CHICAGO | Usually a manager’s job security is shaky, at best, after a 99-defeat season.
But the White Sox had long-term plans for Robin Ventura no matter how they finished in 2013. As a result, they re-upped Ventura with a contract extension Friday to provide some buzz to the start of SoxFest.
General manager Rick Hahn has had conversations with Ventura about the Sox’s direction since the middle of the lost season last summer. Hahn, who did not hire Ventura late in 2011 when he was assistant GM to Kenny Williams, found the pair were on the same page.
“In all those conversations, Robin was enthusiastic about where we are headed and the path we plan to take,” Hahn said. “This at least publicly shows all of you the same enthusiasm and commitment. We’re thrilled to have his leadership. No doubt in any of our minds he’s the right guy to lead us through this next period.
Hahn said he did not have to grade Ventura as improving as a manager through the division-contender’s season in 2012 and the plummet to the cellar in 2013, when Ventura’s even-keel style helped keep clubhouse dissension to a bare minimum.
“I actually thought he started off far above what we reasonably could have hoped for in his first year in the dugout,” he said of Ventura, who had never managed at any level. “We knew there was going to be a bit of a learning curve…I don’t see a huge difference now from where he was.”
Originally signed to a three-year deal through 2014, Ventura had kept his options open beyond the length of the deal. He said he wanted top management to have the freedom to evaluate him.
“It was a difficult season,” he said. “I just felt it was important for Rick to have a full year of doing the job (after succeeding Williams for 2013), us working together, that he had the freedom and ability to kind of decide if I’m the right guy for the job. “
Starting in late July, Hahn began importing younger position players to start remaking the broken Sox lineup. Ventura is all in with the program.
“The job doesn’t necessarily change as far as enthusiasm,” he said. “But you’re looking at it a little differently if you had guys who were older and little more veteran. I’m just as excited going into this year as I was the first year (with a veteran team).”
Team captain Paul Konerko, attending his final SoxFest as a player, lauded Ventura’s new deal.
“With a younger team like we have now, he just doesn’t miss on how to handle guys and how to treat guys,” he said. “Stern to get his point across. For a team with this makeup, it’s a good fit.”