Much to the dismay of many fans, manager Robin Ventura will return to the helm for the 2016 Chicago White Sox. Not all of his staff will be returning however, as bench coach Mark Parent was relieved of his duties prior to Friday’s game and assistant hitting coach Harold Baines reportedly asked to transition to a club ambassador role following the season. It strikes me as odd that Parent was dismissed with only three games remaining, but perhaps he was a scapegoat because I see no way that getting rid of a coach with as many games as franchise World Series titles left in the season. But the bigger news was not who isn’t returning, but rather who will be back. Ventura was largely seen by those outside of the organization as a managerial firing candidate given the high expectations that followed the club following the stable of acquisitions made in the off-season and the lack of on-field that success that happened next.
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Despite being one of those who wanted Ventura to be fired following the season, it does not surprise me that he is coming back. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf does not have a history of firing managers (technically Ozzie Guillen was traded to the Miami Marlins at the end of the 2011 season) and Ventura’s contract runs through the 2016 season. General Manager Rick Hahn noted that being a big league manager is more than the three hours of gametime we see as fans as communication and comfort play a huge role in the success of big league teams. Hahn believes Ventura excels in those areas and that was enough to warrant his return.
What does this mean for next year’s White Sox? Probably more disappointment. After his inaugural season in 2012 his hiring looked like a stroke of genius as the Southsiders only missed a playoff appearance due to a collapse during the final two weeks of the season. Ventura finished third in the AL Manager of the Year voting behind Buck Showalter of the Baltimore Orioles and winner Bob Melvin out in the Bay Area with the Oakland Athletics. Since that rookie campaign, Ventura as struggled as the White Sox skipper. The White Sox finished 63-99 in 2013, 73-89 last year, and the 2015 edition finished at 76-86. A team that made the improvements that it did over the winter months should have more to show for it than a meager three win bump. Some do not think managers matter as much as the players but I don’t believe that. Managers certainly matter. If you need evidence look at the Minnesota Twins or the Chicago Cubs. Teams with similar rosters as the year before but with new managers who made significant strides. Despite the optimism that will come in spring training, don’t expect a competitive team with Ventura managing the club for another year.