The White Sox replaced a manager this weekend who oversaw four-straight losing seasons, was not well-regarded tactically, and had his hand on the wheel as multiple humiliating clubhouse fracases reached the public in this season alone. They replaced him with a well-respected figure in the baseball world, the rare option who possesses previous managerial experience without a troubled reputation, and someone who would be a widely-interviewed candidate this offseason were he available. Better yet, Rick Renteria will be the only Hispanic manager in all of major league baseball when he is officially announced on Monday.
The Sox somehow managed to cap Robin Ventura’s departure with a magnanimous final news conference, where the once beloved former star was able to spin an extremely curious report about having the ‘choice’ of whether to continue in 2017, into a graceful, unselfish decision to end an unsuccessful run for the sake of the franchise. So why, with all of these good, if not actually completely franchise-curing steps taken, have the White Sox only bolstered their status as an enigmatic franchise?
Well, because they’re definitely still the White Sox, and doing the bare minimum in a truly inscrutable manner is only so convincing. Ventura is unfailingly professional and well-liked, but many baseball men who carry those descriptors have been dismissed from manager jobs for stretches of disappointment far less pronounced than four-straight losing seasons, and two-straight flops in seasons that began with hopes for contention.
Moving on from Ventura is what any organization would do, and while it’s a nice personal touch that the Sox gave him some measure of his control on his way out, the step of leaking it to the USA Today days ahead of time was at best just bizarre, but mostly a wholly unnecessary machination and public relations hit. Ventura was without a contract for 2017, and an announcement of a peaceful parting never needed three days of false panic that the Sox still did not realize the listlessness of their last few years.
Renteria is an objectively good hire, and possibly someone they would struggle to compete for if he was not already in-house, yet carrying the future replacement for a failing manager on staff for a year is an undeniably bizarre practice, possibly a hindrance to Renteria engineering a true overhaul, and another coaching change being made without any external interviews or curiosity about how the rest of the league conducts business, does little to assuage concerns that this organization looks inwards and only sees solutions, rather than problems.
Bruce Levine’s report that Kenny Williams is staying, and not getting dumped, or stepping down at Monday morning’s post-season news conference is wholly unsurprising. But while Williams’ scalp is hardly some imperative for real progress at 35th & Shields, something wholly surprising is necessary to change the view of this franchise from one that has either failed to realize their structural failings, or simply lacks the will or the means to address them. They still sit at the same impasse between being so lost as to require a rebuild, and so close to competing to finally inspiring major spending and investment. Until that changes, even positive steps that still reflect the same insularity and strangeness that has become all too familiar, will find diminishing returns from fans, media, and maybe even some of these equally inscrutable blogs.
Monday would seem to be too soon to put any proof behind whatever the Sox intentions are for changing their stars, but the Sox would be well-advised to start proving us wrong.
Lead Image Credit: Patrick Gorski // USA Today Sports Images