White Sox Hire….Robin Ventura?!?

All Star Game, Books, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, Media, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires

Baseball’s James Bond Villain, White Sox GM Kenny Williams, has seen his evil schemes in recent years turn out…well, like those of an actual James Bond villain, meaning that they didn’t work; in fact, they were overwrought (taking Alexis Rios‘s contract from the Blue Jays); expensive and miserable (Adam Dunn); and undermined by a treacherous second in command (Ozzie Guillen).

Now he’s done something for which “outside-the-box” doesn’t even fit by hiring Robin Ventura as the new White Sox manager.

In theory and as a person, Ventura would be a fine managerial candidate; but he’s never managed anywhere and only joined the White Sox as special assistant to director of player development Buddy Bell last June. The understated, thoughtful and happy-go-lucky Ventura is the opposite of the manic and combative former manager Guillen. The media at large will be pleased in the sense that they won’t require a translator or repeated re-typing of their stories to counteract spell-check trying to manufacture Guillen’s quotes into something intelligible. (Yes. That’s what he really said! It’s supposed to be: “I didn’t know nothin when I brung Floyd off ‘da game.”)

Ventura’s never managed at any level, but we see managers all over the place with loads of experience who do endlessly ridiculous things, so what’s the difference? He’ll handle the media, be respected in the clubhouse and if he gets a veteran bench coach who preferably has managerial experience, it could work.

There are things to be concerned about. He’s never done it, so he might not like it; and the strategic issues cannot be ignored. But the White Sox are decisive in their maneuverings and they decided that the former White Sox star player Ventura was the guy.

Why not? Give it a shot and see. If it doesn’t go well, they’ll get someone else.

On another note, former Mets GM and connoisseur of interns and underlings for sexual thrills Steve Phillips, said that he doesn’t feel as if Tampa Bay Rays bench coach and suggested candidate for several managerial jobs including that of the White Sox, Dave Martinez has the “presence” to be a big league manager.

I’m not sure how Phillips would know this, but it’s a bit irresponsible for the man who hired Art Howe—not exactly Mr. Personality—to run the Mets in replacing the larger-than-life and ego as big as Neptune Bobby Valentine to be publicly denigrating someone he doesn’t even know.

But with Phillips there’s always an agenda and presumably there’s one at work here.

He hired Howe because the club’s first choice, Lou Piniella, was going to cost compensation in terms of players and, more importantly, would’ve usurped Phillips’s power. Howe wasn’t going to do that.

The funniest bit about that whole episode was Valentine’s reaction when told he was fired by the Mets; referring to Phillips he said, “And he stays?!?” in disbelief.

Yes. He stayed. Until May the next year when Phillips was fired too.

Maybe it was his presence that was the problem. The Mets didn’t want it around anymore and they made it disappear early the next season.

Valentine must’ve been amused.

//

Ryne Sandberg, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano And The Cubs GM Search

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Trade Rumors

The Cubs are looking for a new general manager and will presumably be looking for a new manager as well. It would best serve Tom Ricketts and his ownership to hire the new GM and let him select his own manager rather than bow to pockets of public pressure to bring Ryne Sandberg back to the organization. It’s been written that Sandberg would be willing to come back now that Hendry is gone.

Would Sandberg have done much better with this Cubs group than the man Hendry selected, Mike Quade? Maybe he’d have had the cachet as a Hall of Fame player to reach Carlos Zambrano, but apart from that the team is what it is and wasn’t going to be much better than this.

I completely understand what Hendry was thinking in both the realistic and Machiavellian senses when he decided against Sandberg. As I’ve said repeatedly when the “perfect” or popular choice is passed over for one reason or another, the manager can’t be seen as more powerful than the GM. Steve Phillips and Brian Cashman of the Mets and Yankees respectively shunned the focus group choice for new manager—Lou Piniella—and it wasn’t a pure baseball decision. No GM in his right mind if going to willingly hire a manager he can’t fire; a manager who won’t listen to his titular “boss” because he doesn’t have to listen to him. Piniella was quite effective at leveraging his popularity with fans and the media to force his will on the organization. With the Cubs, it worked briefly, but that success petered out and left the club with onerous contracts like that of Alfonso Soriano.

So why would Hendry, whose job was clearly and accurately on the line, hire Sandberg and marginalize himself? He didn’t and lost his job anyway, but the same thing probably would’ve happened had he hired Sandberg, so at least he went down with the manager he preferred rather than what would’ve been palatable to Cubs’ fans.

As for the team itself, despite the perception of disarray, they’re in good shape to get better quickly regardless of the new GM.

Starter Ryan Dempster is noncommittal about his 2012 player option with the club, but the Cubs should absolutely be hoping that Dempster returns. For $14 million, you’re getting 200 innings and consistency; if his services were to be purchased on the open market, he’d receive 3-4 years and around $16 million per season—ore more. It helps that he doesn’t sound as if he wants to leave the Cubs, but the question becomes whether he’d like to use his player option as a hammer to extract an extension from the new GM. If he does, I’d consider it…within reason.

