Rick Renteria riding high after second SoxFest

It's rare that a manager gets universal raves after a 67-win season, but such is a rebuild

The days of SoxFest serving as the country’s purest form of democracy are long gone, but the current format and price tag still allows angry fans to vent. I’ve only attended one SoxFest, and that was for the infamous Q&A session where a fan asked Robin Ventura whether he had a pulse. Ventura answered in the affirmative, and his subtle, immediate facial contortion suggested he could have really proved it there, but discretion was always the better part of his valor.

There were no such fans to be found at the Hilton Chicago this weekend, at least if the microphone lines awaiting Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria were any indication.

SoxFest was an out-and-out LoveFest. I don’t say that with the derision that some reporters deploy, because fans should be expected to be fans, and those in attendance probably didn’t fork over hundreds of dollars out of anger.

Based on the sights and sounds over the weekend, it’s just a fan base that has turned the page on the previous era. Millennials wore pro-Hahn shirts and asked him for approval and autographs, and Baby Boomers thanked Renteria profusely for the watchable baseball. Don Cooper probably accounted for the majority of the weekend’s Chris Sale references in one seminar alone. While I didn’t have a 100 percent attendance rate in the ballroom, I only heard Fernando Tatis Jr.’s name at the very end of the weekend.

It helps that the Sox sport an abundant cast of personable prospects that seem to like each other, which stands in stark contrast to the way previous White Sox teams played a self-loathing brand of ball.

But the weekend was a showcase for Renteria more than any one figure.

Sorry, Snapchatting Nicky Delmonico.

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ahn topped Renteria in terms of fan worship, but we’re used to hearing his brand of messaging — relaxed yet disciplined, the combination of which yields self-deprecating jokes about his own cliches.

Renteria has fewer opportunities for this kind of direct connection, physically or philosophically, and explored the studio space. He gladly smiled for selfies outside of photo lines, and he expounded on his approach in great detail.

A few examples:

*On today’s podcast, you can listen to Renteria tell the story of Jose Abreu’s sudden defensive improvement at first. I can transcribe it, but you’ll get a better sense of how he conveys his pride in a player’s progress by listening.

*Renteria acknowledged the tension between avoiding the Times Through the Order Penalty and not burning out the bullpen, and the chances he’ll have to take with a starter for a shot of sparing a reliever. He also went into detail about an “outs, not innings” mindset for relievers in an attempt to demystify the eighth or ninth innings, and how Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante and Danny Farquhar were able to overcome early stumbles in high-leverage situations by getting multiple chances.

*Going back to the podcast, you can also get Renteria’s reaction to a fan asking him to defend the number of times the White Sox bunted. It turns out he couldn’t really defend the number either:

“Actually there were a couple of opportunities there where, to be honest, we didn’t put the bunt on. And our players thought they would be helping the club by executing the particular play there where to be honest we didn’t put the bunt on. And our players thought that they would be helping the club by executing that particular play. I don’t want to throw my players under the bus. Believe me, there were times when they came in after trying to bunt, I went, “OK, I really wanted you to try to swing the bat there, because I think you might be able to pop one.”

Renteria didn’t pin it all on his players, and he’d run afoul of the vigilant sabermetricians while elaborating. He said he wanted all of his players to know how to bunt, and he described himself as an old-school guy. But he also described himself as a consumer of information, cognizant of crooked numbers and the value of outs.

It’s complicated and imperfect, and that’s the case for just about every manager. Renteria acknowledged and seemed to welcome second-guessing and reevaluating, calling such discussions a big part of baseball.

Will his strategies shift? Alternatively, will he be openminded and openhearted in the face of mounting criticism? That remains to be seen, and that probably won’t be tested until another year. Over the span of 2018, he’ll still be judged foremost for his energy and positivity. Neither seem to be in doubt.

Regarding the former, Renteria said one of his goals was to show up later. He said he planned to be at the park at 11, which Hahn said was a revision from his initial vow to show up at noon. Zack Collins described Renteria as a guy who sounded like he’d been up for 10 hours by 7 a.m.

The White Sox’ big leaguers lauded him for his open lines of communication. White Sox prospects appreciated the way he treated them like big leaguers. Ozzie Guillen used to say he had no use for prospect updates, as it was his job to focus on the 25 men in his clubhouse. That idea has merit some years, but not now. Here, Hahn said Renteria already had 2020 lineups on his office whiteboard, which is the lead item for the “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” portion of next season’s yearbook.

One year in, relatability is a big part of Renteria’s appeal, and not just because he may geek out over similar things. Fans can actually connect what people say about him with what they can see and hear themselves.  That doesn’t sound like much, but Ventura was inscrutable even in his best days, and fans couldn’t detect the difference he made around the time his team stopped taking infield before games.

