CHICAGO | It’s hard to read Robin Ventura to see if managing is his life’s calling.
The White Sox manager gave a hint in the offseason when he turned down an extension of his contract that expires after 2014. Tea-leaf reading would suggest his work in the dugout isn’t all-encompassing, or that he’s leaving himself an out if the Sox track downward.
But the man everyone around the team calls the consummate even-keel leader won’t project into the future. Nor will he suggest he’s facing his greatest challenge turning around the Sox. They fell nine games under .500 before two well-played victories over the Oakland Athletics Saturday and Sunday slowed the losing momentum.
“That’s every day,” he said of tough challenges Sunday. “I don’t look at it like it’s extra-special. This is a job that I’m here to do, and I’m doing it every day with the idea we’re going to win games. One day doesn’t make it extra-special.”
As the Sox caved in after reaching .500 at 24-24 two weeks ago, Ventura quietly called in players for individual meetings. The problems are obvious.
“We’ve done a lot of different things,” Ventura said of behind-the-scenes tactics to reverse losing momentum. “Once the feeling is to feel sorry for yourself and expect bad things to happen, you have to change it somehow. You have to make it fun.
“Some days you make it totally different for them. Some days you don’t. The key is make sure they’re coming in here with the right attitude, trying to win games and feeling like you’re going to win that game.”
Ventura is not going to start raising his consistent-timbre voice in the clubhouse.
“The players read into that,” hitting coach Jeff Manto said. “They now ‘RV’ is a serious guy. He’s very committed to what he’s doing. If he does act out of his personality, the players won’t believe that. You can’t all of a sudden turn out to be some kind of maniac, starting to scream. The players know that’s not his personality.
“The players respect him. They play hard for him. They go through walls for him. (Up until Saturday) we just weren’t winning.”
Ventura the manager has the same personality as Ventura the player, said bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen, his Sox teammate from 1989 to 1993.
“He hasn’t changed a bit,” Thigpen said. “He has emotions at times when things are exciting. He watches the game, understands it, appreciates the game. All those things wrapped into one makes him the good man for the job.”