White Sox

Sox Drawer: The Ventura decision

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Sox Drawer: The Ventura decision

VIDEO: Ventura ready for the job

For the last week, there were rumblings coming out of U.S. Cellular Field that the name of the new White Sox manager was going to surprise everyone.

Who could this mystery person be?

Carlton Fisk? Tony Pena? Bill Melton?? Hawk Harrelson???

The White Sox kept their decision an ancient Chinese secret. Nobody had a clue.

But then came the announcement late Thursday afternoon: the next skipper of the Chicago White Sox is Robin Ventura.

Sorry to disappoint those in the front office, we werent surprised at all. Shocked, stunned and completely stupefied would probably be more accurate. Absolutely nobody saw this coming.

But Kenny Williams did. Years ago.

While Ventura played third base for the White Sox in the mid-90s, Williams was working for the team in player development. He says that during the five seasons before he became general manager he was actually interviewing Ventura all along.

He just didnt know it, Williams said.

When it came time for him to assemble a list of candidates to replace Ozzie Guillen, Williams says that rumored front-runners (and former White Sox players) Dave Martinez and Sandy Alomar Jr. were a part of the discussions.

Let me assure you, when we went down the list we looked at all of the guys, all the names that you've heard about and read about, we've looked at all of them, Williams said Thursday on Chicago Tribune Live.

But through it all, Venturas name kept popping off the page.

During a recent meeting with Jerry Reinsdorf, Williams brought up Venturas name as a possibility. At first, the Chairman smiled and said, interesting. Ventura had never managed before, and had just recently joined the White Sox front office in June as a special assistant to Buddy Bell, the teams director of player development.

He seemed like a long-shot, a wild card, just like another guy the team hired to manage the team in 2004: Ozzie Guillen.

After thinking it over that night, Reinsdorf told Williams the next day that he agreed with his decision about Ventura saying, I now know exactly why you brought his name to the forefront.

From there, the wheels went in motion. Ventura was their guy.

So what is it about Ventura that makes him the right fit, not only as White Sox manager, but as a manager period?

This isn't your average bird, Williams said. This guy comes with confidence, but if you ever had one conversation with him you understand that there's a certain humility, a certain regular guy, dry sense of humor. But at the same time he's got some toughness behind it, and will get on you in a way that doesn't demoralize you, in a way that doesn't sound so critical that you can't perform.

"He's a guy that will come in and have a positive affect on the young guys trying to establish themselves in the major leagues, while at the same time some of our veteran guys who are trying to rediscover themselves," Williams went on to say. "He's been there.

If Ventura never seemed to have that burning desire to become a big league manager, should that be held against him?

I say no, just as long as he still has the same desire to win like he did as a player. This being the team that drafted him and played him in 1,254 games during his White Sox career, my guess is that Ventura will do everything in his power not to let Reinsdorf and Williams down.

Im not one to back away, Ventura said when asked about his decision to become manager. The passion was there to do it, and Im honored to have the opportunity to do it. The White Sox care about me and my family. That was big in my decision. I realize that I havent managed, but this is the organization that is going to give me the support to do the job.

Being a first-time manager, who Ventura picks as his bench coach might be the next most important hire. Ventura has found a candidate, someone who is already a bench coach on a major league team. The White Sox are expected to ask the candidates team for permission to contact him on Friday.

As for his hitting coach, White Sox legend Frank Thomas told Comcast SportsNet Ill definitely listen if the Sox called. Williams revealed on Chicago Tribune Live that the Big Hurts name has already been brought up in conversations.

I have talked about that with Robin and because we've had so much growth within our system and we got so many young players as well as guys trying to rebound, we are probably going to stay within the organization, Williams said. We've still got to have some conversations on it and whether or not Frank is spoken to about or not, that'll be Robin's choice at the time. But I'm thinking initially, because we have history with some of our young players that have now come through and have performed well, we'll probably stick with that. But Frank will undoubtedly be welcomed to add any advice he has and he'll be part of the family because he is who he is and he's got a lot to offer.

In case Ventura doesnt succeed as manager, believe it or not, his replacement might already be lurking inside the White Sox clubhouse. Just like Ventura had no clue he was on Williams radar in the 1990s, this player probably doesnt realize it either.

As I'd freely admit right now, Paul Konerko can be a major league manager just because I've had 10 years worth of conversations with Paul Konerko, Williams said. And as a result, I've come to the conclusion that this guy certainly has the necessary stuff. He's a little busy right now, you know, becoming an MVP. But one day he too will hopefully be considered if he wants to do it along the same line. This might be out of left field or a surprise, but to people who are within the organization, not so much.

Cant say Im surprised. After the Ventura announcement, very little will.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Is latest bullpen implosion a sign White Sox need to go shopping for relief help this offseason?

Is latest bullpen implosion a sign White Sox need to go shopping for relief help this offseason?

The White Sox bullpen imploded Wednesday night in Cleveland. It sent Indians fans home happy. It sent White Sox fans scrambling for their computers.

I'd like to see the Google data. How many people in Chicagoland — the ones not flooding the streets of Northbrook to celebrate Jason Kipnis' walk-off grand slam — frantically searched "free agent relievers 2019"?

The results are pretty enticing, to be honest. Craig Kimbrel's going to be on the market. So is Cody Allen. So are Jeurys Familia and Kelvin Herrera and Zach Britton. And some guy named Andrew Miller.