The 2012 projected starting rotation for the Cubs is already in good shape with Dempster, Matt Garza, Casey Coleman and….Carlos Zambrano.

As the smoke has cleared from Zambrano’s latest explosion in which he “retired” then “unretired” and was suspended without pay for 30 days, cooler heads have to prevail.

Everyone—myself included—said that Zambrano had to be released because no one was going to take his contract and baggage. But throwing $18 million into the trash is not the way to do business; short of releasing him, what are the Cubs going to do with Zambrano? Depending on who’s hired as the GM, there’s always a chance that the new manager and pitching coach will be able to get sledgehammer Zambrano’s thick head to get something of use from him in the final year of his contract. This suggestion will and should generate eye-rolls and sighs of resignation, but unless the Cubs take a Barry Zito-type contract, they’re paying Zambrano; if they’re going to do that, they might as well try to rehabilitate him and release him if he acts up again.

Either way, it should be up to the new GM.

Aramis Ramirez‘s club option is a no-brainer and should be picked up.

The only things the Cubs can do is look at their current situation and accept that this is what they have for now and they have to make the best of it. Soriano’s going nowhere, but with Dempster and Ramirez both coming back and a tweak here and there with the fresh air of a new baseball regime, they could jump back into contention by next season.

All of this implies continue bad news for Sandberg in his quest to be Cubs manager: if the GM is from outside the organization and is going to be allowed to do what he wants, he’s not hiring a legend in the city to manage the team either because of the aforementioned power issue; so Sandberg have to continue his huff with the Phillies Triple A team and wait. Again.

//

Billy Beane Returns To The Moneyball Basics…

All Star Game, Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Trade Rumors

Just in time for the movie too.

Except he’s doing it without the winning and “genius”.

I guess it’s not as easy when the rest of the baseball has caught up with a junk bond trader masquerading as a venture capitalist; a lounge lizard clad in polyester rather than a high-rolling card-counter in the casino; when there’s no Steve Phillips to hoodwink; no scouts to bully; no fawning writers to treat every word as if it’s gospel; no unsophisticated bumpkin without statistical advisers telling him when Beane’s trying to run a scam.

Billy Beane made one trade for the Athletics before the deadline despite having a number of movable parts on a team that is going nowhere literally and figuratively.

That’s aside from, perhaps, a September field trip to the movies to see either Moneyball or The Smurfs—both are about as realistic as the other—and break the monotony of a 75-87 season.

The one trade Beane made and another he tried to make hearkened back to yesteryear when he was still putting forth the pretense of being “ahead” of everyone else.

He acquired Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto from the Diamondbacks for submarine righty Brad Ziegler.

Yay.

Allen has put up great numbers in the minors with power and on-base skills, but hasn’t gotten a legitimate chance to play in the majors. He’s an average at best defender and can run a little bit.

Norberto is a lefty who’s posted big strikeout numbers and has control problems.

This is following his attempt to peddle Rich Harden on the Red Sox for minor league first baseman Lars Anderson and a player to be named later. Naturally, Harden failed his physical and stayed with the A’s. Anderson is another slow-footed, formerly hyped prospect of a first baseman whose path is blocked for…well…forever with Adrian Gonzalez now entrenched at the position.

In short, Beane’s looking for his great white whale Jeremy Brown. Considering the attributes of Brown when his story was told in Moneyball, that’s a perfect metaphor as an underappreciated, overweight, one-dimensional player Beane can stick someplace and hope the ball doesn’t find him while he walks, walks, walks into everyone’s hearts and minds.

Allen might produce; he might not. Anderson could be something, somewhere. Norberto’s lefty, so he’ll always have a job.

None of this is relevant to the major point of Beane’s “genius”. He’s gone back to basics, but the basics are no longer the same. He’s counting cards, but he’s lost count and isn’t dealing with the same hand anymore.

The entire concept of that notion of “genius” was based on exposing inefficiencies in the market. That’s not creating anything; that’s not engaging in some profound “new” way of thinking; it’s a form of bottom-feeding to fill in a gap and it was a short-term boost that had to be adjusted as others caught onto the ruse.

Others smartened up and passed Beane; regardless of the continued attempts—based on an agenda—to play up his supposed brilliance, his results have been wanting and the excuses have been prevalent.

The “we have no money” lament was the genesis of Beane’s discovery of on-base percentage as an undervalued asset; you can’t use the same excuse for your success as you do for your failures—it doesn’t work that way.

You don’t hear the Rays—whose front office is truly brilliant—complaining about their lack of money until it sounds like whining. They accept and move on. And that’s what Beane should do. Possibly completely out of Oakland and onto pastures where he can be judged for what he is and not what was implied by Michael Lewis’s narrative skill and propensity to exaggerate to convenience his crafted ending.

Then maybe his staunchest defenders will see the truth.

After the movie financials are in of course.

It might happen.

But I doubt it.

//