CHICAGO — Robin Ventura’s baseball résumé is missing Major League managerial or coaching experience. That was no big deal to White Sox general manager Ken Williams.
Because during Ventura’s 16 seasons in the majors — 10 with the White Sox — he showed he had the smarts and leadership to some day run a Major League team. That’s how Williams saw it and why he offered him the job.
Ventura, introduced Tuesday as the 39th manager of the White Sox, got a three-year contract.
“Whether it be the next day before a game or in the bar after the game or on a bus or wherever on a plane, you have these baseball conversations. For me, those are opportunities to gauge whether a guy has the baseball acumen,” Williams said Tuesday.
“This hire is not dissimilar to the Ozzie Guillen hire, where he didn’t have any managerial experience. We don’t need any other examples from any other organizations. This was right for us.”
Ventura replaces Guillen, his former teammate and friend, who was released from the final year of his contract and is now managing the Marlins. Guillen was a Major League coach in Montreal and Florida before getting the White Sox job after the Marlins won the World Series in 2003.
Two years later, he guided the White Sox to their first World Series title since 1917. His relationship with Williams became fractured over the past two seasons.
The 44-year-old Ventura dabbled in TV work and was just hired in June as an adviser to White Sox player personnel director Buddy Bell.
He was surprised and a little apprehensive when Williams broached the subject of managing.
He gave it a great deal of thought, discussed it with his family and then knew it was the right thing to do, especially in a place where he launched a successful career as a clutch-hitting, slick-fielding third baseman (six Gold Gloves) with left-handed power (294 homers, including 18 grand slams).
“Granted, I don’t have that coaching or managerial experience officially but I think later in my career that was something that was evident that I felt I could do it and I felt confident that I could do it,” Ventura said.
The White Sox are coming off one of their most disappointing seasons with a 79-83 record after they were expected to be a contender with a $127 million payroll.
Offseason moves were not a major factor in Ventura’s decision, and he said he doesn’t consider the team to be in a rebuilding stage.
“In taking the job, in our discussions, I didn’t want to get into whether he was going to spend money or not spend money or cut back,” Ventura said. “I was wanting to take the job for no other reason to be the manager and do a good job. Not whether it was going to be a better situation because he was going to go out and get more players or not.”
One of Ventura’s biggest challenges once his coaching staff is complete will be to work with two players who slumped badly last season — Adam Dunn and Alex Rios. That will begin in spring training in February in Glendale, Ariz.
“I think for right now they need a break. The mental grind of baseball is probably the toughest of any sport because it’s daily, it’s daunting, especially if you get yourself in a hole,” Ventura said.
Ventura said he has talked with Paul Konerko, the White Sox’s best player last season and a team leader who will make it easier for a rookie manager. Williams confirmed that he considered Konerko as a player/manager, but the two did not discuss that scenario.
Ventura said he has received a lot of advice since landing the job and the best he had heard was simple: be yourself.
He was considered a low-key personality as a player but also had a fiery side. He had a dugout confrontation with former teammate Frank Thomas in Yankee Stadium and will always be remembered for charging the mound after Nolan Ryan hit him with a pitch.
Ventura’s managerial influences are many — Jeff Torborg, Gene Lamont, Jerry Manuel, Bobby Valentine and Joe Torre, among others.
“I played for a lot of different personalities and got along with a lot of different people and become friends with a lot of people,” Ventura said. “And from the outside they look at my personality and their personality and not think that we would get along. It’s finding a way to have common ground.
“Personalities are great on teams. As long as they’re a good teammate, we’re going to get along great as long as they’re going toward a common goal. When it’s about yourself, there’s going to be times for discussion.”