There has been a lot of buzz on social media and the White Sox blogosphere about whether or not Robin Ventura should be fired. It has certainly been discussed here. This week the Chicago Sun Times suggested that the White Sox not only fire Robin Ventura, but that they should replace him with Ozzie Guillen. NBC's Craig Calcaterra wrote his thoughts on the subject yesterday, although he primarily focused on the style of the article, and only briefly touched on the actual question of whether Ozzie should come back. Although Craig concludes that bringing Ozzie back would be a good idea, I have to disagree.
First things first - I was once a huge Ozzie Guillen fan, and I am still a fan of the first ~80% of his tenure with the White Sox. On the whole he was obviously energetic and entertaining, but more than that he really seemed to know when to pull his starters, which relievers to bring in and when, and he wasn't scared to let rookies play ahead of veterans. Bobby Jenks was picked up mid-season in 2005 and Ozzie went on merit and used him as a rookie closer even into the World Series. That was awesome. It's true that there weren't a whole lot of wrong levers to pull with that pitching staff - I mean, none of their relievers had an ERA over 4.00 and their starters were all durable and effective - but right is right.
Guillen also did a good job functioning as a lightning rod - drawing all the negative media attention away from his players, letting them focus on their job while he answered the questions.
All of that was great. The problem is, that isn't the whole story of his management. As the end of his tenure approached, stories abounded that he was less and less engaged, that he left the day-to-day managerial work to his coaching staff, and indeed, it turned out that he was actively campaigning for another job while still employed by the White Sox. One also got the sense that he was increasingly (and with horrid results) influencing personnel decisions.
Ozzieball or Smartball or whatever got a lot of attention with the arrival of Scott Podesednik in 2005. But frankly, the 2005 offense was only average, thriving mostly on the fact that it hit a ton of home runs. That didn't stop the team from learning the wrong lesson as more "Ozzie-style" players were brought in like Juan Pierre and Mark Kotsay, even at the expense of vastly superior options (like Jim Thome).
Obviously not everything in 2011 was Guillen's fault - but he didn't help. He insisted on continuing to run Pierre, Rios, and Dunn out there every day at the top of the lineup, justifying it by saying, "Well they make the biggest money and are veterans, therefore they hit at the top." This is precisely the type of Old Timey Conventional Wisdom that he had eschewed in his earlier managing. What's more, it was increasingly obvious that he was essentially at war with Kenny Williams.
Guillen's willingness to absolutely abandon the team that he was supposed to manage as part of a personal power struggle or feud with Williams is a hideous black mark on his career. I do not suggest that Williams was blameless in all of this, but I do know that Williams didn't force his way out of the organization mid-season.
Bringing Ozzie Guillen back would not only essentially give him a pass for some pretty egregious conduct, but it would be a horrid signal to the fanbase about the organization's approach to problem solving.
The hiring process for Ventura was awful. They created a short list of prospective candidates and in the end basically begged him to take the job - a job he didn't even want. Ventura hadn't managed a team in any capacity. Ever. His inexperience was glaring in a 2012 season where the team barely missed the playoffs, and the margin for error could absolutely be linked to a number of games that Ventura comically mismanaged, particularly down the stretch.
If Ventura is dismissed, bringing back Guillen would show that the decision making process for the organization is still hideously broken. This organization has been riddled incompetence and inefficacy at multiple levels for a long, long time now. The Latin American program was in fact a fraudulent, criminal enterprise that yielded zero players for years. The White Sox have not drafted, developed, and retained a position player of consequence since Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede. The team has made the playoffs twice in 15 years in one of the weakest divisions in the majors, despite expending quite a bit of money and effort trying to make the playoffs basically every single year of that tenure.
And we're supposed to believe that the organization sticking to its guns would be a good thing? Why should only internal personnel be considered? Isn't there a lot of evidence that new ideas are needed, ideally from the outside? We've seen successful, well-run organizations like Tampa Bay hold lengthy searches with like a dozen candidates, and by all accounts, Kevin Cash was an excellent hire. It would be nice to see the White Sox expend some sort of effort try to get the best person for the job.
If you're making a major decision in your life, you look around at all your options and try to pick the best one, weighing the pros and cons. What's more, if the last time you tried to make a decision you botched it horribly, you reassess and try to figure out what went wrong and correct it. Why shouldn't this process apply to a managerial position at a multi-multi-million dollar enterprise?
If Ozzie is the next White Sox manager the subtext would be damning. Part of it would be in keeping with the cynical appeal to emotion - "Hey! Remember this guy? He won a World Series!" a la Joe Gibbs' second tenure with the Washington NFL Franchise. It would signal that the organization still refuses to do a legitimate managerial search. And it would signal that everything is business as usual - that the organization is staying the course, even though that course has been proven to be a bad one.
For the record, I do think Ventura should be fired. I believe that given his results and his appallingly bad tactical decisions over the course of four years, the burden is now on Ventura supporters to identify specific things that he does well that justify retaining his services. I do not think the good outweighs the bad. The impact of a manager is nebulous, but it's easy to control who your manager is, and if you can do better the organization absolutely SHOULD put in an effort to do better. I'm also fine with them waiting till the end of the season to try to make the change, when they've had time to properly shop around and consider the best options (as long as Ventura doesn't slag any more arms along the way).
I'm just an outsider, and I'm forced to speculate a lot about internal goings-on based purely on inferences drawn from what is publicly visible. But there are other managerial candidates out there. People with managerial experience. And seriously - it doesn't have to be a former White Sox player.
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