White Sox

Out of public eye, Ventura is essence of streaking Sox

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Out of public eye, Ventura is essence of streaking Sox

Its a couple hours before game time on Sunday, and Robin Venturas head is in a fog. The flu bug that has been floating around the White Sox clubhouse since last Friday has reached the manager. But hell battle through it, just like Nate Jones did the day before. The rookie reliever showed up Saturday at the ballpark, threw up, and then threw 99 miles per hour on the radar gun in two scoreless inning of relief.

Go back and watch the tape. Jones stumbled around the mound in a daze, giving whatever he had in the tank for those few seconds when he actually had to pitch. The rest of the time his face was a shade of green and purple. At one point he looked at veteran catcher AJ Pierzynski and with all his might said, Just give me the ball.

And that is the essence of this White Sox team of 2012.

Give them the ball.

Give them a glove.

And then: Give em hell.

Thats how Ventura was as a player. Its also how he manages. Now were seeing it on the field.

The White Sox have won 14 of their last 16 games. Theyre in first place in the American League Central by 2 12 games. They have a better record than the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Tigers -- all preseason favorites to make the playoffs.

You hear that rumbling in the distance? Its the White Sox. Last year, they barely made a peep.

Despite all the doubts and criticisms coming into this season, the White Sox have quickly formed into a squad of fighters who have followed the lead of their rookie manager.

Theyre playing well. Theyre confident, Ventura said. Thats what you want. You want guys coming ready to play. They have the feeling theyre going to win every game.

As the manager who has set the tone in the clubhouse from the beginning, you could say that Ventura is the man responsible for that winning atmosphere. Just dont tell that to the humble Robin, because hell never admit it.

I don't want to go there, he said. It's everyone, everyday coming with the same attitude. These guys are the ones who play. You can do the same things Im doing every day, but if you have guys who don't have the ability and arent capable of doing it, it doesnt matter. It's really about how these guys are doing and coming every day to compete. That's the thing Im happiest about.

In his dealings with the media, Ventura can be about as exciting as cabbage. During his press conferences, he comes across like a bored high school student sitting in the back of math class continually being pestered by the teacher.

Hes a man whose personality has different shades. Publicly, he prefers to give the media nothing but gray. Privately, there are more colors in his spectrum.

My personality with the team is a lot different than what people get to see, Ventura admitted.

In this way, he is the exact opposite of Ozzie Guillen, who didnt hesitate in speaking openly and honestly about anything, and to anyone: media, fans, players, coaches, pets, insects.

Nothing was off topic. He was a reporters dream.

I suggested to Robin that he reveal more of himself and whats going on behind closed doors when the microphones are on. He smiled. Then politely shook his head no.

For me, I've always felt it's better to have that in the clubhouse. You have a few tricks up your sleeve for guys in different situations. That's just stuff I use with these guys in different situations whether it's a winning streak or losing streak. To be able to talk to guys and get through stuff and get them refocused and let them laugh in a tough situation. Some things have to be held back.

I told Ventura that I asked some players to describe him as a manager.

Do you want to hear what they said?

Not really.

They said some bad things about you. (I was joking).

Well, now I need names, he said sarcastically. Just give me their jersey numbers.

Heres what they said:

Robins like a player.
He doesnt look for the spotlight.
Hes the same in a winning streak as a losing streak.
Hed be a great manager for any ballclub.

Not being one for compliments, when I read this to Ventura he looked like I just ran my nails down a chalkboard.

For me, this is where I want to manage. This feels right to me, he said, trying desperately to get control back of the conversation. It's about these guys. Nothing happens without them.

Where would the White Sox be without Ventura?

Something tells me not here. Not in first place and feeling theyre going to win every game like Robin said.

It was looking like a long, boring summer in Chicago.

Maybe not anymore.

Could the Price be right for a big White Sox move?

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USA TODAY

Could the Price be right for a big White Sox move?

SAN DIEGO — The White Sox still need two pitchers, and the pool of free-agent options is shrinking.

Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the two names at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market, might never have been true possibilities for the White Sox, but they sure won’t be now, each signed to a massive deal at this week’s Winter Meetings.

Zack Wheeler spurned the White Sox and their high bid to take less money and pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies. Jordan Lyles is now a Texas Ranger. Tanner Roark is now a Toronto Blue Jay. Josh Lindblom is now a Milwaukee Brewer. Michael Wacha is now a New York Met.

Yes, the options still out there remain attractive. Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel or Hyun-Jin Ryu would do the job of firing up the fan base and pairing with Lucas Giolito atop the South Side starting staff. But those are just three pitchers. And there are a lot of teams on the hunt for starting pitching.

Of course, it’s also not that simple. Hahn might have said this in talking about losing out on Wheeler: “You either get the guy or you don't. When you don't, you move on to the next one.” But it’s not as easy as just moving down to the next biggest name on the free-agent market.

