Rick Renteria’s White Sox achieve the first task at hand

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (79) celebrates a win with Tim Anderson (7) after the MLB baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox on September 17, 2020 at Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago, IL. (Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire)

After Alex Colomé induced a routine flyout from Willans Astudillo to close out the 4-3 White Sox winner over Minnesota on Thursday afternoon, you wouldn’t have known the White Sox achieved anything in particular from the reactions of those in uniform. Luis Robert did not raise his arms to the sky after the ball landed in his glove. Colomé did not jump into the arms of Yasmani Grandal. The celebration line looked more or less the same, with maybe a little more vigor in the high-fives and elbow bumps.

The conditions of the 2020 season are part of it. There were no fans in the stands to tip caps toward. Team personnel can’t gather in the dugouts or clubhouse like the normally would, and so reporters aren’t telling what parts of them are now beer-stained after making the postgame rounds.

There’s also the matter of how much a postseason berth means in this cursed year, when more than half of the teams will make the postseason in order to salvage a few more games from a league that lost more than 100 of them from the regular-season schedule.

I’ll start: I think it means a lot. At least it means a lot based on the way they did it.

The White Sox didn’t back into a generous postseason. They weren’t gifted a spot despite having an incomplete team of two starters and five hitters, just because enough American League clubs were either in the throes of rebuilding or in great disarray otherwise. They have 3½ starters, thank you very much, and when their lineup looks short on major-league bats, it’s either because credible young players are learning on the job, or because the White Sox don’t want to completely abandon an offseason investment.

No, they were the first American League team to clinch. They reached their 33rd win in 50 games by beating their direct rival in three of four, and they conducted themselves like the first-place team, with the Twins often looking barely hinged.

If this postseason berth feels like a knockoff, it’s not because of anything the White Sox did. It’s not their fault that 50 games are enough to clinch a spot, and they didn’t draw up a schedule where 40 percent of those games are against the Royals and Tigers. They might have played as though they drew up the divisions, because going 18-2 versus Detroit and Kansas City is ridiculous, but nothing stopped Minnesota and Cleveland from pursuing the same strategy. The Indians never apologized for riding a 17-2 record against the White Sox into a 92-win wild card season in 2013. Some of them want to use you, some of them want to be used by you.

Getting hot became the key to the season ever since the 60-game schedule was released. The Sox crossed that item off the list by going 23-6 over their last 29 games. Only three of the nine series involved might’ve been against winning teams, but the White Sox took two of those three series, and 6 of 10 games. They’re not required to do more, and they couldn’t schedule more games even if they wanted to.

(And they probably don’t want to. The White Sox had similar hot streaks in previous seasons — 25-5 in 2010, 23-10 in 2016 — that went nowhere, so I appreciate that there isn’t another 29 games around the corner to balance it out.)

It makes sense to keep the initial response at least somewhat muted, because there’s more the White Sox can accomplish over the next 10 games. There’s still the matter of home field advantage, such that it is. And it’d sure be nice to win the Central, even if they shouldn’t sell out for the division at the expense of their postseason roster alignment. The checks don’t quite cash the same this year, but winning remains winning. They can leave the contextualizing to us.

* * * * * * * * *

For the time being, I’m enjoying the brief glimpses of the White Sox allowing themselves a little bit of greater recognition, most of which can be seen through Eloy Jiménez. He thumped his chest in triumph after his go-ahead double off Sergio Romo with an uncharacteristic burst of intensity before reverting to his typical catalog of less-impressed signals to the dugout

José Abreu wasn’t made available for the postgame Zoom call, but Jiménez relayed what he’d heard from the cornerstone of the White Sox lineup:

Jiménez also covered Rick Renteria in his postgame comments to Jason Benetti and Steve Stone.

But because Renteria is always available on Zoom calls pregame and postgame, he didn’t need Jiménez to speak for him. That was just a bonus.

