Robin Ventura’s five-year tenure as manager of the White Sox appears to be coming to an amicable finish, and the club will replace him with bench coach Rick Renteria, the Sun-Times has learned.
Indications are the Sox are preparing to name Renteria, 54, as their new manager Monday. On Saturday, the Sox announced an end-of-the-season news conference with general manager Rick Hahn for 11 a.m. Monday at U.S. Cellular Field, increasing growing speculation that a change would be made soon.
Hahn’s customary practice has been to address the media on the last day of the season.
After the Sox’ 6-0 loss to the Twins on Saturday, Ventura was asked about the Sun-Times’ report and reiterated his position.
“We’ve been over this,” he said. “I’ll talk at the end of the year. We’ll talk about tonight. I’ve been pretty consistent with that. There can be whatever out there. For right now, just talking about tonight.”
Asked if he had talked with his players, Ventura said: “No, I haven’t talked to them about anything. We’re still playing. All the conversations I have with them are about playing. Chris pitching tomorrow, guys are playing. Nothing has changed with that.”
Ventura’s contract expires at the end of the season, which is Sunday, when the Sox will conclude their fourth consecutive losing campaign under his watch. A surprise hire before the 2012 season as a bridge from the stormy and successful Ozzie Guillen era, the former Sox All-Star third baseman guided the club to an 85-77 record in his first season, good for second place in the American League Central, and finished third in AL Manager of the Year voting.
Since then, the club’s performances have disappointed a fan base that has seen one playoff appearance and one playoff-game victory since Guillen led the team to a World Series title in 2005. The Sox were 63-99 in 2013, 73-89 in 2014 and 76-86 in 2015 and are 78-83 (after a 23-10 start) in 2016.
The general consensus as the season winded down was that Hahn, vice president Ken Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf would make a change, although Ventura said in August he hoped to continue.
On Wednesday, a report the Sox were willing to bring Ventura back if he was willing to return played to unfavorable, even hostile, reviews from a fan base and certain media. When asked by reporters later that day if he wanted to manage next year, Ventura steered clear, saying he would wait till after the season to discuss his future.
Indications are Ventura, a good soldier who holds Reinsdorf in high regard, will move on with no regrets, ill feelings or desire to stay.
Renteria, who managed the 2014 Cubs to a 73-89 record before being unceremoniously fired when Joe Maddon became available, stayed out of baseball while on the Cubs’ payroll in 2015 before being named Ventura’s bench coach when Mark Parent was dismissed after the 2015 season. With major-league experience, high marks for character and baseball savvy and knowledge of the current roster and organization, Renteria is a safe, sound and rather obvious choice on the South Side. Ventura, pitching coach Don Cooper, third-base coach Joe McEwing and hitting coach Todd Steverson have all sung Renteria’s praises throughout the year, citing his behind-the-scenes prep work and information-gathering and interactions with staff and players.
“I love to sit next to him and pick his brain,’’ McEwing said this season. “He sees the game not just head-on; he sees everything from different angles, picking up so many intricate parts of it. I’ve learned so much from him.’’
Renteria, who speaks fluent Spanish, was credited with bringing along young Cubs players, most notably All-Stars Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, in 2014. Rizzo believes the Sox made a good choice.
“That’s awesome. Congratulations to him,’’ Rizzo said. “Obviously, it didn’t work out here with how it went down, but that’s awesome for Rick and wish him well.’’
Rizzo expected Renteria to manage again.
“For sure,’’ Rizzo said. “Just the way he acts with all the guys. It was fun to play for him.’’
Ventura is also respected by players and the organization as a sound baseball man and steady leader. The players competed hard to the end despite being out of contention for all of September. In Ventura’s defense, he managed teams his last four years that were too thin on talent and depth beneath a solid core.
Perhaps Renteria can do better, although the direction the Sox will take this offseason — rebuild, go for it or somewhere in between — is not yet known.
Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer
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