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White Sox Tue Oct 11 2011
When Kenny Williams spoke to the press about new White Sox manager Robin Ventura, he stressed the team would be in a "holding pattern." Had that statement come from someone other than Kenny Williams, it might be less worrying. The general manager, known for his gambling moves, has been off with his recent endeavors (Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios).
But Williams took "out with the old and in with new" to the extreme after hiring Robin Ventura. The departure of Ozzie Guillen also means the departure of the team's "All In" mentality. While the team will be stuck with some veterans, Williams has hinted that the 2012 season will be a shift after telling reporters he expects Ventura to "hit the ground running and be the guy he's going to be two or three years from now."
It would be naive to assume that hiring Ozzie Guillen's opposite will solve all the team's problems. So putting the focus on younger players and bringing in a manager with no previous managerial experience means the desperate "All In" approach is being put aside for now. Though anyone knowledgeable about Williams' past knows this team retooling won't be conventional. Just like Ventura's future, the 2012 season is unpredictable.
That said, there could be some positive effects from Williams' changeup. It opens the door for virtually any player to replace Ozzie as the face of the team. Last season, the White Sox roster was full of potential. As the season went on, most of those names did not evolve into caliber players the team needed to be successful. With Ventura in, veterans will have to take some of the leadership role in his first season.
It could translate to another opportunity for guys that didn't step up last season. When it comes to transforming the veterans, some approaches won't change. Building confidence in contracts sticking around (Dunn and Rios) will still be a crucial part regardless of how Ventura manages. Even with a new face in the clubhouse, Sox staples like Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski have expressed desires to stay in Chicago, so veteran contributions will still be a large part of the puzzle.
This doesn't mean that the young players won't play a significant part in the team's success. It's no secret the White Sox have some work to do. Wiliams has used every synonym of "rebuilding" in press conferences the past week. By taking 2012 as a growing opportunity to try and fit winning pieces into place, young guys like Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, and Tyler Flowers can turn into the foundation the team needs to make a long term postseason run. With trade rumors surrounding Carlos Quentin and newer options in the outfield, the team's youth will be getting plenty of opportunities.
Ventura could be the change of scenery this team needs for either of the above possibilities to happen. Being called the "anti-Ozzie," Ventura is calm and collected. He's been described by Konerko as a guy everyone gets along with. There may have been some murmurs about a mean side, but chances are Ventura is no Ozzie Guillen. After eight seasons, having someone with a different mindset can actually benefit the team.
While he had to be coaxed into the job, the responsibility is settling in for Ventura. The search for a manager may be over but the real work is just beginning. And he knows it.
"Now I've jumped in the deep end," Ventura said."But I can swim."