Lest it sound that I’m revisiting Ventura’s excruciating decline, I’m more interested in what it says about Renteria. The maxim is that the new manager is brought in to be the opposite of the last guy, and I keep finding new ways that’s true. Perhaps that highlights the unfathomable depths the previous situation sank to, but it’s probably best to follow SoxFest’s lead and turn the page. In due time, Renteria will be judged on his own merit, with the spotlight bringing his flaws into starker relief. Until then, keep enjoying the honeymoon. It’s bad form to complain that it lasted too long.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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I’m good with the honeymoon continuing a while. Bunting aside, I think Renteria is doing a great job at the job that needs to be done. I am also optimistic that he will continue to do a great job as that job evolves over the next few years. I’m hopeful, at least at this point, that Ricky’s Boys will be Ricky’s Men as they settle into regular contention and more Ricky’s Boys come down the pike.

karkovice squad

Former Sox news: Matt Albers is a Brewers.

And Cleveland announced they’ll stop using the Chief Wahoo logo in 2019.


Excellent on both counts. It’s long past time for the Chief to go away. And just think how well Albers’ stomping and shouting will carry with the roof closed.

Josh Nelson

Cleveland should change their name to the Spiders.

Ted Mulvey

That’d be really neat. I’m with you, it’s a really cool name and a nice nod to the past.

Realistically, what are the chances that it would actually happen at some point? Have any of the major four leagues had a team change their name in recent years? I know a couple of NBA teams changed names, but that was after their franchises relocated. Same with the NFL Titans/Oilers in the 90s. Seems like an organization might be reluctant to change its name entirely.


Ziggy (Stardust) and the Cleveland Spiders from (Bruno) Mars.

So many possibilities.

Josh Nelson

Chances are probably slim but this would give Cleveland an opportunity to lead a change throughout US professional sports organizations. Add Atlanta to the list of teams needed to make a name change. The Braves AAA team in Gwinnett did: http://www.ajc.com/sports/gwinnett-braves-reveal-new-team-name-jerseys/CFXjhZvysZWiCvxB4ZV27N/


The Colt .45’s became the Astros. The Phillies toyed with becoming the Blue Jays in the ’40’s. The Boston Braves became the Bees before reverting back. The Reds became the Red Legs for political reasons in the ’50’s. There’s certainly precedent in living memory. The Bullets became the Wizards in the NBA.

lil jimmy

Boston Bees

Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em. Give me five bees for a quarter, you’d say.


re- GrinnelSteve

It’s great that you came up with all those examples, because when I read tedsox31’s question earlier, my reaction was, “pfft, no one’s done it. Never. Not once.” I’m glad I held my peace.

Trooper Galactus

Eh, you could have said it and I don’t think it would have been held much against you, Topaz.  Post expansion is a totally different beast, and such a thing would be pretty much unprecedented within the last half century of professional sports.  Also consider it only is harder to do now after decades of fans becoming attached to the name and memories associated with it.  If the Indians actually went through with a name change, I’m pretty sure a lot of people would be upset, but I think it would set a very good precedent moving forward.


Can the Indians “go back” to a name that they never had?

And why would you want to name your team after a team that set the record for worst single season record in major league history?

karkovice squad

why would you want to name your team after a team that set the record for worst single season record in major league history?

soft bigotry Easy gratification of low expectations.

Trooper Galactus

I doubt there’s many fans who would remember those lowly Cleveland Spiders teams of yore.  One could easily ask why they named themselves The Indians and adopted a ridiculous racist caricature of a mascot in the first place.

Reindeer Games

I’ll take it, but this sucks.  They’re gonna get to have a big long retirement tour and sell a shit ton of gear with it on it and it should have gone 20 years ago.


Where else can you get an education like this other than Sox Machine?  Thank you for that tid-bit lil jimmy.

lil jimmy

De nada.

In truth , I like the Spiders.

A story I shared before. My Grandma was all German. Descended from Hessians who came here to fight the Seminoles for Andrew Jackson.

My grandfather came here to Great Lakes during the great war from Oklahoma. A quarter indian. As it turns out Creek Indian. My GM refused to believe it.

As it turns out, the Seminoles are Creek.


Can the Indians “go back” to a name that they never had?

And why would you want to name your team after a team that set the record for worst single season record in major league history?

Trooper Galactus

Old friend alert: Nestor Molina signed a minor-league deal with the Cardinals.


To Err is Herrmann

In general, I think it’s always best to look to baseball history for names, uniforms, stadium architecture, etc. However, from a marketing perspective, I wonder if the significant percentage of people with arachnophobia nixes the name Spiders? Perhaps some other historical name such as the Cleveland Grover Alexanders?

Trooper Galactus

Give Lebron James an ownership stake and call them the Cleveland Kings.  Simple.


I’d prefer Broncos


The Cleveland Rocks. Ian Hunter gets royalties. Win-win.


Carlos Rodon kind of became the Rock after a run of Rocky Maivia. He used to be pretty boring and dry. Now all of a sudden he was getting millions and millions of fans to chant his name while giving the peoples eyebrow. Was a real coming out party for him.