White Sox

Rick Hahn won't 'publicly point fingers' at Robin Ventura for White Sox struggles

Rick Hahn won't 'publicly point fingers' at Robin Ventura for White Sox struggles

NEW YORK — White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has no intention of second-guessing his manager, especially not in public.

As a three-week long tail spin continues to bring the White Sox closer toward .500, calls for Robin Ventura’s job have grown louder. The White Sox manager has received his fair share of criticism for game management during a stretch in which the club is 4-15. While Hahn said Tuesday he reviews the decision-making process with Ventura and his coaches in private, he doesn’t want to point fingers to avoid causing any unnecessary distractions.

“Part of the reason we are all drawn to this initially was as fans, and fans focus on the lack of results when things are struggling and look for areas to assign blame,” Hahn said. “For me, I don’t think it’s really in anyone’s best interest when things are going bad to publicly point fingers or second guess or assign blame like that on any individual.

“It’s more important to rally together as a group and focus on putting yourselves in the best position to win the next game ahead of you, which is all you can control at this point. That’s really from a public standpoint all that I think needs to be said. We are in a position right now where all we can control is winning tonight and we are doing everything in our power to put ourselves in the best position to do that.”

Once 23-10, the White Sox have run into an abundance of frustration the past few weeks. The team has gone from leading the American League Central by six games to dropping into third place and trailing the Kansas City Royals by two.

Ventura, who is in the final season of his current contract, has received heavy criticism toward the back end of what started Tuesday as a seven-game losing streak. Most recently, Ventura’s bullpen management in a series-opening loss Friday at Kansas City has been called into question as was his decision to bunt with his No. 3 hitter in Monday’s loss at the New York Mets.

“Look, the game management realm is 100 percent the manager’s purview, and I’m not going to stand here and second guess any decisions he’s making,” Hahn said. “Obviously we all have the benefit of hindsight right now in evaluating a decision. Our conversations in private are about the conversations that lead up to the decision or the thought process that leads up to the decision. And from my standpoint, it’s important to make sure that process is sound and that he and our coaches all have the right information when they’re making a strategic in-game decision, and I’m very pleased with where they are from an information standpoint and from a process standpoint. But it’s not my place, certainly publicly, to second guess in-game managerial decisions.”

As for his decisions, Hahn has done his best not to let emotion rule his. Constantly on the lookout for roster upgrades, including San Diego’s James Shields, Hahn said his team’s slide has made it trying at times to remain patient. But Hahn doesn’t want to make any kind of move — whether for a player or a personnel decision — with emotion involved.

“There is a strong temptation when you’re not in between the white lines or in the dugout to try to do something to have a greater impact between 7 and 10 each night,” Hahn said. “And there’s always that temptation to do something to improve your chances to win. But when things aren’t going well, that becomes perhaps a little bit greater, and that’s when you have to guard yourself against doing something strictly emotional or reactionary that’s going to cause perhaps more long-term damage than any short-term benefit from doing something. That applies to a trade or any sort of change to any process you’ve got going on and anyone in uniform. You don’t want to do something that may provide you with the short-term feeling like you’ve done something to have an impact when you’re going to wind up doing more harm than good by doing that move.”

Offensively and defensively, White Sox know we haven't seen the best of Eloy Jimenez

Offensively and defensively, White Sox know we haven't seen the best of Eloy Jimenez

Eloy Jimenez is always smiling and joking, and laughing, and waving, and saying hi to his mom on TV. You'd never know that not everything went his way during his rookie season.

Despite the 31 home runs and his white-hot month of September, the rookie year-struggles were there and definitely had an effect on the happy-go-lucky Jimenez.

 “At the beginning [of the season] I tried to do too much,” Jimenez said. “And the injuries didn’t help me a lot.

“At the end, I felt like everything was slowed down and was easy because I just tried to play the game and enjoy the game. At the beginning, I had too much pressure because I tried to do too much.”

Of course, Jimenez doesn’t go long without a joke.

“This year is going to be better because now that we’ve got Luis Robert, the attention is not going to be on me,” he said. “It’s going to be better.”

Whether or not it’s because there’s a new uber-prospect to soak up the attention, improvement in 2020 seems to be a consistent opinion when it comes to Jimenez, who was the prospect everyone was drooling over at this time last year. As he mentioned, out-of-the-gate adjustments to the big leagues and two trips to the injured list prevented his rookie season from being a runaway success.

