Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chicago Is Mystified: White Sox Hire Robin Ventura While Cubs Won't Hire Ryne Sandberg

It's a tale of one city and two distinctly different major league baseball clubs.

Chicago sports fans are some of the most passionate around, but even they might be scratching their heads at the latest news out of the south side.

The Chicago White Sox have hired former player Robin Ventura as their new manager.

When I heard the news, I knew the name but couldn't quite place Ventura's prior managerial experience. I assumed that he must have had some level of minor league experience.  Amazingly, I came up with nothing.  Ventura has ZERO experience as a manager or as a coach, and his first job for both will be with a major league team.

While the past four White Sox managers also didn't have prior experience as a MLB manager, they did have coaching experience:

  • Ozzie Guillen - had two years coaching with the Montreal Expos, and one year with the Florida Marlins
  • Jerry Manuel -  had 11 years coaching experience with the Expos, Marlins, and Mets
  • Terry Bevington - had 14 years coaching with the Brewers and the White Sox before being named manager of the White Sox
  • Gene Lamont - had 15 years coaching experience, including time as a minor league squad manager in the Royals organization
It's even more strange that the White Sox would hire a former player with no coaching experience considering that the cross-town rival Chicago Cubs seem determined NOT to hire a former player with outstanding coaching experience.

Ryne Sandberg, after he finished his Hall of Fame career with the Cubs and tried his hand at a few other ventures, returned to the Cubs organization as a minor league manager.

For two years, he was manager of the Class-A Peoria Chiefs.  After that, he was promoted to manager of the Double-A Tennessee Smokies.  The following season, he received another promotion to the managerial spot of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. 

Sandberg even won the Pacific Coast Manager of the Year award for his work with the Iowa Cubs.  Everything seemed to be perfectly positioned for Sandberg to receive the Chicago Cubs manager's position when Lou Pinella retired in 2010.

However, management disagreed and decided to promote interim manager Mike Quade to the job.  Sandberg, justifiably upset, left the Cubs organization and took over the top minor league team for the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

In 2011, the Cubs had a miserable season finishing 25 games behind the division leader at 71-91.  However, the times are changing.  The Cubs finally fired general manager Jim Hendry, and will probably fire Quade in the off-season once a new general manager is hired.

Is it possible that Sandberg could actually be hired by the Cubs this time? Yes, if the pieces fall together just right.  As a former minor league Cubs manager, he is familiar with several of the younger players on the roster.  Cubs fans would fill the stadium once again to see their hero.  Sandberg could be the solution to many of the problems the Cubs have had in recent years.

On the other hand, the jury will be out on Robin Ventura and the White Sox for a while.  Hiring a former great player with no coaching or managerial experience is a big risk.  The Sox must see something in Ventura.  Hopefully everyone else will next season.

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