This White Sox’ 2016 season took a strange twist and turn before it began, when the Drake LaRoche kid-in-the-clubhouse caper turned into an international story.
It stayed weird when Chris Sale cut up the team’s uniforms in July.
And now, four days before the season finale, it looks like it will stay on a similar odd path to the very end when manager Robin Ventura declined to discuss his future — or even to say whether he wants to return next season — following a USA Today report, citing a high-ranking official, saying the Sox are welcoming him back even though his contract will be up as he closes in on a fourth consecutive losing season.
According to the report, the Sox have decided to retain their manager and will sign Ventura to new contract if he wants to return. A major league source, however, said Ventura has not received a contract offer for next year. Also, contract negotiations had not begun and Ventura wouldn’t say Wednesday if he wants to return.
“I’m not going to get into it, I’m just going to wait till the end of the year,’’ Ventura said. “We’ll wait.”
News that Ventura, who took a 373-432 record into the Sox game against the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday, would return if he wants to did not go over particularly well with fans, if social media is an indication. No Sox manager has survived four straight losing seasons so the report came as a surprise, although chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s respect for Ventura, loyalty and his understanding the reasons for the Sox’ record run deeper than the manager kept the possibility of a return open.
With no experience, Ventura was an unexpected hire when the Sox, looking for a calm and steady presence after eight years of Ozzie Guillen’s oft-turbulent (and successful) term, made him their choice after the 2012 season. Ventura grew to like the position and has often said so, and in August he said he wanted to come back but also said the Sox had to want him back.
On Wednesday, Ventura said he wouldn’t discuss his future until after the season, so perhaps he is having a change of heart.
“I said that a while ago, yeah,” Ventura said Wednesday. “We’re getting to the end of the year before we’re doing anything.’’
Ventura reiterated he still enjoys the job and his primary concern is “getting to the end of the year right now” but speculation persisted that the front-office news leak was a way of giving him an out to part ways on good terms.
“The biggest concern is making sure everybody finishes [the season] in the way that they should professionally,’’ he said.
Clarity was not forthcoming from general manager Rick Hahn, who declined to talk to beat writers when he accompanied the team to Philadelphia on the final road trip last week, and was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Hahn won’t talk to media until Monday, the day after the season ends, a club spokesman said.
By then it will be known for certain whether Ventura will return.
In the meantime, expect Ventura to remain as calm, relaxed and even-keeled as always. Even Wednesday, he was composed and in good humor with a bigger than usual media horde surrounding him.
“Who, me?” he said with a grin at the question about how his popularity has probably waned since his playing days. “That’s part of the gig, absolutely. I want [the fans] to understand that it pains me when we don’t win. I might not explain [losses] the way they want it every single time but it becomes painful when you don’t win.’’
Ventura has had to explain more than his share of zany events this season.
“It was quite a ride, it really was,” Ventura said. “You just deal with it when it happens. Every team has its challenges, and this one is no different. We had some unique ones. You handle it inside the clubhouse, and that’s my job.”