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March 2012 Archives

Robin Ventura's Quiet Storm

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Is quieter better?

You couldn't read a story about new White Sox skipper Robin Ventura earlier this spring without reading about how quiet he is, or what others think of how quiet he is and whether or not this quality (or lack thereof) means good things for the Sox.

I mean, the guy is literally, seriously quiet.

I used to reach for the remote when Ozzie Guillen was speaking on TV, just in the hope that increasing the volume might allow me to catch every third or fourth word and translate it into something that made sense.

This season, I'll be reaching for the remote when Ventura's on just in the hope of actually hearing his voice.

In interviews so far, Ventura has not really come off as quiet in the non-literal sense. He is actually pretty direct, in an unemotional way.

In some ways, he seems a lot like Cubs manager Dale Sveum, in that he is not particularly interesting to listen to, or particularly insightful on the surface, but has a depth of character that translates into something generally likeable and believable - like if you were stuck in an elevator with him, and panicking because you're a tad claustrophobic, and he said very quietly and slowly, "Chill out, man," you would instantly feel better and would not at all feel like he was being critical of you.

Does that all translate to winning baseball? I don't know. I am concerned about whose voices will fill the void for the Sox if the manager plays it low-key all season. I cringe at the thought that Jake Peavy will be the team's spokesman, but I fear that's already happening. It would be nice to see Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski step up a bit more and seek the spotlight.

The Sox have not had a good spring thus far. It has been marked by terrible starting pitching - at least until Peavy threw half a no-hitter. I'm glad Peavy did better than his earlier outings, but his general lack of velocity and lack of concern about that bother me almost as much as John Danks' wildness, which harkens back to his first-half 2011 troubles.

What I do like is Adam Dunn's Spring of Redemption, which hopefully will be extended into summer. Dunn has been hitting, and when he hasn't been hitting, he's been walking, and if Konerko is up next, either one will do. Dunn's only problem right now is nagging day-to-day injuries.

The thing about the Sox is that even though we were all underwhelmed by the choice of Ventura as manager, and have all calibrated our expectations for 2012 to disappointment and boredom, given last year's results, when you start comparing likely Opening Day rosters, the Sox have more obvious talent from one position to the next than the Cubs do. The clearest exception is shortstop, but really just barely.

Can the low-talking Ventura turn the Sox into winners?

Even modest comebacks by Dunn and Alex Rios would make him look like a genius. The Sox are counting big on a more laid-back atmosphere and a more low-key manager being the key to helping players find their own energy and motivation.

I'm starting to think it's possible.


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