Robin Ventura? I guess this means "All in" is now "Everybody out of the Pool!" The only way this works is if Ventura gets to grow as they let the kids play as KW was quoted as saying recently. Otherwise, if they get a bench coach with managerial experience to teach Ventura how to manage -- as they should -- it's going to be drama central if Ventura flounders, and they get out of the box slow. So how deep is this going to go, and how well do you think GM Ken Williams can get out from underneath the bad contracts of Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy? -- Al Bloom
I think it's generally agreed that you need strong players to win. Detroit will be a perennial contender as long as Justin Verlander and Doug Fister are healthy. If Cleveland's bullpen can at least duplicate what it did in 2011, then the Indians have a chance. And if Kansas City can add two pitchers to eat up some innings, they'll be in the mix.
Robin received a three-year contract, so there is expected to be a learning period. But I think there's enough responsibility to go around -- from KW to Robin to the coaching staff to the players -- for everyone to try to rebound from last season's malaise.
If the team struggles out of the gate again, the heat will be on the GM. The contracts harness much of their flexibility for 2012, although I do expect the Sox to be one of the most aggressive teams this winter.
Processing the game pitch-to-pitch seems to make catchers more successful as MLB managers, and since the White Sox seem to prefer hiring their own, wouldn't Sandy Alomar, Jr. instead of Ventura have been a more logical choice for manager? To illustrate my points, here's my short list of catchers who've become successful MLB managers: Gene Lamont, Bruce Bochy, Joe Torre, Bob Brenly, Mike Scioscia, Eric Wedge, Jeff Torborg, Johnny Oates, Yogi Berra and Connie Mack. This decision seems to have a Jerry Reinsdorf label on it -- do you think that Reinsdorf is setting Williams up with a mandate? Do you think that Ventura is being used by Reinsdorf, Williams or both? -- Randell Monaco
Randell, I think you left out the late Wes Westrum, who managed an offensively-challenged and underfunded San Francisco Giants team to an 80-81 record in 1975.
OK, I'm exaggerating a tad but I like what Westrum did that year. I get your point, and there are many who subscribe to the theory that catchers make good managers because everything is in front of them and they have plenty to digest. Bochy mentioned this when I called him about Mark Parent as the Sox's new bench coach.
This was KW's idea to hire Robin, but there's no doubt the chairman endorsed this after having a night to digest it. It's a major career change for Robin, but I think the chairman and KW know what's at stake for the franchise and their legacies, especially after a third consecutive season without a playoff appearance and dwindling home attendance.
Win or lose, Robin is going to be fine after his managerial reign here ends.
How's Ventura's Spanish? In today's world of baseball, it seems an important part of the skill set for any manager or coach. Can any of the new staff speak Spanish well? -- Felipe Marks; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Robin speaks baseball very well. Don Cooper can speak Spanish, and Jackson Miranda, the Sox's director of cultural development, assists Spanish-speaking players who may need some translational assistance.
This would be a bigger issue if a foreign player was making the jump from his native country to the majors without any previous experience in the United States.
I read your interesting blog on Gordon Beckham, but I don't get why you mention someone hitting in the low two hundreds, and not Tyler Kuhn, who for most of the year was hitting .360. I've been around a long time and can't think of anyone on a Sox farm team hitting that well. And to boot, he hits from the left side. What's going on? -- Ben
Simply, Ozzie Martinez was in the majors in 2010 with Florida, and his ceiling indicates he can be a No. 2 hitter in the majors. Kuhn had a terrific 2011 season, but this was his first breakout year. If he continues to develop, he could be in the mix. There's nothing wrong with healthy competition, and the Sox had a dearth of middle infield prospects until recently.
Kuhn also can play various positions, and he could benefit from his versatility. As of now, Martinez is on the 40-man roster and Kuhn isn't. So check with me around Thanksgiving to see if Kuhn is on the 40-man roster (he should be) or before Dec. 8 if he's not (prior to the Rule 5 draft).
Is it a realistic concern that none of the members of the Sox coaching staff with the exception of Cooper and Silent Harold Baines have any familiarity with the team, with the American League and to a certain extent Major League Baseball (at least in recent years)? And second, are the Sox expected to address the player development and similar organizational issues you identified? It is one thing to talk about trades; it is another thing to make sure you have the people in place to evaluate talent for trades. -- Michael W. Peregrine
I think experience and league familiarity is important, but only if the coaches can convey what they know about opposing players and tendencies to their players, who must do their homework based on scouting reports and what they see on the field.
In addition to running some of the most organized spring trainings, former bench coach Joey Cora knew the American League as well as anyone in the Sox's organization. Joey would operate spring training schedules days in advance, with players getting the proper extra work if they weren't playing on a given day. He also could adjust on the fly without any glitches. But he knew very well who had the strongest arms in the American League, whose outfield arms you could run on, etc.
The Sox are in the midst of some changes in their player development department and organizational structure. I've written that manager Robin Ventura will be more hands on. This is not a knock on his predecessor. It's just a change in philosophy, where Robin might make a trip to Instructional League (if the Sox aren't in the playoffs). Manny Acta went to watch Cleveland's prospects in the Instructional League this fall, and I've seen managers such as Dusty Baker at Arizona Fall League games.
I've been on record as saying I'm a big fan of the Arizona Fall League. Without the AFL, Sergio Santos doesn't have a chance to develop as a pitcher, and other teams would have drafted him in the Rule 5 draft had the Sox not protected him in November of 2009.
I hope everyone enjoys watching the World Series.