|White Sox thriving on Ventura’s team-first mentality||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on August 06, 2012
Though the Detroit Tigers were the heavy divisional title favorites before the season, the team from the South Side has put itself in a position for a return to the playoffs. And just how have they done this? By playing team baseball.
In the game today, individual players often overshadow the concept of team baseball. Each player tries to put up the best stats possible in order to earn his next lucrative contract. Of course, there are players who do the little things to support the team, but it’s become a money game.
The White Sox certainly have a few big money players in Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. In fact, Chicago ranks 11th in the bigs in payroll at just under $98 million.
Photo by Keith Allison, used under creative commons license.
However, the team brought in long-time White Sox star Robin Ventura as its manager this offseason. Ventura had no managing experience whatsoever, but he was always considered one of the good guys of the game.
After Ozzie Guillen -- notorious for being one of the bad guys -- left to manage the Miami Marlins, the entire atmosphere of the White Sox changed. Rather than having a manager who demanded the most publicity, the attention turned to the players.
Ventura has had the luxury of having a handful of veterans who are known to be good clubhouse guys, like Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and now Kevin Youkilis. They have set the tone for the younger players in how to play White Sox baseball.
The team has a nice mix of veterans and rookies, and these rookies are contributing heavily. Addison Reed has done a fine job as the team’s closer (17 saves in 20 chances). Reliever Nate Jones has pitched well in relief (3.43 ERA in 38 games) and lefty starter Jose Quintana has emerged as a reliable starter (4-1, 2.80 ERA in 12 starts).
When things click on all cylinders like they have been for Chicago, a manager’s job is easy. The fans loved Ventura when he was there, and they love him even more now as he’s revitalized the franchise.
It’s also helped that a few players who struggled last year and regaining their old form. Dunn, who hit .159 last year, is still just hitting .213, but he is leading the AL with 31 home runs and has 73 RBIs. He’s never been a high average hitter, but the White Sox have benefited from his power surge.
Rios hit only .227 with 44 RBIs last season, but he’s back to form, hitting .313 with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs. Peavy has already made more starts this year than last, so having a consistent force in the rotation has helped.
But the spotlight isn’t on Peavy to perform, since second-year starter Chris Sale has himself in contention for the AL Cy Young. The hard-throwing lefty is 12-3 with a 2.61 ERA and has been superb thus far.
Though the team was playing well, general manager Kenny Williams wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on deals he thought would help the team. In addition to Youkilis, the White Sox traded for Brett Myers and Francisco Liriano to shore up the pitching staff for the final leg of the season.
Between Ventura’s influence, the veteran leadership, the rookies buying into the team-first mentality and the trade deadline deals, watch out for the White Sox to add to their AL Central lead. The team is serious about winning and has what it takes to hold off the Tigers.
Ventura never won a World Series title as a player, but if Chicago continues its pace, the team can make a run at winning a Fall Classic crown.