I’ve generally been in Renteria’s corner during his time with the White Sox, because given how strangely they handled their last two managerial crises, I’m not convinced they could do better. Renteria’s done the work to earn a chance to guide a talented roster, and while he’s not a standout tactician, I don’t see any flaws unique to him.

When the Sox were rebuilding, I saw gaps that every rebuilding manager confronts — how hard to press for runs and wins for a team that isn’t talented enough to get them on a regular basis. He leaned too heavily on the bunt, and he overpoliced hustle, which are two of the hallmarks of a manager who usually gets fired a year before the team turns the corner. That dismissal never materialized, and not just because the White Sox refuse to fire a manager until it’s two years too late. Renteria managed to make it through three intentionally losing seasons without doghousing a player, and so you never heard about factions of the clubhouse tuning him out. They made a point to back him with words and actions instead. Members of his coaching staff were swapped out with no tears or threats to leave.

When Rick Hahn finally produced a lineup that could generate enough scoring chances to not sweat an individual missed opportunity, Renteria stopped bunting. When the clubhouse was secure with stable, credible presences, Renteria stopped benching. That reduced the list of complaints down to lineup cards and individual bullpen decisions, which means he achieved the status of “any other manager.”

Remember when the Yankees fired Joe Girardi, and vague rumors offered the possibility of the White Sox being interested in upgrading their managerial situation? On the same day the Sox clinched their postseason berth, here’s a passage from a story about Girardi’s Phillies:

Like Girardi said, it stinks.

And the thing that stinks most of all is the bullpen. It has given up leads all season long and did so again the last two nights.

Before the trade deadline, the Phillies’ bullpen had an ERA of 7.01.

Since the trade deadline, it’s 7.19.

The Phillies will open a series with Toronto on Friday with the majors’ worst bullpen ERA — 7.17.

The White Sox bullpen was supposed to be in similar trouble after the injuries to Aaron Bummer and Jace Fry, but Fry returned before any reckoning arrived, and Bummer might beat it, too. The core of Renteria’s bullpen is a well-paid closer, a non-roster invitee, two rookies and a waiver claim, all of whom are right-handed, and it’s good enough for the fourth-best ERA in the American League.

Philadelphia’s bullpen problems likely have little to do with Girardi’s abilities as a manager, just like the Angels aren’t 21-30 because of Joe Maddon, but considering White Sox fans wanted either helming their team right now, they’re instructive in figuring out how to regard Renteria at this point.

Renteria looks good now, but he was fine before the season, especially if you trusted him when he said he saw no reason to call bunts with this lineup. A manager basically has to enforce a certain level of standards, tolerate the inconsistency of young talent, avoid putting players in a position to fail when better options are available, protect the well being of those he’s in charge of, and realize when he’s making the same mistakes over and over again. The rest is up to the players and those who raised them or acquired them. Renteria had worked himself into the position of a respectable leader, and now he’s got the roster for it to matter.

Renteria isn’t the type to say “I told you so,” and I would advise against it even if he were. Reaching the postseason over 162 games still remains unchecked on his list, and that’s an entirely different test. Also, his first exposure to October means his decisions will be scrutinized to the most unpleasant degree.

Besides, I’m assuming Renteria will go largely unappreciated as long as he lacks a ring and Ozzie Guillen is hanging around the broadcast, so his validation will come from within. Nevertheless, he’s doing all he can at this point in this weird season, and for those with open minds, the way he wants people thinking about his team could also be applied to himself:

“Being able to do it might be more for everybody around and watching,” said manager Rick Renteria. “To give themselves a chance to say, ‘Maybe this club’s OK. Maybe the White Sox are all right.’”

(Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire)

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Some days I think your writing outshines even your thinking, other days vice versa. I can live with it. Thank you.