It seems like a good idea, right? Ink one of those guys, two of 'em, even, and the bullpen troubles are gone. No clinging to a pillow and crossing your fingers when Rick Renteria comes out of the dugout in the late innings. No more outcomes like Wednesday's, when a trio of White Sox relievers entered the bottom of the ninth with a 1-0 lead only to load the bases and surrender a walk-off salami.

But a couple points.

First, the White Sox don't need a lockdown bullpen right this second. In a point that will come up again and again this offseason, the team is still in rebuilding mode. Spending big bucks might not be prudent at this juncture because the White Sox have not yet transitioned from rebuilding mode to contention mode. Spending big on high-priced free agents is something teams do when they're in win-now mode. And while a big acquisition can certainly carry a team into win-now mode — just look at what the Cubs did when they signed Jon Lester ahead of the 2015 season — it could also be jumping the gun when there's still a year or two of development that needs to happen for the team's young players to grow into the contending group of the future.

Plus, spending big on bullpens isn't exactly a magic bullet. The Indians and the Colorado Rockies both spent huge sums on their bullpens this past offseason, and while both teams could end up in the postseason, they rank near the bottom of the game in bullpen ERA: Cleveland's 24th out of 30, and Colorado's 26th.

Contending teams often make a habit of trading for bullpen pieces, a strategy that makes a lot more sense considering those deals usually come midseason, when a team is clearly established as a contender. But those deals have their downsides, too. The White Sox have shown how valuable stockpiling prospects in trades can be. The Cubs got their ring but probably would like to have Gleyber Torres right now after shipping him to the New York Yankees in 2016. The Indians are division champs again, but will there be a day when they'll wish they hadn't sent Francisco Mejia to the San Diego Padres in this summer's trade for Brad Hand?

But that, of course, is more of a "cross that bridge when you come to it" situation. The White Sox aren't at that bridge quite yet, as good a point as any that spending on a 30-plus closer two years ahead of when the playoff pushes could come is a risky proposition.

Second, the White Sox are still trying to figure out what they've got when it comes to the bullpen.

Last year and in the first half of this season, the White Sox relief corps was primarily an audition ground for midseason trades. That strategy worked well for Rick Hahn's front office in both seasons. Last year, a big trade with the Yankees sent two relievers out of town and returned a package that includes Blake Rutherford, the No. 7 prospect in the farm system. The White Sox dealt five relief arms last summer. This season, a trade that sent Joakim Soria to the Milwaukee Brewers brought back minor league pitcher Kodi Medeiros, an arm currently ranked as the system's No. 19 prospect. Soria was one of three bullpen arms traded.

In the second half of this season, however, young arms have reached the South Side that have the potential to make up a future bullpen that's mostly homegrown. The ERAs aren't pretty — especially after Wednesday's four-run ninth — but if ever there was a time to play the "small sample size" card, it's now. Ian Hamilton, Ryan Burr, Caleb Frare, Jose Ruiz and Aaron Bummer all put up big numbers in the minors this season. Jace Fry has been at the major league level almost all season. They're getting their opportunities now, and unless the White Sox produce their own episode of "Extreme Makeover: Bullpen Edition" this winter, they'll get their opportunities next year, too. A homegrown bullpen on a contending team is a hard thing to pull off, of course, but these guys — and the heretofore unmentioned Zack Burdi, many's pick for the closer of the future — have the opportunity to do just that.

As is the case with everything surrounding this rebuilding team, there is the luxury of time. The young group of arms does not need to be championship ready right now or in 2019. These guys will take time to develop just like the Yoan Moncadas and the Lucas Giolitos and the Tim Andersons and the Reynaldo Lopezes. Growing pains are to be expected. Until they're given the chance to either succeed or fail, the White Sox won't know what they have, which makes charting a long-term course in one offseason difficult.

Obviously the White Sox don't want to lose games like they lost Wednesday night's battle in The Cleve. But is it a sign that the checkbook needs to come out this winter? The bullpen of the future might not need to be bought at all. It might need to simply be given the opportunity to grow.

There will always be a free-agent market. There will always be a trade market. And shopping at those markets are always more exciting than playing the waiting game. But that's what rebuilding is all about.

Matt Davidson's magnificent mustache is the facial hair highlight of the White Sox season

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WGN

Matt Davidson's magnificent mustache is the facial hair highlight of the White Sox season

It look until the last two weeks of the season, but the White Sox finally got the facial hair highlight of the 2018 campaign. And it's courtesy Matt Davidson.

Davidson has rocked a bearded look at various points throughout the season, and that recently took the form of a goatee. But he upped his facial hair game for Wednesday's contest in Cleveland, shaving the chin for a rockin' retro mustache.

Handlebar, horseshoe, whatever you want to call it, you can agree that it's a sensational 'stache, one that makes Davidson look like he could play bass in Spinal Tap.

The White Sox need to rock their 1970s throwback uniforms before Davidson rids his upper lip of this bad boy to really complete the picture.

The mustache is probably not the highlight of Davidson's season, which has featured a three-homer game on Opening Day, a walk-off dinger on Labor Day and an incredible boost to his on-base percentage, which stood at a team-leading .330 heading into Wednesday night after finishing at just .260 last season. But in this very specific category, it's the pinnacle.