The problem with taking on a job managing a rebuilding club is that whoever takes the job is not expected to win, but he acquires all the baggage from the losing. By the time the roster improves, a lot of people have grown tired of the face, voice and brain that steered them through the worst of it.
Rick Renteria appeared to be the rare survivor. While most rebuilding managers get the ax in the third year, Renteria finished a fourth. And not only did he complete a fourth, but he ended a couple of ugly streaks in the process. The White Sox recorded their first winning season since 2012. They made the postseason for the first time since 2008. Perhaps they benefited from the 60-game season, but they could only play the schedule presented to them.
The White Sox have stuck with worse managers for years past their sell-by date, so it shocked me that the White Sox decided to ditch Renteria just as things were starting to get good for everybody involved.
Sure, the last two-plus weeks highlighted some cracks. The ugliness of Game 3 didn’t bother me as much as the idea that he wouldn’t pursue openers, tandem pitchers or other alternate-starter strategies in games with much lower stakes. It might’ve been easy to chalk up the bullpen’s unraveling after Garrett Crochet’s injury as bad luck, rather than seat-of-the-pants panicking, if he could point to a number of successes working around the absence of a credible starter. Instead, he looked like a guy who hadn’t practiced the piece much before the recital.
More than that isolated event, I thought he and the Sox lost their composure under the stress of the pennant race and overexposure to Angel Hernandez’s umpiring crew. Things like the poor timing for Carlos Rodón’s return, the three ejections over a five-game stretch and Yolmer Sánchez’s pitching appearance all suggested a dugout that was having a hard time gathering itself.
If Renteria were in his first year of managing the team, he’d probably get a chance to try it again. A lot went right for him in 2020, and the White Sox as a result. His team beat the regular-season projections, in part because they followed pandemic protocols during unprecedented playing conditions. The highly paid veterans met expectations, and numerous young players exceeded them. One person’s “He overplayed Nomar Mazara” is another person’s “He put Adam Engel in a position to succeed for the first time in his career.”
But with three years of losing already on Renteria’s record, the loud voices were not all that charitable. Familiarity breeds contempt, even if it’s the rosters that were designed to draw your hatred.
For instance, I thought one of Renteria’s greatest evolutions as a manager was toning down his (over)policing of hustle without a drop-off in team effort levels. Somehow, that got used against him. Ken Rosenthal said “some White Sox veterans felt Renteria needed to hold players more accountable,” Along the same lines, Steve Stone told Dan Bernstein that the Sox needed “a manager that pays more attention to detail,” which is exactly how Robin Ventura was advertised during the “shadowball” days. That didn’t turn out to be lasting or meaningful.
(Stone also said the White Sox needed to “learn how to win when you’re not hitting home runs” during a postseason where the team that hits more homers is 23-1.)
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Of the things Stone told Bernstein, this is what rings truest:
The baggage creates a hazard in sticking with Renteria when there are a couple of proven candidates on the market, one of whom could end up with a direct competitor. If the White Sox took a step back in 2021 regardless of Renteria’s involvement, they’d take hits from all directions, most notably their own network’s employees, and not just Stone. During the season’s final weeks, NBC Sports Chicago basically touted their postgame show by telling fans how Ozzie Guillen was going to dump on the guy who had his old job, and also Frank Thomas on days he was available to be angry. What Hahn calls “insular” is often closer to incestuous, and while Renteria’s lack of introspection irked those listening to his self-assessments, the last thing he needed was another guy publicly kicking him.
During the media conference, Hahn said that Renteria’s managing over his final three weeks on the job didn’t determine the outcome. Hahn failed to provide other concrete reasons, which leads one to think that the three weeks are the only possible reason Renteria was no longer their guy. Perhaps Hahn is drawing a distinction between a reactive decision and a proactive decision. The White Sox didn’t fire Renteria because of his performance down the stretch. Rather, they fired him because they couldn’t tolerate another collapse like that while knowing they could have hired somebody in whom they had more confidence.
