I’m on a number of baseball press release lists, so when the release came from the White Sox Saturday evening announcing their general manager, Rick Hahn, would have an “end-of-the-season press conference” Monday at 11 a.m., no particular eyebrows were raised.
Daryl Van Schouwen, the Sox beat writer for the Sun-Times, soon figured out there was big news coming:
Robin Ventura’s five-year tenure as manager of the White Sox appears to be coming to an amicable finish, and the club will replace him with bench coach Rick Renteria, the Sun-Times has learned.
Indications are the Sox are preparing to name Renteria, 54, as their new manager Monday. On Saturday, the Sox announced an end-of-the-season news conference with general manager Rick Hahn for 11 a.m. Monday at U.S. Cellular Field, increasing growing speculation that a change would be made soon.
Last week, it was reported by USA Today that Ventura could return for 2017 if he wanted to, Apparently, he didn’t want to. This actually doesn’t surprise me; Ventura was coaching high school baseball (on a volunteer basis) in California when he was hired, and as I recall had to be convinced by then-GM Kenny Williams to take the job in the first place. Sounds to me as if he’d just had enough and wanted to head back home. As the Sun-Times article notes, the parting of Ventura and the Sox appears to be “amicable.”
As for Renteria, obviously he didn’t depart the Cubs managing job on his own terms. We all know the story; Joe Maddon became available to the Cubs and any team in the Cubs’ situation at the time would have done exactly what Theo & Co. did, hire him. It’s worked out incredibly well for the Cubs, as you surely know. When the Cubs fired Renteria October 31, 2014, Theo Epstein issued the following statement, which is long but worth reading again in its entirety:
Today we made the difficult decision to replace Rick Renteria as manager of the Chicago Cubs. On behalf of Tom Ricketts and Jed Hoyer, I thank Rick for his dedication and commitment, and for making the Cubs a better organization.
Rick’s sterling reputation should only be enhanced by his season as Cubs manager. We challenged Rick to create an environment in which our young players could develop and thrive at the big league level, and he succeeded. Working with the youngest team in the league and an imperfect roster, Rick had the club playing hard and improving throughout the season. His passion, character, optimism and work ethic showed up every single day.
Rick deserved to come back for another season as Cubs manager, and we said as much when we announced that he would be returning in 2015. We met with Rick two weeks ago for a long end-of-season evaluation and discussed plans for next season. We praised Rick to the media and to our season ticket holders. These actions were made in good faith.
Last Thursday, we learned that Joe Maddon – who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us – had become a free agent. We confirmed the news with Major League Baseball, and it became public knowledge the next day. We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.
While there was no clear playbook for how to handle this type of situation, we knew we had to be transparent with Rick before engaging with Joe. Jed flew to San Diego last Friday and told Rick in person of our intention to talk to Joe about the managerial job. Subsequently, Jed and I provided updates to Rick via telephone and today informed him that we will indeed make a change.
We offered Rick a choice of other positions with the Cubs, but he is of course free to leave the organization and pursue opportunities elsewhere. Armed with the experience of a successful season and all the qualities that made him our choice a year ago, Rick will no doubt make an excellent major league manager when given his next chance.
Rick often said he was the beneficiary of the hard work of others who came before him. Now, in the young players he helped, we reap the benefits of his hard work as we move forward. He deserved better and we wish him nothing but the best.
Everything Theo said in that statement is true. Rick Renteria is a good baseball man. He sat out the 2015 season before being named the White Sox bench coach for 2016. The Sun-Times article also contained praise for him, including quotes from Anthony Rizzo:
Renteria, who speaks fluent Spanish, was credited with bringing along young Cubs players, most notably All-Stars Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, in 2014. Rizzo believes the Sox made a good choice.
“That’s awesome. Congratulations to him,’’ Rizzo said. “Obviously, it didn’t work out here with how it went down, but that’s awesome for Rick and wish him well.’’
Rizzo expected Renteria to manage again.
“For sure,’’ Rizzo said. “Just the way he acts with all the guys. It was fun to play for him.’’
Presuming the Sun-Times report is true, and I have no reason to think it isn’t, I too wish Renteria well in his new position.
He will become only the second man to manage both the Cubs and White Sox, believe it or not. Johnny Evers, the Cubs’ second baseman during their great run from 1906-10 and a Hall of Famer, managed the Cubs for all of 1913 and part of 1921, and the White Sox for most of 1924 after Frank Chance, the great Cubs manager of those early 20th Century teams, had been hired but had to bow out due to ill health (Chance died later in 1924).