|Rick Renteria (center)|
That didn't happen after Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins. It seemed like something was up. Sure enough, Robin Ventura announced immediately after the game he would not be returning as manager for the 2017 season. He called his departure "a personal decision," and added that he believes the organization would benefit from a change in the manager's chair.
"I enjoy this place," Ventura said. "I love this place. At the end, it probably needs a new voice … and I have to be big enough to understand that and go down and voice that."
Fair enough. I agree with Ventura on that, but here's the thing: The Sox turned around Monday and hired bench coach Rick Renteria as their new manager at a press conference that didn't exactly get me fired up for the 2017 season.
Is Renteria really "a new voice" considering that he's been around all year as a coach during this disappointing 78-84 campaign?
Here's a few other takeaways from what we've heard these past couple days:
1. It seems as if Ventura fired himself: General manager Rick Hahn said Monday that Ventura approached team brass about a month ago, saying it would be best for him to step aside at the end of the season. It was at that point that the wheels went in motion for Renteria to take charge. OK, so why was it leaked to the press last week that Ventura could return if he wanted?
If everyone is on the same page, as Sox brass claims, then this should have been handled much more smoothly. It's concerning that the first person to realize the Sox needed a managerial change seemed to be the manager himself. If this is actually how it all went down, then Ventura essentially fired himself. Give him kudos for being the only person in the organization with the courage to take decisive action. The higher-ups in the front office either aren't on the same page, or don't have the wherewithal to make changes when necessary.
The lack of leadership here is alarming.
2. It's disappointing the Sox did not conduct an outside search: Renteria is not an unreasonable choice. He has previous manager experience with the Cubs, and as Hahn notes, he has some other selling points -- a good reputation around the game, a good work ethic, a track record of developing young players, an ability to communicate with both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking players, etc. Hahn said if Renteria were to hit the open market, he would be a candidate for other open managerial jobs. I do not disagree.
However, how can the Sox be so certain Renteria is the best man for the job when they haven't interviewed anyone else? You don't know what could happen in the next 7-10 days, or in the next month, with comings and goings around the league, or changes as a result of what happens in the playoffs. There's no way of knowing who might or might not be available without asking questions, and having a thorough search and interview process. The Sox just aren't doing that for reasons I don't fully understand.
I would be more comfortable with the Renteria hire if he had emerged as the top candidate after an interview process involving multiple people.
3. Neither Hahn nor Renteria tipped their hand about the Sox's offseason direction: Hahn was asked directly during the press conference about roster changes and whether Renteria would be given a good enough team to compete immediately. He declined to answer, again reiterating that everything is on the table, and that he would not be telegraphing the organization's plans before he starts making whatever offseason transactions he's going to make.
Renteria was asked whether there is any direction the front office could be taking that would make him uncomfortable managing the team. He did not take the bait, saying that his job as manager is to get the best out of the players he is given, whether it's a veteran group or a younger team. It was an artful dodge by Renteria, to say the least, and no doubt that will endear him to Sox brass.
Taking a guess, I'm expecting the Sox to go for it 2017. I could be wrong. I've been famously wrong before. But owner Jerry Reinsdorf has never had a long-term rebuild in his playbook, and I can't imagine he would change now at age 80. Not to mention, if the Sox were going to start a full-blown rebuild, shouldn't that process have begun at midseason this year? I believe so. The Sox opted to stand pat, so until I see otherwise, I'm anticipating they are going to add to the core that's in place this offseason with the hopes of righting the ship next season. We'll see.