Excellent writeup, Jim. As someone who’s been happy to drag Renteria over lineups, bullpen, and lack of defensive subs this season, the second half of this kind of made me pull my head out of my ass a little and consider what he does more holistically. His (ultimately very winning) choice to play Jarrod Dyson over Engel yesterday finally shut up my Monday morning quarterbacking, to mix sports metaphors.

A third of my life has elapsed since the Sox appeared in the playoffs. I enjoyed that time: being able to sit anywhere on a $7 ticket, always getting the free t-shirt, ample tailgating space. I feel like those times are in the rear view mirror for a while now and part of me is sad to see them go. But finding consistent enjoyment in this club because of the on-field product has been a hell of a lot better. Cheers and thanks to the losing years. Cheers to what’s ahead.

As Cirensica

That video still celebration with McCann and one of McCann’s kids cutout in the background is priceless.

I have been hard on Renteria. I am not convinced he is a great manager, but he is far from the disaster Ventura was. He has been using the bullpen very well, specially not afraid of the 4 outs saves. I think he is also managing well when to take the ball off a starter, something Ventura was a bad at leaving the starters (and sometimes relievers) 2 or 3 batters too many. Right now, the only criticism I have is when he leaves Mazara in the outfield in the late innings when better options are at hand. It is not like we will miss Mazara’s bat if the opposing teams ties a game in the late innings.


The Indians never apologized for riding a 17-2 record against the White Sox into a 92-win wild card season in 2013. Some of them want to use you, some of them want to be used by you.

Sweet dreams are, in fact, made of this.

Great summing up of how we got here, Jim, and your assessment of Rick Renteria inspires a question: What did we learn about how Renteria will manage postseason games from watching this Twins series?

karkovice squad

Hopefully he’ll continue defying conventional wisdom to get both Grandal and McCann into the lineup at the same time if E5 still looks toast by the time the postseason arrives.

Joliet Orange Sox

Who am I to disagree?


Well, everybody’s looking for something.

karkovice squad

They can leave the contextualizing to us.

And even though there are legit concerns about how this team stacks up against the best of the AL West and East or the NL, we can leave some of the contextualizing for later.

For now, Ricky deserves kudos for delivering on the most important part of the job: getting the team motivated and prepared to compete. There are way more days they look competitive than flat. The standings speak for themselves about how much more that’s mattered than optimal strategy or tactics. If they clinch the division as well, even better.


I agree with you: Ricky deserves some credit.The x’s and o’s mistakes are always going to stick out to fans, but I suspect creating a good clubhouse environment has more of an impact on games than most fans realize.

karkovice squad

I think some of that comes down to the alluded to context –Xs and 0s probably would’ve loomed much larger if this wasn’t pandemic baseball, they didn’t play the Central schedule, the Twins’ injury ward hadn’t filled up with more important players than the Sox’, and Clevinger hadn’t been shipped out of the division. Turns out they breezed past the point where marginal decisions really mattered.

The Sox absolutely took advantage of a lot of others’ misfortune. They deserve some credit for being in position to do that. Where I’d be cautious is in drawing conclusions about what that says about the postseason or next season.


Oh boy.

Rick Hahn says Garrett Crochet has been called up

— James Fegan (@JRFegan) September 18, 2020

..and, in not good news, Evan Marshall to the 10-day IL with shoulder inflammation.

As Cirensica



With this, the return of Dallas and possible returns of Bummer and Rodon is going to keep Hahn mighty busy

Eagle Bones

Upvote for Crochet promotion as that will be fun to watch. Bummer about Marshall, hopefully this is just to give him a breather.


That’s a bummer about Marshall. Shoulder inflammation doesn’t sound great… but, yes, hopefully he’ll be back soon. If Bummer is back to his old ways, he’ll hopefully make Marshall less necessary. I’m excited to see Crochet!


And this has been accomplished without arguably the #1 starting pitching prospect in Kopech, and last year’s top offensive producer at half strength in Moncada. Bodes well for next year if these guys can contribute at projected levels.