Still, we saw more than a few glimpses of what got everyone so revved up in the first place. The night of his first major league home run, he hit two. At Yankee Stadium. Twice, he disturbed the foliage of the center-field batter’s eye, something that was overlooked thanks to the ball he sent all the way to the staircase on the left side of the fan deck.

And who could forget the game-winning, broken-bat homer to beat the team that traded him on that June night at Wrigley Field? It’s arguably the biggest on-field moment of the rebuild to date,  

And like everyone is saying, that’s just scratching the surface of what this guy can do.

“He's good already,” White Sox designated hitter and longtime friend, Edwin Encarnacion, said. “He's going to get better but he's good already. It's very impressive what he's done in his first year playing in the big leagues. I remember my first year. I wasn't even close to the way he is right now. It's going to be fun watching him play.”

Sorry, Eloy. Even though Robert is everyone’s new favorite youngster, the Jimenez hype train is ready to pull out of the station once more. In his first interview this spring, he was asked if he think he can hit 50 home runs in a season someday. He didn’t disappoint.

“Why not?” he replied. “Yeah, it’s a big number but my goal is every year to have better numbers than the past year. So I think, one day, I can hit 50 plus. But let’s see.”

RELATED: Is a Moncada extension coming?

Of course, hitting home runs is the thing we know Jimenez can do and do well. What the White Sox want to see from him in his sophomore season is improvement in other areas, particularly ones away from the plate. Jimenez has impressed with his bat but he did much the opposite with his glove, at least to those who winced when they saw him racing down fly balls in left field.

Defensive plays also led to both of his stays on the injured list. The first came when he attempted to rob an un-robbable home run and sprained his ankle planting his leg into the outfield wall. Later that summer, he crashed into Charlie Tilson in left-center in Kansas City and suffered an ulnar nerve contusion.

In general, he made many fans uneasy with other misadventures in the outfield.

“We really need him to step it up and continue to improve on his defensive end in left field. We’ve talked about that,” manager Rick Renteria said early on in spring training. “He started having some growth out there last year, in my opinion.

“I asked him, ‘do you want me to take you out in the seventh, eighth or ninth?’ He goes, ‘no.’ I asked him that today. You can ask him. He wants to stay in there.

“I want him to be the best left fielder that the Chicago White Sox can put out there. I don’t want to be timid about using him out there in the late innings in a ballgame.”

Jimenez agrees.

“I don’t want to come out in the ninth inning,” he said. “I want to be able to play nine innings. So that’s why this year, I’m putting more effort into the defense so I can play the whole game.”

That’s the more politically correct way of putting it. At SoxFest, he was asked if he would be better suited as a designated hitter. He responded: “F**k that.”

But whether we’re talking about his eye-popping skills at the plate or his work-in-progress style in left field, there’s a common theme: We have not seen the best of Eloy Jimenez. And how could we have? The guy is just 23 years old with only 122 big league games under his belt.

Encarnacion, for one, sees high-level greatness in Jimenez’s future, telling Chuck Garfien on a recent White Sox Talk Podcast that “he has the talent to hit over 500 homers in the major leagues. I know he can do it.”

Fifty homers? Five hundred homers? Does anyone want to bring some more conservative projections to this conversation?

“With the talent that they have,” Jose Abreu said, through team interpreter Billy Russo, of the White Sox crop of young hitters, “they can do whatever they want to do.”

All right, then. Fifty and 500 it is.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: The Yermin Mercedes Appreciation Podcast!

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: The Yermin Mercedes Appreciation Podcast!

The man the fans are clamoring for, Yermin Mercedes sits down with host Chuck Garfien to discuss why Sox fans love him, and his goals as a player. Chuck also gets some inside information on Yermin from teammates Carson Fulmer and Danny Mendick, and White Sox director of player development Chris Getz. You wanted Yermin, we got you Yermin.

(2:05) - Who the heck is Yermin Mercedes?

(6:41) - Interview with Yermin Mercedes

(16:07) - How did the Sox acquire Yermin with Chris Getz

(19:09) - Carson Fulmer on Yermin Mercedes's improvement as a baseball player

(22:03) - Danny Mendick on the uniqueness of Yermin Mercedes

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: