When Robin Ventura was brought on to manage the Chicago White Sox in the offseason, many, including myself, thought that the 2012 campaign would be filled with headache after headache.
While watching Matt Thornton hang a slider or Gordon Beckham strike out in a pivotal moment in the game takes it toll on South Siders, Ventura has this team in first place.
With a record of 66-55, the White Sox find themselves with a slight two-game advantage over Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. Oh wait, I meant the Detroit Tigers.
Although I cannot predict what's going to happen over the last six weeks of the season, laying out the framework of where the team is at will allow you to form your own opinion.
While his stint managing the Chi Sox has been short, Ventura's decision making and general attitude toward the game have fostered a series of long-term effects.
Perhaps this argument would have had more traction a couple weeks ago when the White Sox were actually fielding the ball the way they have most of the season.
Last week's ballgame in Kansas City was absolutely atrocious. The team committed four errors throughout that contest, booting and kicking the ball all over the diamond.
If you ask me, that type of play has no place in the bigs.
Nonetheless, the team still ranks third in the American League with just 59 errors compared to the major league average of 75.
Although defense encompasses more than just making the routine play, this number is still very telling.
Contrary to other baseball clubs, the White Sox take infield together before each and every series. While this might seem like a no-brainer, its implementation has been lost in today's game.
For the 2012 White Sox, it is paying huge dividends.
While the last entry was positive in nature, this slide should cause great worry amongst White Sox fans.
In my estimation, Robin Ventura has been killing the pitching staff.
Eventually, keeping the likes of Chris Sale and Jake Peavy in the game to throw 110-plus pitches an outing will come back and bite the team.
In years past, the White Sox have done a great job of keeping guys off the DL. While Hawk Harrelson's raves of trainer Herb Schneider are the only testimonies I've heard, the facts don't lie.
How many times do you remember losing multiple serious contributors of a White Sox team during a season? This season, the White Sox have seen Chris Sale, Paul Konerko, Gavin Floyd, Kevin Youkilis, A.J. Pierzynski, Alejandro De Aza and John Danks all miss stretches of time due to injuries.
While bad luck and chance do factor in to losing players to injuries, something smells fishy. Whereas I'm likely to give a free pass over the position players, I'm worried about how Ventura deals with his hurlers.
I just hope Chris Sale doesn't have anything serious over the stretch run.
This is where I give Ventura and his coaching staff the most credit: getting the likes of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios back to prime production.
Without these two thriving in the lineup, the team's success would surely have been impossible. Now, we have a formidable lineup that is comprised of a balanced righty-lefty attack.
While our offensive production in Kansas City was pitiful, I've still been pleasantly surprised with the bats.
Aside from Konerko, Dunn and Rios, the Sox have gotten incredible payoffs from Pierzynski and De Aza. Throw consistent contributions for Dayan Viciedo, Youkilis and Alexei Ramirez, and you've got a solid lineup.
For those of you who fear that the team's dependence on the long ball will be its demise, accept that this is the way the team is built. Hate it or love it, the choice is yours.
While the Sox bullpen has definitely gotten the job done on the whole, I think Ventura isn't managing this group in the most efficient manner.
Many a time, I find myself perplexed with many of the rookie manager's moves when it comes to his relievers.
Whether it's overusing rookie fireballer Nate Jones, or pitching Brett Myers in a meaningless ninth inning when his $10 million option is on the line, his moves have been questionable.
Nevertheless, the White Sox need their late-inning men to step up.
With long-time horse Matt Thornton's production slowly declining, Ventura will need to rely on newcomer Donnie Veal to get critical outs from the left side of the mound.
Hopefully, Ventura will be a bit better at managing the bullpen down the stretch.
It's Aug. 22 and the team is in first place.
For a rookie manager, Ventura is clearly doing something right. The players are responding and that's the bottom line.
While there are issues and potential threats, the White Sox are making the most out of this season and keeping the Tigers at bay.
The next 15 games will be very telling, as trips to Baltimore and Detroit lay on the horizon.
At the end of the day, I should stop complaining and enjoy the ride. You should too.