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Robin Ventura remains unflappable, determined to right the White Sox ship

The first thing to understand is Robin Ventura doesn't care if he's perceived as being on the proverbial hot seat, whether it's really hot or just lukewarm.

Ventura enters the final year of his contract with a .458 winning percentage in his four years at the helm of the White Sox. They're a combined 62 games below .500 since 2013, finishing fifth, fourth and fourth, respectively, in the American League Central.

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Like potholes on Ashland Avenue, there never will be a shortage of those calling for a new manager, especially if the 2016 season gets off to a rocky start.

"Whatever," Ventura said. "I mean, I enjoy (managing). I'm having fun doing this. You could ask the players if I'm any different. They would see it more than I would anyway. I don't think I'm much different (this season) as far as what I care about getting done.

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"These guys are going about doing their business, and it has been good. I don't wake up every day thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I have to go save my job.' It's baseball. Eventually I won't be here. That's just the way the game works."

Ventura had a hard act to follow in Ozzie Guillen, his former Sox teammate who was colorful, talkative and had a championship ring to boot. Guillen finally has been reunited with the Sox organization after a cold war with top baseball executive Ken Williams, and there are some who pine for his return.

The chances of that seem minuscule, but as long as he's not managing in the majors again, Guillen's long shadow will hover over Ventura, at least until the Sox start winning. Guillen was even at Sox camp a couple of days during spring training, entertaining the media like the old days.

"That doesn't bother me," Ventura said. "I'm going to be fine."

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The Sox players like Ventura, as Chris Sale stressed during the Drake LaRoche saga, saying Ventura should have been allowed to handle the decision on the clubhouse time allotted Adam LaRoche's son instead of Williams.

The criticism of Ventura as being too dispassionate and too close to his players to discipline anyone isn't going to change because he's not going to change.

He won't fake being a hothead. And he insists he does get in a player's grill if he sees him playing the game the wrong way. Ventura says he just prefers to do it out of sight.

"It's handled," he said. "(Critics) probably just want to see a little more flesh out there."

Perhaps Ventura can be more like a certain Coach Ditka and show when he's perturbed at his team's play?

"'Dikka?'" he said, using the preferred "Saturday Night Live" moniker for Mike Ditka, the former Bears coach. "Everybody has a way to go about it. I'm not going to change that because I'm in the last year of my deal and (people would) rather have some of that.

"For me, we're a better team right now, and I'm going to let this group dictate that."

This is going to be a fork-in-the-road year for the Sox, who had a nice spring despite the mishandled LaRoche episode, which turned into a national story. General manager Rick Hahn appears to have upgraded the lineup, albeit with several players on one-year contracts and no starting position players from the farm system.

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If the Sox disappoint again, who knows what will happen.

"Any time the organization goes through the last few years like we have, you could've just kept everything the way it was," Ventura said. "But the way Rick did it, he flips the switch. Our catchers are different. Our infield is pretty much different.

"It is (an important year) because if it doesn't work with this, where does it go? What are you going to do?"

Blow it up?

"I don't know if that's the answer or not," he said. "There's a pretty good mixture of young guys and older guys and in-between and on the way out. So it's a good little collection of everything."

Ventura said he liked the "vibe" in camp, which is easy to say in spring training when everyone's in a good mood and the team hasn't lost a game yet.

When it was suggested he's in charge of a bunch of mercenaries, Ventura didn't disagree.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura discusses the importance of starting the season strong.

"A little bit," he said. "They're here to help themselves and help us at the same time. First and foremost they're here to play, and they understand how to play to win, so it's not quite as selfish as (being mercenaries) just here for their own sake.

"There are a lot of people in the league who are like that, but these guys have really hit it off. It's about the group instead of 'I'm here to do my own thing and try to get myself a contract for next year.'"

Of course, Ventura would appear to need a contract for next year as well, and it would be difficult for management to grant him an extension if the Sox aren't at least contenders. Whether his seat is hot or not, Ventura probably will have to deal with that fact during the course of the season.

Only one word is necessary to describe the way Ventura undoubtedly feels about that.

Whatever.

Twitter @PWSullivan

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