I’m guessing Hahn just doesn’t want to badmouth a guy who did well for them, but he’d have a precedent. Skip back to 2012, when expanded rosters and the pressure of a pennant race conspired to overwhelm Ventura in his first season. The White Sox stuck with Ventura to rapidly diminishing returns, while the Cleveland Indians hired Terry Francona the following winter to spectacular results.
Switching to an A.J. Hinch or an Alex Cora at this juncture doesn’t guarantee Francona-like success. Look at Philadelphia and Anaheim, neither of which made the postseason even after switching to Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon. Nobody faulted either team for being proactive in attempting to upgrade the managing position despite the standings, just like the White Sox were smart to sign Yasmani Grandal even with James McCann around.
The cautionary tale is that while Girardi and Maddon were spared from the consequences of their disappointing debuts, the guys who hired them both got the ax. The Phillies demoted Matt Klentak, and the Angels fired Billy Eppler. It’s hard to imagine Jerry Reinsdorf booting Hahn and Kenny Williams from their positions should Renteria’s successor stumble out of the gate, but if the Bulls are indeed inspiring the White Sox to find some freshness, I suppose you can’t rule out a search for an Arturas Karnisovas of their own.
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For the time being, it absolutely sucks for Renteria, who for the second time was good enough for the job until he suddenly wasn’t. He couldn’t hold off the forces that conspire against rebuilding managers, and is now part of an unfortunate pattern …
… and while the White Sox’s track record with managerial hires stands out, it would contribute to baseball’s big-picture problem of diversity in leadership if they dumped a manager who paid his dues, rose through the ranks and endured one rebuilding roster after another for a guy like Hinch, who is fresh off a suspension for his role in one of baseball’s worst scandals.
At least with Hinch, you could make the argument that he’s a pro at the top of his game. Another name Bob Nightengale attached to the White Sox offers no such angle.
The Chicago White stunned the baseball industry Monday morning when they announced the firing of manager Rick Renteria.
They could shock the world with their next hire.
The White Sox plan to reach out to one of the greatest managers in baseball history, who managed his last game in 2011, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame six years ago, and who is 76 years old.
The name: Tony La Russa.
I’m guessing this is the product of Reinsdorf’s strange compulsion to flatter friends through the only reporter he talks to (remember Nightengale strenuously arguing for reasons why the White Sox might retain Ventura when they’d already decided on the end of his tenure?), but it’s not a thread that should be pulled further.
That the White Sox fired Don Cooper at the same time as Renteria avoids making Renteria the one and only fall guy, but it’s a little unfair that the next manager will get to name his own pitching coach, which is a privilege Renteria was never afforded.
Renteria ultimately did a respectable job with what he was given, and he helped the White Sox far more than he hurt them over the last four years. He had his weaknesses, but he also deserved a shot to address those weaknesses in a standard season, because history is littered with managers who didn’t nail it the first time. Hinch is one of them. La Russa is another.
Renteria won’t get that second opportunity with the White Sox, and now we’ll get to see what he’s missing. If it’s because the White Sox see themselves as major players for the foreseeable future, then maybe everybody remaining will benefit from a manager who is on the other side of the October learning curve, as much as it sucks for the guy they bailed on. If the White Sox are upgrading their manager because they don’t intend to supplement the roster in a meaningful way due to COVID capital crunches, I wouldn’t expect the next skipper to make up the difference.
Ricky is a good man, and I feel bad for him. I’m also excited for what this suggests about the future of the Sox.
I’m guessing the slow start and subsequent call out by Keuchel was a factor in the termination as well. I wasn’t sure at the time how the organization would view that but I think we got our answer.
One other thing I haven’t seen people mention much in Ricky’s postmortem was the overuse of Jimmy Cordero. I got to imagine that helped lead to Cooper’s demise as well.
Trying to squeeze two innings out of Drew Anderson was another doozy by that crew.
I hope this all works out. Really don’t want us to hire one of the cheaters. Hinch maybe didn’t like what was going on, but silence is cowardice. Not sure how they can say Ricky didn’t hold his players accountable is a major reason for removal, and then hire a guy who didn’t hold his players or himself accountable on such a massive scale. I also think this adds pressure going into a situation that has enough. We’ll see, but hoping for the best.
