A couple of different ideas for White Sox posts, all coming together into one. I guess the first thing to write about is the disappointment with the final result of the 2011 season. I think the level of disappointment is directly proportional to the height of expectations going into a season. I had great expectations for the White Sox this year, at the very least a play off berth, hoping that the pitching would be formidable come the post season and with a little luck, who knows? The only glaring question mark coming into the season was third base, followed by a few smaller questions at second base, catcher and center and left field. As it turned out all areas of even marginal concern were realized and then some. Also, Brent Morel pretty much played to expectation, decent glove, weak bat. If only the rest of the offense played up to career norms then his .250 batting average and non-existent power wouldn’t have been such a hole in the line up. Unfortunately, the big free agent signing, Adam Dunn, had one of the worst seasons in baseball ever. Luckily, for him anyway, it was not considered official because by August he wasn’t getting any playing time and he didn’t get enough at bats to register officially the worst batting average in the modern era. Even so, what was supposed to be a wonderful season of bashing and blasting turned into a strike out comedy, thanks especially to Mark Gonzalez who kept tabs of Dunn’s strikeouts via twitter. By the end of the season he was just tweeting the number each time Dunn struck out, no further explanation needed. Close on the heels of Dunn was the season of Alex Rios, also historically bad. What’s more there were times that Rios looked as if he wasn’t even trying. It wasn’t something as ambiguous as “body language.” On multiple occasions he simply just looked bad, both offensively and defensively; poor swings, bad reads on fly balls, terrible misplays and on and on. By the time Ozzie sat Dunn and Rios, or at the very least severely cut their playing time, it was too late.
If there is anything that damns Ozzie Guillen this year it was the treatment of Dunn and Rios. Quite simply keeping them in the line up was a mistake after June and fatal after the All-Star break. No matter how one looks at it, Ozzie was wrong. If on the one hand, he was trying to show up Kenny Williams, then he is an immature buffoon and I’m glad he’s gone. If on the other hand he did it because he felt he had to play the veteran players, or that he truly felt they provided the best chance to win, then at some point he was refusing to see the truth and unwilling to admit his mistake, another reason for him to go. Of course, there was a lot more going on between Kenny and Ozzie than this issue and it was pretty clear by September that Ozzie was gone. I must admit I’m rather ambivalent about his departure. I thought he did a decent job, won a World Series, but he hasn’t taken his team to the playoffs since 2008, made some really bad decisions the last two years and toward the end he was basically begging to be let go. Ultimately, the relationship between Kenny and Ozzie was the real cause of Ozzie being released. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t make it work and that’s too bad. For one brief shining moment they made it work to perfection.
I was actually at Ozzie’s last game, but had to leave early. I’m glad that I went to the final game of the season. The last game of the season is always special to me. Usually, at least as far as the teams I’ve followed are concerned, the final game of the season is it until April. That fact is well known by the time the game comes around. So, unlike the ceremony and hope of the home opener, the last game isn’t as pregnant with expectation. It is a time to say good-bye to a friend who is leaving for an extended leave. It’s almost never crowded on the last day and the weather is usually decent. The best part is that it is still baseball. As my friend and I said watching the White Sox turn a double play, “baseball is just fun.”
The last bit of news that has arisen since I started this post is that Robin Ventura has been named the new White Sox manager. Um, What? I hope he is a genius, truly I do. I hope he brings a fresh approach to the clubhouse that inspires the players and really gets them to play at their collective best. I really don’t have any reason to doubt him at this point because there is no body of work to judge. There are a couple of concerns though. First when Robin was first on camera the day he got hired, he looked like a deer in head lights. He just looked like he wanted to anywhere but where he was. It also sounded like he needed to be convinced to take the job, not exactly the most inspiring aspect of a new hire. Ventura later explained that he did not need to be convinced, that he was ready for the challenge. I don’t know, but it sounded like a bride trying to convince her friends that she really wanted to get married, no really! Also, he has no coaching experience at all, save volunteering at a high school and some roaming instruction he did in the minor leagues, or something of that flavor. Either way it feels like the election of 2008, save the charisma. There is no record here and all we can do is hope for the best. Finally, and this was probably the worst of it, when Ventura was asked about what his approach will be and what he would be doing to foster that approach he said he would focus on fundamentals, getting the players prepared and “doing manager stuff.” I don’t know if the clichés or direct quote makes me sadder.
Like I said, I hope Robin Ventura does a fantastic job, what choice do I have really? However, his hiring has reduced my faith in Kenny Williams a great deal. As far as the actual hire goes, I think it is one of the more bald attempts at self-preservation I have ever seen from an executive. Simply put, Kenny is counting on the fans, including fan #1 Jerry Reisndorf, love of Ventura to cover his ass. It is a long shot that the fans, including #1 fan Jerry, would call for Ventura’s head after a year. By hiring a completely inexperienced, unknown managerial candidate, yet beloved by the fan base, Kenny buys himself at least another two years. Furthermore, if Kenny would have gone with one of the guys that are on the short list for just about every open manager’s job and the team still didn’t perform, he would look a lot more culpable. Instead, as Kenny said in a press conference, “we’re not expecting Robin to be Tony LaRussa overnight.” Basically he is saying, “This team is not going anywhere and we know the manager has no clue what he is doing. But don’t blame me.” It really is a shame that it ended this way, but it did have the feeling of inevitability. Ozzie was just too much of a loose cannon and Kenny a bit too big of an ego for their relationship to last for an extended period of time. Pretty much from the beginning there was an expiration date. I wonder when Kenny’s ticket gets punched or if he’ll get a statue?