Rick Renteria is managing in Chicago again. This time, on the South Side of town.
The White Sox on Monday named Renteria as the 40th manager in club history, replacing Robin Ventura, who – it was revealed at Renteria’s introductory press conference at U.S. Cellular Field – decided in August a change was for the best. Ventura, whose contract expired, managed his last game Sunday after five seasons.
Renteria, hired by the Theo Epstein regime but fired with two years left on his Cubs contract after the 2014 season when Joe Maddon became available, sat out of baseball during the 2015 season before returning as Ventura’s bench coach this season. He managed the Cubs to a 73-89 record during a rebuilding year.
The Sox were 375-435 under Ventura, including 78-84 this year, the team’s fourth straight losing season and eighth in a row without going to the postseason. The Sun-Times first reported Saturday that Renteria would be named as his replacement Monday.
“It is a great honor as well as a great responsibility,’’ Renteria said. “Over the past season as Robin’s bench coach, I have gotten to know the players and staff very well.
“We want to field a team that plays smart baseball, takes advantage of any opportunity within the game, and competes hard in a way that makes White Sox fans proud of our team’s effort.’’
General manager Rick Hahn said there may have been other candidates as qualified as Renteria out there but none were deemed better, and Renteria’s familiarity with the team’s personnel, its coaching staff and organization turned the decision in his favor.
“He is very well respected throughout this game, has an incredibly high baseball IQ and a tireless work ethic, which everyone is aware of,’’ Hahn said. “He has the ability to communicate across a multi-cultural clubhouse and is already extremely well-respected within that room.’’
Renteria, 54, becomes the only Latino manager in baseball. Before managing the Cubs, he had 30 years of baseball experience including three as bench coach (2011-13) and three as first base coach (2008-10) with the San Diego Padres. Before that, he spent eight years as a minor league manager in the Padres and Marlins farm systems.
“I’m hoping to bring in a little more intensity,’’ said Renteria, who also views himself as positive, detail-oriented field leader.
“Everybody puts together a club and goes to spring training very optimistic about what’s going to happen. The one thing you can assure yourself is, your team has to go out there and play the game a certain way. You can’t just play as everybody else does. Advancing runners, getting guys in from third base. You can’t play on the same level as everybody else. You have to be better. And that’s the challenge for us we’re going to have to overcome.’’
Renteria, of course, steps into “a completely different role” as manager, Hahn said.
“His familiarity with the clubhouse culture will help his initial understanding about what needs to be improved. Him having already been there for a year and having those relationships will help improve his ability to execute that plan and make it likelier it’s going to be more successful from the start.
“But when a guy changes roles, there’s a different legitimacy that comes from being the guy in the big chair, so to speak, from being the manager — his influence is going to be greater than it is as the bench coach.”
No other staff changes were announced, but there will be at least one addition with the bench coach position open. One possibility for Renteria’s staff, while perhaps not for the bench job but another position, is Doug Dascenzo, who was hired on to Renteria’s Cubs staff as a first base coach. Dascenzo is currently the Cubs minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator.
Renteria again expressed no ill will toward the Cubs even though he was unceremoniously let go when Joe Maddon became available.
“I definitely appreciated the opportunity that was given to me,’’ he said. “I wouldn’t take that away for anything.’’
Renteria and Hall-of-Famer Johnny Evers are the only managers in history to manage games for both the Sox and the Cubs. Evers managed the Sox in 1924 and the Cubs in 1913 and 1921. The Cub thing might rub a Sox fan the wrong way, and Hahn gets that.
But this wasn’t an issue for Hahn.
“This is about hiring the best guy,’’ he said.