Rick Hahn – 1 playoff appearance, 8 seasons
Robin Ventura – 0 playoff appearances, 5 seasons
Rick Renteria – 1 playoff appearance, 4 seasons
I don’t think he’s the best manager in the world, but dude got screwed. The wrong people have been held accountable in this organization for far too long.
Theo Epstein- 2 World Series titles …Fired Ricky as well
He didn’t get screwed here. We knew we were a fringe contender this year and the organization gave Ricky a year of that window to prove his meddle and he failed pretty badly
In 60 games:
He presided over a team that a veteran player had to call out for being flat
He overused Jimmy Cordero to the point of absurdity
He tried to squeeze two innings out of two Drew Anderson in a bullpen game …Yeah Drew Anderson
He cost us a game against Kansas City because he decided to try Cishek in a high leverage situation even though he had been awful all year. His logic for dong was “he made an arm slot change”.
He played a role in losing the division for us because he decided to use Carlos Rodón in a high leverage situation against Cleveland. The Carlos Rodón who has been a starter his whole career and was coming off the DL.
He lost composure as the team struggled down stretch and starting getting tosssed at an Ozzie Guillen level clip.
He used 7 pitchers in 4 innings in a playoff game. He managed that game like we had inferior talent to Oakland and we had to throw everything at them to survive. It was panicked managing
He also managed to use Carlos Rodón in an elimination. Game. Yes the Carlos who the Sox will most likely non tender
The Sox May screw up the hiring process but the person they hire sure as heck won’t be worse than Ricky. The worse case scenario is we get more of the same.
One other goofy thing he did…Saving Colomé at times instead of rolling him out. I forget the exact game but I recall him saying something like I was saving him for the 10th when asked about not using him after a loss.
He took a team with 2 mlb quality starting pitchers and met all reasonable preseason expectations. To say he failed is crazy to me.
Who is to say Ricky and Cooper weren’t part of the reason we only had “two mlb quality pitchers”. Maybe Hahn feels they didn’t get enough out of those pieces. Heck Ricky told us multiple times he believed in Reynaldo Lopez. He clearly met your expectations I personally think we had the talent to beat Oakland.
Seeing how Ricky managed with a division on the line and in the playoffs it is pretty easy to make the case that someone like Hinch could do the job a lot better.
You also stated yourself that you don’t think he is the best manager in the world. I don’t see how you can say the guy isn’t that great of a coach but at the same time say he got screwed when he got fired.
I don’t recall a lot of people saying Dylan Cease wasn’t an MLB quality starter before this season. His step back and Lopez’s continued deterioration are not feathers in the cap for either Ricky or Coop.
Dylan Cease couldn’t throw strikes in AAA. He couldn’t throw strikes at the mlb level last year. Not sure why he would have all of a sudden become a #3 starter in a season where nobody practiced together for 2 months.
It’s ironic because if this was a normal season, the Sox probably meet projections and end up in third place and not in the playoffs. They ran out of steam and suffered from a much tougher schedule, which was a contributing factor to the move. I don’t think anyone would have been calling for Rickys job if they went 84-78 and came in third. He truly was a victim of circumstances and was further exposed in the playoffs as someone who was still learning on the job after 3 years.
The moves today were surprising, mainly because they’re so un-Sox like. Firing a manager a year early rather than late and sun setting a long tenured employee is not the norm for a Reinsdorf run organization. I believe the moves signify a true commitment to the window of opportunity that just opened and can only hope leads to a few solid signings, both on the bench and in RF, a starter, a closer, etc.
The minority hiring angle is a good point. Until you consider Jerry Manuel and Ozzie Guillen with the White Sox, and Dave Martinez with the Nationals, and Dave Roberts with the Dodgers, and Alex Cora with the Red Sox, and Dusty Baker with the Cubs, and Reds, and Nationals, and Astros.
Is this same person complaining that Buddy Bell got stuck managing shitty teams in Detroit and Colorado? Or that Andy Green got the axe before the Padres put it together?
How do those cherries taste my friend?
the fact that Dusty Baker is apparently the only POC listed in half these peoples phone books isn’t a good thing.
