In an era where baseball teams select managers based on their past successes, future potential or some combination of the two, Jerry Reinsdorf has taken an antiquated approach to the hiring process. The White Sox last skipper, Ozzie Guillen, and the newly appointed manager, Robin Ventura, both had close ties to the team before being hired. Neither were bench coaches, pitching coaches or minor league managers in the organization though. Both, however, were successful players for the team. In fact, Ventura is the 17th former White Sox player to manage the club. Ozzie Guillen played shortstop with the Sox from ’85 to ’97, won the Rookie of the Year, had 3 All Star appearances and a Gold Glove award. Ventura played on the south side from ’89 to ’98, took home 5 Gold Gloves and participated in the ’92 All Star game. Ozzie Guillen had coaching experience with the Expos and Marlins before being hired by Reinsdorf while Ventura’s post-playing resume only includes being a White Sox special advisor in 2011. Even in that position he wasn’t very active with the team. Guillen’s managerial stint with the team lasted from 2004 to 2011 which is a considerably long tenure for someone who regularly criticized management, ownership, his players and everyone in between. There is no telling how long Ventura’s tenure will last but Jerry is known for his patience so expect it to be a long-term appointment. Though general manager Kenny Williams should be the man making these hiring, the last two selections have Reinsdorf’s name all over them. In previous generations of baseball, management often hired their former players to coach because they were known commodities and already were identifiable with the fan base. Hiring a team’s former players to manage is no longer necessary in our era of readily available information and expansive media coverage. But Reinsdorf must believe this approach will help his team succeed and bring more fans into U.S. Cellular Field.
In his tenure on the south side Ozzie Gullien helped bring the White Sox out of the shadow of the Cubs. But, despite what the owner might believe, it has nothing to do with his ability to identify himself as a former player of the team. Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams might get a kick out of bringing former players back to lead the club. But fans appreciated Guillen because of his ’05 World Series victory, explicit f-bombs and other wise-cracking quotable quotes. After years of boring, cliche-spitting managers, it was refreshing to hear an honest assessment of a game with some added humor. Ozzie brought other former players like Harold Baines, Joey Cora and Tim Raines back to coach. He did it because he knew their talent would translate well in the dugout. Not because he wanted to organize a family reunion. Robin Ventura’s coaching staff is filled with former major league players (including hold overs Cooper and Baines) but none are former White Sox players. But it doesn’t really matter as long as they can coach a rebuilding team. Eventually Reinsdorf will accept that finding the best manager available and not just choosing a former Sox player with managerial potential is the way to build a winning team. He got lucky with Guillen but won’t fare as well with Ventura who wasn’t on any team’s potential candidate list before being hired in October.