The White Sox are so confident in Rick Renteria that they hired him as their new manager without formally speaking to anyone else.
While there are other quality candidates available, general manager Rick Hahn said he’s confident Renteria not only shares many of the same characteristics as the others, but his familiarity with the White Sox makes him the complete package. In the end, the intimate knowledge he has was the “tiebreaker” that led to Renteria -- who served as the club’s bench coach in 2016 -- being named the club’s 40th manager on Monday morning. Renteria replaces Robin Ventura, who on Sunday stepped down after five seasons as White Sox manager.
“We were pretty confident, very confident, that as qualified candidates as there may be out there in the game, we certainly weren’t going to find anyone we’d feel any better about in terms of his leadership ability, his experience, his communication skills, work ethic, open-mindedness and creativity,” Hahn said. “Certainly some of the candidates might have matched him in that regard. There are some quality candidates out there in the game. What none of them were going to be able to bring though is that ability to seamlessly take over this position on Day 1 to already have relationships with the players in that clubhouse, with other staff members in the organization, not only in Chicago, but throughout the minor leagues and to the ground running as a respected leader in this organization.”
Hahn said the White Sox have long believed Renteria, who managed the Cubs to a 73-89 mark in 2014, would be a good manager if they ever were in the market. When Ventura privately told Hahn of his intentions to step down last month, Hahn said the club began to their process of selecting the next manager and Renteria was at the top of the list.
The White Sox initially reached out to Renteria shortly after he was fired by the Cubs in 2014. Though he sat out the 2015 season, Hahn said the White Sox kept close tabs on Renteria and hired him after their bench coach Mark Parent was fired.
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Earlier in the week, a veteran National League scout suspected Renteria would be at the top of several teams’ lists for their vacancies. Hahn reiterated Monday that the White Sox thought Renteria might only stay for one season before another team hired him away and didn’t want to chance it. That meant forgoing interviews with other potential candidates, who could have included Cubs’ bench coach Dave Martinez and Cleveland Indians’ bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr.
“We have a pretty firm idea of who would be in this mix, not just because we sat down the other day and did an internet search of available managers, but because over the number of years, we’ve had a living document of potential candidates,” Hahn said. “You have the opportunity over the course of time to have certain conversations over the course of the season or during spring training and get a better feel for guys and then move them up or down that list.
"We felt that there was simply not going to be a chance that we were going to come out of an interview with somebody else and feel better about their ability to lead this club, their communication skills, experience, baseball acumen, open-mindedness. Many of the important, the ability to teach. Many of the things we felt were important characteristics.
“Again there are some quality candidates out there. Some of them might have been as good. We didn’t feel any of them would wow us any more than Ricky had wowed us.”
Though nothing had been made official, both Ventura and White Sox players expressed support for Renteria over the weekend. Ventura called Renteria “invaluable,” Jose Abreu applauded him for his “outstanding knowledge,” and Adam Eaton described him as “a bundle of baseball joy.”
What will be left of the 2016 club -- which produced a fourth straight losing season -- by the time spring training rolls around remains to be seen. Hahn was adamant he wouldn’t express which direction the White Sox are headed. But Renteria knows how he’ll conduct himself either way.
“I’m hoping to bring in a little more intensity,” Renteria said. “Just from being here and having conversations throughout … whatever these guys end up doing, the truth is whatever team you have you have to execute. Can this team compete? We showed early in the year that you could. Did we fall off? Absolutely. Are there things you can improve on? No doubt about it.”