robin Ventura in charge. He will become the first Sox manager EVER to not only make it through the entirety of three straight losing seasons, but then be brought back for another year after that. The organization continues to stand by Robin and say that he “creates the right environment” for winning, despite doing nothing but losing.
So instead of firing the manager, they fire the bench coach, Mark Parent. He becomes the sacrificial goat. The Sox say they want to hire a bench coach that can help Ventura with some in-game management and maybe even a guy with managerial experience.
A couple things on this … first, if your manager still needs help making in-game decisions after four years, what makes you think he will figure it out in year five? That’s like buying a brand new spare tire instead of replacing the original one.
Secondly, trying to bring in a bench coach with managerial experience OR an up-and-coming potential manager with a manager on the last year of his contract is a tricky spot. Many guys aren’t going to want to come in and feel like they are the presumed “manager-in-waiting” and make everyone uncomfortable the first time the team loses three games in a row. Which is exactly why Sandy Alomar Jr., a perfect up-and-coming candidate, declined an offer to become the Sox’ bench coach earlier this week.
Think about that. A guy turned down a raise and a promotion that would move him closer to getting his first managerial job because it was with the Sox. You can read me his quotes about “having too much respect for Ventura to put him in that spot” all you want. At the end of the day, Alomar would rather keep his job or hold out for a better one, rather than take the Sox raise and promotion. That should tell you a lot. Especially since this is a guy that had three separate stints with the Sox and knows the organization.
What all this points to is a general mess inside the White Sox organization. Ever since Rick Hahn was named GM and Kenny Williams was moved up the ladder, everyone wondered how much autonomy Hahn was going to have to do his thing, rather than Williams influencing from above. Well it has now been a little over three years since Hahn was named general manager and we still don’t really have an answer to that question.
Many people feel, myself included, that Ventura still has a job because of Williams and ultimately, owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Remember, Ventura was hired by Williams before the 2012 season. Hahn didn’t take over until the following October. That means that Hahn is yet to hire a manger during his time as GM. Now maybe he is aboard the Robin Train, but it’s hard for me to believe that he doesn’t want a chance to pick his own guy to manage the team he is building.
That is all speculation, but the fact remains that the White Sox as an organization seem to be a mess. They lack direction and seem to have no real plan. This off-season is critical for them. Hahn claimed after last year that the re-build has been accelerated and they have a three year window to try and win now.
If last season was year one, this next season is year two. Year one didn’t go very well. Are they still in the window, or did it slam shut on their hands? If they are still in the window as they claimed, then that means they should once again use the off-season to commit to improving the team now. Whether that means free agents, creative trades, or plucking guys from overseas, this isn’t the time to back off if you truly believe in that window of opportunity.
What actually happens, is yet to be seen. My biggest concern is that the Sox will cheapen up, as they tend to do, and blame fans for not showing up to watch a team that couldn’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag last year. That is why the retention of Ventura was so concerning. It reeks of the classic White Sox cop-out we all fear is coming. Stay with the status quo, dial back because we struck out on who we acquired last year, and then re-evaluate a year from now.
I’m hoping this isn’t the case. I really am. I am sick of getting my hopes up each spring only to have the team crap out by June. The World Series was a decade ago, and they’ve been back to the playoffs once since then. ONCE. And that was seven years ago already.
The team on the other side of town has a plan. They went out and got the executive, the manager, and the players to win. It’s time for the Sox to follow suit.