While the knock on the new Chicago White Sox manager for some is that he will be the "yes man" for general manager Kenny Williams, or that he is too nice to drive his players toward success, Konerko says he’s heard enough to know that it won’t be an issue.
“If you talked to people that played with him, he’s a guy, like Ozzie [Guillen], who will call you out on the carpet and will be more abrasive than people think,” Konerko said.
The White Sox’s captain did say that he hasn’t witnessed that side of Ventura first hand. Konerko arrived on the White Sox in 1999, the season after Ventura left, which essentially made Konerko the run-producing replacement for his eventual manager.
By then, Ventura already had his infamous “run in” with Texas Rangers legend Nolan Ryan, when he charged the mound and found himself in a headlock taking blows to the top of his skull.
Yeah, it might not have looked good for Ventura, but it made Konerko’s point that it doesn’t matter the situation, Ventura will take a stand when he feels an injustice.
“We have to see how it plays out,” Konerko said. “Nobody has a crystal ball, but if you look at a guy, or their personality, that could get a job without experience, Robin is one of the guys that would be at that forefront.”
Konerko said that because he never played with Ventura, his association with him has been limited to various White Sox-related functions over the years. In those settings it was the kinder, gentler Ventura that revealed itself, which is essentially the persona he is known for having.
“I don’t think managing people will be tough for him,” Konerko said. “He’s a guy that gets along with people and talks to everybody on an individual basis. Being with him, he’s a guy that makes you feel comfortable. People think that he’s not tough but the stories I’ve heard about Robin were the times he stood up to people and got into a physical fight.”
Obviously the scouting report of his fighting ability isn’t complimentary, but the point remains that Konerko doesn’t see him as somebody that will get walked over.
How all that plays into providing a winning environment is what will really matter. Like many of his teammates, Konerko reiterated that it isn’t the in-game strategy that will set Ventura apart as much as his leadership ability. With 16 years in the major leagues and nearly 300 home runs, Ventura already has plenty of respect as a baseball man.
“A lot of people think with managers there are a lot of moves to be made, but a lot of it decides itself,” Konerko said. “I’m sure from a technical side there are things that need to be done, independent of the actual game, and there are certain times you have to do things that don’t even relate to baseball. But as far as a running a clubhouse, he’s been in a clubhouse his whole life. I think the older players are looking forward to it as far as picking his brain to what makes a good team.”