Let me start by saying I'm not always a fan of stats as fact, but sometimes they are indisputable. And the fact is new White Sox manager Robin Ventura is not the "boy genius," but rather the benefactor of several players exceeding expectations.
Last year Adam Dunn was close to be ridden out of town on a rail. Coming over as a free agent, he had one of the worst years in baseball history with a line of a .159 average, just 11 homers and 42 ribbies while striking out 177 times.
Fast forward to 2012 and the Sox have the guy they paid the big bucks for. He's still hitting only .227, but already has 21 homers and 47 RBI's, along with his OBP at .367 compared to .292 last year.
It doesn't end there. Alex Rios has jumped from .227 with a .265 OBP to .293 and .337. Last year he finished the season with 13 homers and 44 runs batted in. This year he's at six and 32, respectively, with 101 games still to play.
Jake Peavy, formerly Mr. Disabled List, has gone from 7-7 with a 4.92 ERA and a 1.263 WHIP to 6-1, a 3.05 ERA and a WHIP under one.
What a difference a year makes. Ozzie Guillen was the reason those players were so terrible last year. Bring in Ventura, and what do you know? Can you say the first-place White Sox?
Well, just a few years back—for those Sox fans who can remember way back to 2005—Ozzie was the resident genius at the time, to the tune of World Series champs.
For those who don't remember, let me take you back in a time machine.
The White Sox picked up six new players that year: Jermaine Dye, Tadahito Iguchi, Scott Podsednik, A.J. Pierzynski, Dustin Hermanson and Bobby Jenks.
If you were to make a bet before that season that every one of those guys would perform great for the Sox, what kind of odds do you think you would have got?
It turned out the double-trifecta came in because every one of them was key to the Sox winning.
Adding to the pot, Neal Cotts and Cliff Politte had career years in the bullpen. Cott went 4-0 with a 1.94 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. Politte was 7-1 with a 2.00 ERA and a WHIP under one.
Hermanson saved 34 games before he went down with an injury. The rookie Jenks bravely stepped in and took right over from where he left off and was the Sox hero in the playoffs with four saves, including two in the World Series.
He could have had more, but Sox starters completed just about everything they finished. The Sox rampaged through the playoffs with an incredible 11-1 run to win their first World Series since 1917.
Do you know why?
Was it because Ozzie Guillen was a great manager, or was it because everything went their way that year? Sure, he did a good job and his act worked that year, but it only worked because so many players had career years.
In other words, luck.
Ventura didn't even want to manage. He had no experience and was shocked when GM Kenny Williams offered him the job. Was this something he prepared for his whole life? Was he just waiting for the chance to show them what he's got? No!
He didn't know what to say, so he said yes. In other words, "Let me give it a try."
And now the move by Williams looks like a stroke of brilliance, and Ventura looks like the next Tony La Russa.
How about Paul Konerko this year? The beloved "Paulie" has a 1.069 OPS. He's unconscious, and while he was good last year, Ventura's wisdom has led him to new heights, just as it did with the others who he resurrected.
Yes, Robin Ventura is a genius—until the bubble bursts.
Then he'll be what everyone thought he was: a nice guy who never should have been given the job.
Enjoy now and drink up, because the champagne starts to get flat after a while.
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