No, Rick Renteria is not going to get "Cubs'd."
The White Sox manager has been in his current position before, waiting for a much-heralded group of prospects to arrive at the major league level and turn a Chicago baseball team into a perennial World Series contender.
That plan worked on the North Side of town, but Renteria wasn't allowed to stay around long enough to see it through, jettisoned when the Cubs had the opportunity to hire Joe Maddon ahead of the 2015 season. Maddon's taken the North Siders to three straight National League Championship Series and won the World Series in 2016. Who knows if Renteria would've done the same had he been the one to manage Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and all the other guys who came up after his one-year stint with the Cubs concluded.
But Renteria now has a second chance to fulfill that mission, tasked with shepherding the White Sox bevy of young talent to major league stardom and annual contention on the South Side.
And it looks like this time, he'll at least get that opportunity. The White Sox front office and players alike rave about Renteria, and the way they talk about him makes it seem mighty unlikely he'll suffer the same fate that he did at the other end of the Red Line.
What do they love about him? Well, any White Sox fan worth his or her salt knows one thing: Ricky's boys don't quit.
"There is a way this team has been playing this game under Ricky and this coaching staff over the last year or so that not only is contagious but is the kind of thing that can endure year in and year out as the player personnel changes," general manager Rick Hahn said ahead of last weekend's SoxFest festivities at the Hilton Chicago. "I've heard from many Sox fans over the course of the offseason about how they've never been as excited over a team that lost 95 games.
"A lot of that I think is a testament not just to ... the excitement that they have about what's coming and understanding what's coming, but I think almost as importantly as how that team fought on a nightly basis and the whole 'Ricky's boys don't quit' thing is that sort took on a life of its own but is emblematic of a team that plays 27 outs.
"It was a theme that Ricky and the coaches emphasizes at the start of spring training, they carried it through. Again, player talent level is going to change over the course of the next couple years, perhaps ability to contend is going to change over the coming years, but that kind of environment and that kind of culture is the thing that we wanted to make sure was in place so that every young player as they started joining that in Chicago, they know what we're about and they're in a position to fight on a nightly basis."
Now, just because they didn't quit doesn't mean they won every game. The White Sox lost 95 times in 2017. But that was to be expected after the announcement of the rebuild and the trades that sent Chris Sale and Adam Eaton — and later Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and a significant chunk of the bullpen — away from the South Side.
Wins and losses, however, are not important right now. Culture is. And that's why the White Sox believe Renteria continues to be the right man for the job. Because when the wins do start coming in bunches — that's the plan, at least — these guys will still be playing with the same drive and same energy that they did when they were on a fourth-place team.
"I think that we’ve made a concerted effort to connect all the players to each other," Renteria said. "Because I think in an environment in which everything that they do on a 24/7 basis is judged, failure and success, if they’re grounded in what I believe to be a family environment, as far as them picking each other up, it allows them an opportunity to be able to overcome some of those difficulties. Because the way the world works today with the media, in terms of information being shared with everybody, in terms of their performances, I always kind of tell players, ‘Don’t believe everything you read about yourself.’ You might get a big head when things are going well, and then the game has a way of humbling you when you start to struggle. So keep perspective.
"I think bringing them together as kind of a unit, they become good friends, they’re a pretty tight-knit group. I know I heard Rick (Hahn) talk about that a little bit. Even right now when we’re sitting up there waiting for all the youngsters to come out, they’re pretty happy to be here, they’re very excited about the prospects of what the organization is doing. We’re going to continue to move forward, and it’s really important for them to be doing it together."
All this praise goes to Renteria not just because he happens to be the guy in the manager's chair while the organization is undergoing such a transformation. Renteria's a part of all this change. He's fostering a culture. He has the ability to effectively communicate with both English- and Spanish-speaking players. And perhaps his most important role will be using his coaching ability to finish off the development of so many of these highly touted young players.
Hahn might get the credit for stocking the farm system with so many big-name prospects. But if all goes to plan, Renteria will have an equally important part in the rebuild. He will have helped turn those prospects into impact big leaguers.
"(Yoan Moncada)’s not a finished product, Tim Anderson’s not a finished product, Carlos Rodon’s not a finished product, despite being in the big leagues for a couple years. It’s part of the reason Ricky and the coaching staff is perfectly suited for this process," Hahn said. "They’re all teachers, they all have roots in player development, they all have a history in setting organizational goals and holding players accountable for it, and that continues not just through our system, but once players get to Chicago."
The carefully laid rebuilding plans have a lot more to them than just trades and international signings. The other parts, be they tangible or intangible, are why the White Sox continue to be so adamant that Renteria is the right man for the job.
In other words, they have no plans to quit on him.