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Friday, January 24, 2014
Sox never wavered on Ventura

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- Just because the Chicago White Sox gave an extension to their manager after a 99-loss season doesn't mean they were oblivious to the perception that they seemingly rewarded failure.

It didn't take long after Friday's announcement of a new multiyear deal for Robin Ventura that the cynics began to surface, asking what he would have received had the White Sox actually been a successful team last season.

General manager Rick Hahn seemed prepared for the head-scratchers Friday on the first day of SoxFest with a response that, if not rehearsed, was at least thought out well ahead of time.

"You lose 99 games there's going to be questions like that, about where this organization is headed and why they think the people in charge are the right people to get them to their end goals," Hahn said. "I will say that we saw in 2012 and in 2013 was sort of two extremes in terms of being a first-place club and being a club that was disappointing in terms of their performance. And throughout each of those extremes, Robin's leadership was unwavering.

"His communication, his ability to teach at the big-league level, his enthusiasm, his baseball intellect -- all the things we were looking for in a manager were the same at our highest highs and our lowest lows. And that level of stability is what we want from a leader in the dugout."

As for how much of a commitment the White Sox are making beyond this year, they are only calling it a "multiyear" deal. Speculation is that the extension could be for two more years after the upcoming season.

Why all the secrecy?

"You know the first time that he signed his contract we didn't announce the terms either," Hahn said. "Frankly we realize there's a level of interest in these things and the length of employee contracts, but we also realize we work in sports and the length of our contract is really just indicative of how long we get paid until something goes wrong.

"We still have to deliver, we still have to perform and we've shown a willingness recently to let someone go who still had time on their contract simply because we weren't getting it done."

Ventura has been a cool customer during his relatively short White Sox managing tenure. It was primarily on display last offseason when the White Sox came to the former longtime player and tried to work on an extension after his successful first season, during which the team was in playoff contention until near the end.

He declined then, and it created the perception that perhaps Ventura never intended to keep the job beyond the first three seasons he had agreed to. A different reason came forward Friday.

"I knew I wanted it the first year, but I think a lot has been made of not accepting the extension the year before," Ventura said. "That was just wanting Rick to have a full year [with me] and the way I got my job in the first place was different than the way most people get them. I just felt it was fair to him to come into the job and have a full year of being the GM and running it the way he wants to and if he likes the way I do it and we work together and he wanted me to continue then we'd have that discussion."

It was a bold move that paid dividends. Even after the losing season in 2013, Hahn never forgot Ventura's gesture. Hahn was asked if he thought Ventura would be a short-timer when he declined the extension a year ago.

"Not really, because the decision he made was a selfless one to allow me the latitude to get comfortable," Hahn said. "I thought that was awfully special and it speaks to what kind of man he is, and actually makes a decision like this easier because of it. Anyone who knows him, I'm sure it was no surprise that what was best for the organization was ahead of his own selfish economic interests at that time, and that's what he expressed."

While the addition of young talent this offseason has been nice to see, Ventura said it wasn't the biggest motivator for his return. He is simply mentally invested in the direction the White Sox are going and couldn't imagine not being a part of it.

As far as the players are concerned, they are glad to see their manager willing to stay on for the ride. They enjoy the way he goes about his business.

"It's just his demeanor," said Paul Konerko, who is preparing to head into his final season. "X's and O's-wise, there's a lot of guys who know that stuff -- he certainly does -- but with anything, especially a younger team like we have now, he just doesn't miss something. It's how to treat guys. He's stern with them, he can get his point across, but for a team of this makeup it's a good fit.

"I'm glad he wanted to stay. It's a great move for the White Sox because Robin's always valued his private time and his family time so he could've said, 'I’m going to do this for another year and then go do something else.' But the fact that he wants to be committed to this, it's great for him and it's great for the White Sox."