I hope the Sox pick some fresh blood. I know Ozzie left with the front office’s and his reputation rightly in tatters but he gave the team so much energy in the early years and look what happened!
Serious question – Has there been a manager of color that wasn’t a former player?
Serious question – Are there any managers who weren’t former players? Un-serious question, are there any managers who weren’t former catchers?
Should of said weren’t former MLB players, which there is a list of white guys who weren’t. But yeah, MLB coaching is very insular in general.
I don’t think that the question should be, “Why aren’t there more POC managers/GMs?” The lack of POC in management positions might have something to do with the fact that most POC MLB players are imported labor/talent (Dominican/Venezuelan/Cuban, e.g.), not native-born or immigrant POC folks (I think there are stats to back this up?). It’s like how outsourcing works in the corporate world: management can get the relatively cheap talent abroad, and they never have to worry about those working under them leaping ahead to take their cushy management jobs, since they hire non-citizens to do the middle management or grunt work. This is the underlying logic of globalization within the MLB. My point isn’t to knock on players like Abreu, Leury Garcia, or Jose Quintana. Rather, it’s to show how global labor markets work. In the near future, 20-30% of manager jobs should be held by Dominican/Venezuelan/Cuban (etc) ex-players. Do you think that will happen?
It’s rare. That said, Luis Rojas of the Mets didn’t play. He does happen to be the son of one of the most accomplished managers of the past 30 years (Felipe Alou).
I’m not a huge fan of Ricky’s tactics but the players seemed to love him.
I think managers are mostly overrated and do their more important work off camera.
I’m simultaneously happy he’s gone (at least until I hear about the replacement) and feel bad for him.
Such a weird spasm of accountability for this franchise.
Ricky Renteria did the job he was asked to do. His in-game managing often drove me crazy, but he had strengths in other aspects of the job. I suppose AJ Hinch is the lead candidate. I am not convinced of his brilliance. How many tainted championships was he going to collect before he said something about the systemic trash can banging? Three? Four?
Something that does not get said about AJ Hinch’s situation in Houston. He was Middle Management. Although it went on below him, there was tacit approval from those above him. So nobody had his back. In fact, he stood alone.
Still doesn’t speak to great leadership in my mind. And Dusty has got the team with a worse staff, and presumably not cheating, to the doorstep, so it’s hard for me to buy Hinch as some great tactician.
Dusty is the guy who stood in the dugout in Wrigley, where he could not see the outfield.
That team is not good. The fact that they won 2 really short series after being mediocre all year and only being eligible for those 2 series due to a massive expansion of playoff teams should not be a point in favor of the manager.
“Shock the world”. I will assume he means the American baseball world. Because, trust me, apart from me, Olssox, MadridSox, Amar, and others I may be forgetting, nobody here gives a shit. And believe me, I’ve tried explaining it to people!
Can someone please fill me in on why Hinch and Cora are considered good candidates? I don’t have much time to follow non-White Sox news and Cora not only cheated with the Astros but also the Red Sox, no? What makes them good candidates? Is Hinch maddon-esque or TB Rays-esque in his strategy and decision making? Or maybe this could be the subject of a separate post, or P.O. Sox? Thank you.
The case for either would basically be: they are young, analytically-minded, former players who, despite their young age, have already managed very good (100+ wins) championship teams. The case against either: sign-stealing scandal. In Hinch’s case, you could add a poor performance in Arizona in 2009/2010.
I posted this on an earlier post, but I can only think of two reasons the scandal alone would keep the Sox from hiring them: either “they are cheaters and we don’t hire cheaters” (principle) or “they cheated and we’re worried they’ll do something like it again” (practice).
If the practice, there’s no cause for concern. In Houston, its clear there was a systemic problem. If the Sox FO is serious about avoiding another scandal, they could easily create an environment and culture where it won’t—or couldn’t—happen in Chicago.
If the principle, fine—but let’s be consistent. I haven’t heard resistance from Sox fans to Keuchel and suspect I won’t if the Sox pursue Springer (at least as guilty, if not more, than Hinch). I’m not necessarily opposed to black listing cheaters, but let’s be consistent, if so.
