White Sox unveil Robin Ventura
CHICAGO -- Robin Ventura gave assurances Tuesday that he was not talked into taking the White Sox managerial job.
At the same time, general manager Kenny Williams revealed that Ventura wasn't the only surprise name on his wish list. He also considered, albeit briefly, making Paul Konerko a player-manager. He said that he didn't discuss the idea with Konerko.
When Ventura was introduced by phone as White Sox manager last week, he gave indications that he wasn't looking for such a high-profile position and Williams sold him on it. On Tuesday, shortly before he was introduced in person as the 39th manager in White Sox history, Ventura explained that his comments weren't interpreted correctly.
"I would say in most instances somebody would just jump at the chance without thinking it through," Ventura said shortly before his introductory news conference. "I realized there are challenges. I think that's part of going through it. It's a tremendous job. It's hard. It's fun. It has all those things to it. Just because you don't jump at it at first doesn't mean you don't want to do it or you're not passionate about it."
Ventura said the offer took him by surprise because he hadn't put much thought into the job. He said he always figured that Ozzie Guillen would have the spot for years to come.
"(Williams) even asked me, 'Am I talking you into it?'" Ventura said. "I said, 'No, you're not talking me into it. I'm working my way through it to make sure that when I commit to it, I'm in; I'm ready to roll.' Once it got to that point, I was confident about being able to do it. I don't want to just think I'm taking the job just to take it because it's offered. I want to do a good job and I want to have all those things that kind of go through that. I feel confident that I can do it."
Would Konerko have felt as confident taking the manager's role to go along with duties as a first baseman and key run producer?
Williams said the brief mental flirtation with Konerko as manager was mostly out of respect for the way the team captain handles himself and for his baseball acumen. Ultimately, though, the thought passed because Williams realized it might not be in the best interest of the team.
"Well, it was considered long enough for me to realize that Paul is a very cerebral person and he would probably drive himself nuts right now playing and managing at the same time," Williams said. "But that's the kind of respect I have for him that yeah, I did consider it. Then I thought I think I would rather him be focused more on hitting third or fourth in the lineup and driving in 100 runs rather than trying to worry about 25 other guys in addition to it. We are trying to win."
Whether or not Konerko hits third or fourth will be Ventura's decision. As for how he will fill out the rest of his lineup, Ventura was not committing to a particular style.
"Obviously you look at your team and think, 'I'd love to have a Rickey Henderson at the top,' and you have all those things," Ventura said. "Look at the roster, it might have to adjust. It might have to be different. We don't know at this point.
"Would I like to have guys steal bases? Absolutely. Am I going to have Paul stealing bases? Probably not. So there's all kinds of things you hope you have, but when I get to spring training, that's where we're going to see it and we'll begin to formulate how we're going to put guys in the lineup and what we're going to do."
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It's not like he doesn't have any certainties, though.
"The only guarantee is they're going to play hard and be accountable," Ventura said. "That's where you start."
As for the best advice Ventura has received so far, he said it was to just be himself. He said he won't even try to provide the provocative sound bites that his predecessor Guillen delivered on a regular basis.
"I totally respect what Ozzie did; he was a great manager," Ventura said. "They got a World Series out of it. I don't sit here thinking I'm going to fill those shoes as far as being in the media and saying things. That's just him. That's his personality. He was always that way. And I enjoyed it just as much as anyone else, believe me. But I just have to be who I am."
Knowing Guillen like he did, Ventura said that he knew exactly where all of Guillen's comments over the years were coming from.
"A lot of the stuff, he's brutally honest," Ventura said. "It can make you cringe, I guess, if you're a (public relations) guy. But for a guy playing with him or a guy on the outside, I knew where he was coming from because he was speaking from his heart and doesn't have a filter."
Guillen struggled to get production from Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham this past season and that seems to be Ventura's biggest challenge heading into 2012. He was asked if he has a plan to get production from the trio.
"Well I think for right now they need a break," Ventura said. "The mental grind of baseball is probably the toughest out of any sport because it's daily. It's daunting especially if you get yourself in a hole. I don't think it's anything I can do right away.
"For them, you come to spring training and feel fresh. You feel different as a player every year ... when you go to spring training. There's no guarantee that any guy on our team is going to have a better or worse year than last year."
It's lining up as a major challenge for a manager without any experience, but it's one that Ventura realized he wanted. He wasn't talked into it.
"I'm just very comfortable with the people I'm dealing with," Ventura said. "I enjoy this place, the city. I'm honored that they even asked."
Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for ESPNChicago.com.