There can’t be many sports franchises that ask as much of their fans as the White Sox do theirs.
The latest request is for the faithful to embrace the idea that, regardless of all the missteps over the past decade, the team has chosen the right man to be its next manager, even though its candidate interview pool was all of one.
Sox fans might indeed applaud the Sox for elevating Rick Renteria from bench coach to manager, but they should ask themselves why a franchise wouldn’t interview outside candidates to at least educate itself on how other teams operate. You know, teams that might not have had four straight losing seasons, as the Sox have. Or teams that might not have missed the playoffs eight straight seasons, as the Sox have. What are those teams doing that the Sox aren’t?
And even if the White Sox had settled on Renteria after that process, perhaps they might have identified another manager for down the road.
General manager Rick Hahn insisted Renteria’s hiring was not an example of business as usual for the Second City’s second baseball team. He insisted it wasn’t a continuation of another disappointing season. By Hahn’s way of thinking, Renteria is a fresh set of eyes because he spent only the 2016 season with the Sox. But Renteria was there long enough to witness the Adam/Drake LaRoche daycare discussion and the Chris Sale uniform ribbon-cutting ceremony. If you rubbed up against that goofiness, there’s a decent chance you’d walk away thoroughly Soxicized.
Renteria was the Cubs manager for one year, until Joe Maddon became available after the 2014 season. Then the Cubs showed Renteria the door. We can argue about the seemliness of that move forever, but the fact is that the Cubs had the best record in baseball this season and are primed for a playoff run. Might makes right.
Hiring a Cubs castoff, no matter how much it might make sense to the front office, is a tough pill to swallow for some Sox fans. It looks – what’s the word? – bad. Rightly or wrongly, it looks like you’re finishing off the Cubs’ table scraps.
Wrongly, Hahn said.
“I get that, I understand that,’’ he said. “I think it’s ultimately far, far more damning if we had passed on him for that reason. That would strike me as extremely narrow-minded and cutting off our nose to spite our face, so to speak, to turn our back on an extremely qualified candidate because he had previously worked for the Cubs.’’
The argument that Renteria would be the manager of the 103-victory Cubs right now if it hadn’t been for Maddon’s sudden availability is a fragile one. No one knows if Cubs president Theo Epstein would have been satisfied with Renteria as the franchise shifted into its winning phase. He seemed satisfied with Renteria before he abruptly was not.
And would the Cubs have won 103 games with Renteria this season? Impossible to know.
What we keep coming back to is the Sox’ odd ways of doing business. We’re still not quite sure if ex-manager Robin Ventura walked or was given a shove. Hahn and Ventura both said it was Ventura who realized his continued employment was not in the team’s best interests. Both said Ventura informed the team of his decision more than a month ago, even though Ventura had told the Sun-Times in August he wanted to continue managing the Sox after this season. Hahn on Monday refuted a recent USA Today story that reported that Ventura could come back in 2017 if he wanted to. The story’s writer, Bob Nightengale, is extremely tight with some members of the Sox’ organization.
“The notion as to whether it was (Ventura’s) choice or not, he was the one who initially expressed that he felt it was time for a change and that he was ready to relinquish the position,’’ Hahn said. “… There was no instance where we got to the point of presenting it as, ‘We want you to come back, do you not want to come back?’ That’s just not how it evolved.
“It’s a testament to his character that he knew exactly where this organization was and he felt it was time for a change.’’
You get the feeling the Sox are trying see how weird they can get before someone accuses them of cornering the market on strange behavior. If they are looking to instill confidence in the fan base, it’s going to take a lot more than the Renteria hiring. It’s going to take a lot of victories or, short of that, proof of a plan. Hahn says the Sox have one but aren’t ready to share it yet. It could be a rebuild or it could be something with more immediate results. Bizarre, say hello to mysterious.
Sox fans, you’ll just have to trust the White Sox. What could go wrong?