Monday, January 30, 2012

SoxFest: self-deprecation and cautious optimism

Posted By on 01.30.12 at 10:02 AM

Robin Ventura: not so far removed from his playing days.
In his session with the media before the start of SoxFest Friday at the Palmer House, new White Sox manager Robin Ventura was self-deprecating to a fault, well aware he has big shoes to fill as a media personality in replacing Ozzie Guillen.

"I was just as big a fan as anybody of his press conferences. Mine's not going to be that way, but that's just a different personality," Ventura said. "Personalitywise, for me, this is my least-favorite thing to do. Nothing personal against you," he added, disarming the reporter who asked the question. "I would rather just do baseball stuff."

As for that, what was he telling the players in what was his first meeting as manager with most of them? "The good news for them is I don't have to play," he said. "That's the most exciting thing for them is they don't have to worry about me trying to play."

Ventura shouldn't commit himself too soon. Even general manager Kenny Williams acknowledged, "Offensively, we have a couple of question marks," and Ventura isn't that far removed from his playing days.

Ventura, 44, batted .267 lifetime over 16 seasons, the last in 2004, and hit almost 300 homers, 18 of them grand slams. It's hard to imagine him, even at his age and retired seven years, hitting Adam Dunn's .159 for last season.

Yet cautious optimism reigned among the players at SoxFest—emphasis on the caution. Jake Peavy said, "I'm as healthy as I'm gonna get," and that he was looking forward to being the Cy Young-level pitcher the Sox acquired.

A.J. Pierzynski said anything can happen—and had where the Sox are concerned. "All we can do is go out and play. If we play hard and get some breaks and everything falls right, who knows?" he said. "Baseball's funny like that."

Paul Konerko, ever the lunchpail worker, said playing for a new manager was just like working for a new boss, "and you want to please your boss."

We'll see if Dunn and Alex Rios are pleasing to Ventura in his first season. Williams, for one, expects more, saying, "I do not expect the same Adam Dunn to show up—for my sake." Or for Ventura's sake, either.

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