As the White Sox stumbled down the stretch and lost in the Wild Card round, the general background buzz calling for the front office to fire manager Rick Renteria grew and grew on social media. That noise got so loud, even White Sox color commentator Steve Stone offered his thoughts on the job Renteria did in the final weeks of the season, on the White Sox Talk Podcast. In particular two big decisions stuck out to Stone, which may have factored into Renteria’s firing on Monday.
“I didn’t think they took advantage of certain situations they could’ve taken advantage of,” Stone said on the White Sox Talk podcast on Thursday. “That was James McCann… with James catching and Yasmani Grandal as the DH this was a better lineup.
“And yet I saw two games with one of the toughest right-handers, José Berríos, I saw two games against Minnesota where Berríos started, and I saw a guy who caught, who hit four home runs, 10 runs batted in and hit .333. Those numbers: four home runs, 10 batted in and .333 batting average-- nobody in the starting lineup for the Chicago White Sox had better numbers in any of those three categories than James McCann. And James McCann-- you and I had the same amount of at-bats against José Berríos. None.
“I can’t explain why he didn’t play in those games. I think they had something where they could take advantage of a really tough right hander, with a guy who has handled him over the course of his career, and they didn’t.”
How Renteria handled the DH position was a lightning rod for fans throughout the season. Over the course of the year, White Sox DHs only slashed .148/.238/.350, by far the worst marks in the lineup. In addition, White Sox DHs only drove in 25 runs. It’s true that in a 60-game season there wasn’t time for players to rebound if they started slow, but many argue that was all the reason for leashes to be even shorter on players who weren’t producing.
But it wasn’t just how Renteria formed his lineups that drew the ire of White Sox fans. His bullpen management also came under fire on social media throughout the season.
“What separates the men from the boys, as far as major league managers are concerned, is the handling of the bullpen,” Stone said. The biggest head scratcher in that department for Stone was how Renteria deployed Carlos Rodón down the stretch. Making his way back from an injury, Renteria brought Rodón back for his first game action with the bases loaded against the Cleveland Indians and it backfired. But that in and of itself wasn’t the issue.
“What I heard in Cleveland was fine,” Stone said. “He brought in Rodón in that situation… to find out if he was ready to pitch in the playoffs, in a situation like that. I didn’t think we would see him in a situation like that, but he showed in Cleveland he wasn’t ready to do that… Well, ok, lesson learned. But, not so fast, because he put him in a similar situation in the playoffs. Again, he couldn’t do it.
“But still, the team battled their butts off and nearly won that game.”
That last sentiment is important to Stone when truly assessing Renteria’s time as a manager. Sure, you can scrutinize his decisions with the lineup or bullpen, but Stone says it’s important to give Renteria credit for how the team played overall. Stone says the team played hard, and they played hard for Renteria. He built a great clubhouse culture from a rebuilding team and deserves credit for that. But in the end, Renteria’s questionable in-game decisions outweighed his penchant for cultivating a winning culture, so now the White Sox will look for a manager who can do both.