Sveum or Ventura?
SVEUM MAKING BEST OF TOUGH SITUATION WITH CUBS
With no managers worth listening to in town, I miss Ozzie Guillen's media availability before games. Ozzie was almost always entertaining, though he had a penchant for contradictions. He would tell us often that managers don't do anything, especially in the American League, and then in the next breath, tell us how hard his job is. So which is it?
Contradictory as they might seem, I tend to agree with both statements. Once the game starts, an AL manager is basically just in charge of monitoring the pitchers and nowadays, making exaggerated defensive shifts. Managing is really about handling disparate personalities and roles.
So while Robin Ventura seems to have struck the right emotional pitch with his team, it's mostly a veteran squad that doesn't need that much hand-holding. Don Cooper runs the pitching staff. The Sox are a pretty good team, especially with all the bounce-back seasons we're seeing, which makes his job easier.
Now Dale Sveum has it a little tougher. One would hope he took this job with eyes wide open, because this season must be trying his patience. I give Sveum immense credit for this team playing with intensity through a rough three months.
The Cubs haven't exactly bounced back from that soul-killing 12-game losing streak, but they've managed to pull out a few interesting wins, like the 12-3 victory over the White Sox on Monday.
Sveum, known as "Nuts" in his playing days, hasn't lost his mind -- though he said he did yell at the team behind closed doors once -- or turned into a verbal recluse like Mike Quade. He speaks a mostly unvarnished truth without looking like a jerk. The Cubs just don't have enough to win, but he keeps preparing like his ownership and front office actually expect success this season.
I think you learn a lot about someone by how they deal with failure. I'll be watching Sveum with interest as he pilots this team into the fall. For now, I think he's doing a pretty good job managing a last-place team with no place to go.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
VENTURA HAS CREATED STABLE ATMOSPHERE FOR SOX SUCCESS
Obviously, Robin Ventura is still feeling his way through his first season as manager. He trusted his bullpen the other night when he pulled starter Jose Quintana after 77 pitches in eight shutout innings. Addison Reed blew the save and Matt Thornton blew the game. That was a decision made with Ventura's head not his gut.
But he'll get there. And you'd rather have a rookie manager go with conventional thinking rather than trusting instincts that haven't been fully honed yet. You also have to like Ventura's confidence when he said that given the same opportunity, he would go with Reed again.
Players like that, and Sox players obviously like Ventura. They have lauded Ventura for his leadership but also for his laid-back demeanor, a balancing act not always easy to pull off.
Proclaiming that Ventura is doing a good job as White Sox manager is not the automatic indictment of Ozzie Guillen that many people seem to think it is. At the same time, when Sox GM Kenny Williams says the players needed stability, it's hard to argue given the tumultuous last few seasons under Guillen.
You want to credit Adam Dunn and Alex Rios and Jake Peavy's bounce-back seasons for the season the Sox are having? Fine. But even those guys will say they like the atmosphere Ventura has created and mentally, particularly in the cases of Dunn and Rios, that atmosphere is important.
Ventura seems to inspire loyalty mostly by living it himself. Surely he has an ego, but he allows his coaches to coach and to give interviews without sweating the small stuff. And those are the kind of guys who often have long tenures as managers.
Yes, Ventura has better players than Cubs manager Dale Sveum, and no one is saying Sveum is stinking it up. Rather, Sveum is doing the best he can with what he's got, same as Ventura.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.