And, I should add: unlike the Astros players, Hinch actively resisted the cheating, apologized, and was punished for it.
How do we know if they’re actually good managers if they haven’t won without cheating? I think that’s a part that is getting left out of the analysis. Saying that their qualifications are 100 win seasons seems to me to be unfair to managers who don’t have 100 win seasons because they didn’t cheat.
I suppose that’s what I was trying to get at in my previous response to you; if the FO is going to evaluate them on a level playing field to other candidates, I would hope they would essentially ignore a great managerial record if all of the wins were stolen via significant cheating.
That’s quite a qualifier at the end: “if all of the wins were stolen via significant cheating.”
If all of the wins were stolen via significant cheating, then you’re absolutely right. The problem is, the antecedent is almost certainly false. According to MLB’s investigation, the Astros sign-stealing occurred in 2017 and the first part of the 2018 season. I guess we can ignore those seasons, but that seems like an overreaction since (a) we don’t know how much it occurred during those seasons, (b) it only infected hitting, and (c) it’s far from clear how effective it was when it occurred. So, for instance, if we look at the 2017 WS, the Astros gave up 3 or fewer runs in three of the games—and that’s good and, at least in part, reflects well on Hinch.
Still, I agree with you that this should be part of the calculus. Even if it’s not clear how effective it was, we can make good bets that it helped—and maybe even helped a lot. Hinch’s track record probably isn’t as good in a world in which the Astros don’t cheat. But it very likely is still really good. And, cheating or not, it includes a lot of experience managing in the postseason.
So, how do you weigh it? I don’t know and I don’t envy those who make this decision. My only point is that they shouldn’t be tossed out as candidates because of the cheating alone.
Fair. I don’t trust the MLB investigation in the slightest though. They’ve lied at every step of the way. But you’re absolutely right, figuring out how to weigh it is a job I certainly wouldn’t want.
The funny thing is wins/losses/championships do not necessarily prove whether someone is a good or bad manager, especially with small sample sizes. The underlying talent levels (and luck) play a huge factor in winning percentages and playoff success. A terrible manager with a great team can win a lot of games, and the best manager in the world with a shitty team might not have great results.
The tricky thing is that it is hard to measure managerial talent outside of wins/losses/championships, especially from a fan perspective.
Yes, I completely agree. The problem is we don’t have much else to go off of. There are always anecdotes, I suppose. The nice part about having a manager with postseason experience and a championship ring is it’s harder to blame the manager if the team doesn’t win it (not that anyone necessarily should, anyway).
In other words, if the Sox hire a new manager who has never manage, it’ll look bad if the team underperforms over the next two years or craps the bed during the playoffs each year. It’s likely not the manager’s fault, but the optics are different when you have someone that’s been there before and had success.
Recent Rings. I mean, Hahn will talk about analytics, leadership, and other variables, and you can make the case that both men supervised more modern approaches to the clubhouse, but that’s the crux of what he said was ideal in this search.
The thing I don’t like about Hinch or Cora is the sports media will not treat them as the ChiSox new manager but as the former teaching manager. Perhaps that “hat” will wear off quickly, but in the meantime it is just too much undesired distraction, but maybe that will solve ChiSox invisibility at ESPN, right?
They’re in kind of a weird position because the potential candidate pool is smaller than you would think. Let me explain:
If you fired Ricky for his in-game decision making, you want his replacement to be a sure-fire upgrade on that front. That means a guy with experience as a manager (or, at the very least, as a bench coach) and a reputation for in-game strategy. There’s probably only about a dozen guys available that fit that bill.
The other option is to do more of a manage-by-commitee similar to what the Padres are doing by supplementing a young manager with two bench coaches.
Renteria was not a good manager in my opinion, but I was pretty shocked to see the Sox let him go. The many reasons I thought he was an outdated version of a MLB manager apply just as much to the White Sox front office. Perhaps we might see some forward thinking for the first time in…ever.
But, like I’ve been saying to friends and family since the announcement, I’d be even more excited about hiring a new manager if it wasn’t Hahn and team tasked with getting it right. It’s not like Ricky gave away Tatis Jr for the right to pay a washed up Shields.