After two disappointing seasons, many question the ability manager Rick Renteria has to be successful after the White Sox rebuild. But there is more to managing a team besides performance.
“Ricky’s boys don’t quit”: the White Sox motto throughout the 2018 season definitely captures the spirit of the team.
Through hardships like losing teammates and piling on loss after loss, it is very easy feel the urge to throw in the towel. But not this team. And if Ricky’s boys didn’t quit, why should the fans quit on Ricky?
One would consider a good manager based on the performance of their team to back it up. If you start your time with a team going 129-195, on paper, it looks like you may not be able to hold onto your job for very long. And with 2019 being Rick Renteria’s contract year, it is reasonable to be looking in another direction after what may be another non-contending year for the White Sox next season.
You can have all the World Series titles and manager-of-the-year awards, but they do not mean anything if your team does not respect you. It is clear Renteria has earned the respect of his team. Why should the front office feel the need to start over after a couple of losing seasons?
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The relationship Renteria has formed with his team is – no question – one that involves a great deal of respect. His players mention his rules that he set his first day, one of those being the lack-of-hustle rule. If you do not hustle and give your all in every play, Renteria will bench you. He made an example in August when shortstop Tim Anderson failed to leg out the rest of a lineout. Angry, Renteria benched Anderson for the next game. As one of the White Sox’s top performers and beloved presence in the clubhouse, one would think this kind of move would spark an uproar and make the players question their manager. But, in fact, this only strengthened the bond.
I chattted with Chuck Garfien about the White Sox personable manager.
"“(Renteria does not) want them quitting,” Chuck Garfien, White Sox reporter for NBC Sports Chicago, said. “If they quit, Ricky’s gonna be on top of it and that’s one of the values he’s trying to bring and instill in these young guys. They don’t give up.”"
In 2014, Renteria was given the opportunity to manage the Chicago Cubs. That season, the Cubs were in the middle of their rebuild, possibly at the “rock bottom” of it. He was given the responsibility of handling this underwhelming team. His Cubs finished dead last in the NL Central at 73-89. Then he was let go. He never was given the opportunity to see things through as the ship was handed to Joe Maddon to command. Two years later, they won the World Series.
"“That’s a fascinating topic of discussion: would the Cubs have won a World Series with Rick Renteria as a manager, we’ll never know,” Garfien said."
What a manager has to work with is also what is left out of the conversation. Renteria did not have what Maddon now has. While Renteria had only had Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro offensively, Maddon has been able to have Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler, the list goes on. Garfien mentions the talent that is required for a manager to succeed.
"“(Renteria) can take some hits from the fans and the media about some of his decisions that he makes, but at the end of they day I also try to sympathize with him that he’s not exactly working with the most talented team at times. You put him on the Red Sox, Ricky would be a great manager. You put Alex Cora (Red Sox manager) on the White Sox, and he wouldn’t be looking too good most nights with what he has to work with. We’re really gonna know the extent of Rick Renteria as a manager and how good he is when there’s more talent on the team and what does he do with it. The jury is still out on that but I think to have any conclusion about him as a manager right now is premature.”"
Renteria has earned his right to be able to see his White Sox through. It may not look pretty on paper, but any White Sox fan can make connections between Renteria and beloved 2005 World Series winning manager Ozzie Guillen in terms of the respect their players have for them.
Disregarding the amount of respect Renteria has earned for a second, the amount of work he puts into his team is nothing short of impressive. Garfien recalls the dedication and passion the White Sox manager has:
"“Ricky is a great communicator, incredible,” Garfien said. “And communication is a big big part of that job. He’s a tireless worker. He gets to the ballpark, I think, too early. He’s there at like 10 a.m. for a 7 o’clock game sometimes. He lives and breathes the game and that’s the only way he knows how to do it. I’ve talked to him about it and he can’t dial it down. He can dial it down a little bit, but he wouldn’t be true to himself if he was doing that.”"
The damage that can be caused by ditching a respected manager for one with a successful resume could not work out as well as some would hope. This, of course, coming from reports that Joe Girardi is waiting for managerial job for either the Cubs or White Sox after the 2019 season. Not resigning Renteria and hiring Girardi would be a mistake that might tear apart the rebuild Renteria has been working tirelessly on.