Can a Robin be a lame duck?
That’s not a bird question. It’s a White Sox question, and the answer is: These are the Sox, so probably not.
Everyone was talking about Robin Ventura’s status during SoxFest, the club’s three-day fan convention. The manager addressed it within the first few moments of meeting with media members Friday.
“I have one year on the contract,’’ he said. “That’s not a secret.’’
But the Sox do things differently than most other teams, and what would be a make-or-break season in other cities isn’t necessarily so in a city that has Jerry Reinsdorf as a team chairman. Reinsdorf is notoriously loyal to his employees, which is great in the grocery business but not so great in professional sports.
The results of Ventura’s four seasons haven’t been marvelous by anybody’s measure. An 85-77 finish in 2012 was followed by 63-99, 73-89 and 76-86 seasons, respectively. That has been good for second-, fifth- and back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the American League Central. Not nearly good enough.
But it can’t be stressed enough that those numbers aren’t deal breakers in Reinsdorf’s world and that talking about Ventura’s shaky situation sometimes feels like questioning a steel beam’s structural integrity.
Maybe Reinsdorf will prove me wrong if this season goes as far south for the summer as some of the other seasons have. But I don’t think so. Ventura is a very easy guy to like, he had a standout career for the Sox and he’s not to blame for everything that went wrong last season, when high hopes gave way to world-is-flat realities. Reinsdorf had every reason to clean house after 2015 but didn’t. Remember that.
Remember this, too: If it’s true that the chairman lets his management structure take care of hirings and firings, then Ken Williams might have canned Ozzie Guillen a year or two earlier than he did. But things happen slowly on the South Side, as well as with the Bulls, Reinsdorf’s other team. Thus, to expect general manager Rick Hahn to be able to fire Ventura on his own, without the chairman’s involvement, seems like an expectation based on fantasy.
Maybe the Sox, with an excellent three-fifths of a rotation and a wonderful acquisition in third baseman Todd Frazier, will have a great season and make this discussion moot. But if not, don’t expect it to be a foregone conclusion that Ventura will be gone next season. Quite possibly the opposite.