“Any guy we target is because we feel strongly that they fit in for the long term, in terms of a big-ticket free-agent acquisition that we feel is going to help make us better throughout the good portion of this upcoming window,” the general manager said Wednesday. “There does come a point on any list, whether it's after the third guy or after the sixth guy or after the 10th guy, where you're no longer describing that type of player. So it's up to us to figure out how quickly we drift into that group.”

The price tags are getting high for these pitchers, and Hahn admitted that the prognosticators missed the mark a bit when it came to predicting the massive paydays Cole, Strasburg and Wheeler received. Those big deals could drive up the price on the Bumgarners and the Keuchels and the Ryus.

It’s not that the White Sox are incapable of spending in that area — they reportedly offered more than $120 million for Wheeler’s services — they just might not be as enamored with those options as folks on the outside might be.

Hahn is still committed to the idea that “the money will be spent,” though he’s not 100-percent committed to it all being spent in one place.

“I think it would be awfully foolish to say we're going to go out and spend whatever the amount of the offer (to Manny Machado) was immediately,” he said. “The point of that comment was there's other ways for us to allocate this money, and it's going to be allocated toward player acquisitions.

“You could argue some of it went to (Yasmani) Grandal, you could argue some of it went to the Eloy (Jimenez) extension or re-signing (Jose) Abreu or whatever we have coming down the pipe next.

“That offer was over an eight- to 10-year period, so to say it's all going out the door in Year 1 just because it's sitting there, maybe, but it's got to be for the right players.”

But does the right player exist anymore? Wheeler certainly seemed to be that for the White Sox, but he’s off the board and they still need two arms. It might be time to get creative.

What about David Price?

Hahn’s been throwing the spotlight on trades this week, talking at length Wednesday about an intriguing proposal the front office was considering, one that might not line up perfectly with the White Sox rebuilding plans.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Tuesday that multiple teams have targeted Price, the Boston Red Sox playoff hero who is still owed a whopping $96 million over the next three seasons. The Red Sox, interested in ridding themselves of salary, could attach him to another player to incentivize a team to take that contract off their hands.

This is where the White Sox could come in. They have the financial flexibility to eat up Price’s remaining dollars. And they’d probably be pretty interested in acquiring one of Boston’s bats to stick in the middle of their lineup. The Red Sox have a lot of hitters who could be of use to the White Sox, but certainly Andrew Beninitendi comes to mind. He’s under club control for three more years, and while his addition would probably require a bit of realignment in the outfield, it’d be a good one to the South Side batting order.

The 34-year-old Price, meanwhile, wouldn’t exactly be, from a production standpoint, the high-quality add to the starting staff that other, still-available arms would be. He had a 4.28 ERA in 2019, the second highest of his career and his highest in a decade, even though he had positive stretches during the Red Sox otherwise miserable World Series hangover.

There are more concerning elements with Price, too. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase writing last week: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Certainly none of that is terribly appealing.

But the White Sox need pitching. They need it. They can’t go into next season with what they’ve got or we’ll see the same parade of ineffective fill ins that we saw in 2019. Price might not be Cole. He might not be Wheeler. He definitely is preferable to Manny Banuelos and Odrisamer Despaigne.

And if he brings Benintendi with him? What if he brings J.D. Martinez with him? What if he brings Mookie Betts with him? Well, you can probably forget about Betts, the White Sox not at all interested in trading their top-flight prospects for one year of anyone, but the other two are worth thinking about.

There’s another element to all this: the return cost. When discussing that mysteriously appealing trade offer Wednesday, Hahn alluded to the popularity of the White Sox prospects. That comes as no surprise. What does is that the White Sox would consider trading any of them away. It’s near impossible to envision Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal or Michael Kopech going anywhere. But what about Andrew Vaughn? Or Dane Dunning?

It’s all speculative at the moment, of course. But the White Sox pitching need isn’t going to go away until they make some moves. Other teams are doing just that, making Hahn’s job harder by the minute.

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Hawk Harrelson joins Hall of Fame

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Hawk Harrelson joins Hall of Fame

SportsTalk Live is on location at Day 3 of the MLB Winter Meetings.

0:00- Chuck Garfien, Vinnie Duber and Scott Merkin join David Kaplan to react to Hawk Harrelson making the Hall of Fame. Plus, they share their thoughts the Nomar Mazara trade and what may be next for the White Sox this winter.

10:00- Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer joins Kap and Tony Andracki to talk about the Cubs slow offseason and the importance of staying under the luxury tax. Hoyer also responds to Anthony Rizzo's agent's comment that the team will not be signing the first baseman to an extension this offseason.

19:00- Kap, Chuck, Vinnie and Tony discuss Gerrit Cole's record contract with the Yankees.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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