Robin Ventura As Mets Manager: Grand Slam Or Single?
With the Mets moving on from Terry Collins, the Mets will begin their managerial search, and according to reports, the Mets will consider Robin Ventura. Certainly, there is a reason why Mets fans would be pleased with the decision:
Ventura was a fan favorite, who was part of the greatest defensive infield of all time. There is a certain level of buzz and excitement his hiring would create with fans. However, that is not the sole basis to hire a manager. Thankfully, we know the current front office will not be swayed as such. Otherwise, Wally Backman would have been hired as the manager in 2010.
Therefore, we know the Mets will only hire Ventura only if he’s the right manager for the job. The question is whether hiring him would be a grand slam or a single.
On the one hand, Ventura once finished third in the 2012 American League Manager of the Year voting. That season, Ventura’s White Sox surprised many with an 85-77 record. One of the reasons why that team was so successful was because Ventura effectively managed Chris Sale‘s first season as a starter. Sale wasn’t his only young pitcher. He also managed Jose Quintana and old friend Addison Reed in their rookie seasons.
While those pitchers may not have reached their full potential immediately, they had a solid foundation from Ventura’s years as their manager. Now, much credit there goes to Pitching Coach Don Cooper, Ventura was still the manager, and he deserves a portion of the credit.
One of the reasons why he deserves credit is because Ventura actually rated well in bullpen management using the stat Bullpen Management Above Random (BMAR). Without getting into the nitty-gritty, the stat “assess[es] how closely each manager lined up his best relievers with his team’s highest-leverage relief opportunities.” (Grantland). Among active managers, Ventura would rank fifth in voting.
Certainly, the Mets could use a manager who works well with pitchers and handles a pitching staff well. That goes double when you consider the Mets will have to handle all the injured pitchers coming back next year and the development of Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith.
The rest of Ventura’s stint as White Sox manager was a bit of a mixed bag. While he effectively managed they young pitchers, Adam Eaton, and Jose Abreu when he came to the United States, he never quite developed either Alexei Ramirez or Gordon Beckham.
After that surprising first season as the White Sox manager, Ventura’s teams failed to contend, or for that matter, finish over .500. What was troubling there was the White Sox heavily invested in their 2015 and 2016 teams. Whether it was Ventura or the mix of players brought to the White Sox remains to be seen.
That 2016 season was a difficult one for the White Sox. Kenny Williams had instructed Adam LaRoche he couldn’t bring his son to the clubhouse as frequently leaving the player to retire leaving behind angry players. This was just the first incident. While he didn’t lose the clubhouse then, he might have later in the season.
Later, Sale would infamously cut up all of the throwback jerseys because they were uncomfortable. Upon learning of Sale’s actions, Ventura would scratch him, and the team would suspend him. This led to a Sale tirade with him attacking Ventura saying, “”Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department. If the players don’t feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix — it was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that’s when I lost it.” (MLB.com).
Overall, when looking at Ventura’s tenure as the White Sox manager, it’s a mixed bag. He’s been able to develop some players while not getting through to others. He’s largely kept control of his clubhouse, but in the end, he eventually lost his star player. Of course, this happens to even the best managers, and it’s easy to over-analyze the final days of his White Sox tenure.
The one thing we do know is Ventura always handled himself well with the media throughout these issues. It is not too dissimilar for how well he handled himself as a player while with the Mets and the Yankees. Considering he played with the Mets in difficult times (9/11, decline as a player, team under-performing), it is easy to believe he could handle the press well as a Mets manager.
Taking everything into consideration, Ventura merits consideration and an interview for the Mets managerial opening. If the Mets wind up hiring him, they will have a manager whose strengths might just coincide with what the team needs. If he’s better for his experience with the White Sox all together. In the end, Ventura would be a fine choice as manager.