‘Pressure’ was managing teams with limitations, White Sox’ Rick Renteria says
Expectations don’t scare White Sox manager Rick Renteria. “If I [stink], you can tell me I [stink], and that’s the way it is.”
Not all was seashells, balloons and kids asking Eloy Jimenez “thin crust or deep dish?” on Saturday at SoxFest, where the overwhelming mood among players, club officials and fans was optimism about the coming season.
While nonstop talk of the postseason echoed through McCormick Place West, one couldn’t blame those who remain pessimistic. One guarded skeptic at a question-and-answer forum with manager Rick Renteria and general manager Rick Hahn reminded them of a White Sox offseason won with the additions of Jeff Samardzija, Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson and Zach Duke and an ensuing 2015 fail. Another questioned, within good reason, the Sox’ questionable defense.
Another, in as many words, suggested to Renteria that he’ll be under a closer microscope managing a team built to win rather than one in rebuild mode.
The questions seemed to light a fire under Renteria, who dropped two words not suitable for print in his responses.
“Ricky’s apology for language lasts the entire hour,” moderator Jason Benetti quipped.
“Pressure?” Renteria said. “I’ve got players. You want pressure? Have a limited bench, have limited pitching. That’s pressure.’’
That was what Renteria had during his first three seasons at the helm. Now that he finally has a roster built to win, he’s not backing down from letting everyone know his expectations are lofty, as they should be.
“Not knocking any team I’ve had -— those kids gave us everything they had,” he said. “But now, expectations are opportunities. Expectations don’t scare me. I don’t hedge my bet. If I suck, you can tell me I suck, and that’s the way it is.”
Renteria hasn’t had a strong roster to manage, not with the Cubs and not with the Sox. This will be his best one on paper, and he will be judged accordingly. It comes with the territory.
“Absolutely the message is different [now],” he said. “It’s more refined. The difference is players are telling me — the young core — they are telling me now we’ll take over some of the things [the coaching staff has] been doing the last few years. We will tell these guys to get their head out of their [butt] and let’s start playing the game. It’s no longer time to say, ‘It’s all right, let’s go.’ The players are telling me that.”
The players are telling listeners they are all in with Renteria. Catcher Yasmani Grandal cited Renteria, whom he had as a coach, as a factor in choosing the Sox in free agency. Of Renteria, shortstop Tim Anderson said, ‘‘We have the right man leading us.”
Renteria knows Anderson has to add excellence on routine plays to excellence on the tough ones. He knows Jimenez needs to be better in left field. There are others.
They have been challenged.
“We’ve got a lot of defensive work planned [for spring training],” Renteria said. “These guys are understanding the reality of how they defend being an important part of winning baseball games.
“I’m as optimistic as I’ve been since I’ve been here. We have a robust lineup. We need to pitch and catch the ball.
“We push these guys extremely hard. Now you have a group of young players who are starting to learn and feel very confident about their skill set. Now we have [veteran] guys who have been in that fire, been in that battle. And our guys are telling our young players, ‘Hey, it’s time to go. We don’t have time to mess around. We have a window of opportunity. Let’s take it.’ ”