KANSAS CITY, Mo. — You would have a hard time finding two managers with more contrasting styles than Robin Ventura and Ozzie Guillen.
Replacing the volatile Guillen, Ventura has enjoyed instant success in his debut season with the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox are leading the division and entered Tuesday's action 2½ games in front of the Tigers, the overwhelming choice in the AL Central.
“A lot of people put a lot of emphasis on coaching experience, but he had instant credibility with us because we knew what kind of player he was,” said White Sox slugger Adam Dunn. “He brings the same demeanor every day whether we win or lose. He's consistent.”
Ventura is the polar opposite of Guillen, outspoken but successful. Now the Miami Marlins' manager, Guillen ranks third all time in White Sox history with 678 wins, highlighted by a four-game sweep of Houston in 2005 for the White Sox's first World Series title since 1917.
“It was time for a change,” said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. “If you ask Ozzie, I think he was ready to go. Both have their styles. (Ventura) has a calm demeanor. Guys have responded to him. Every day nothing really changes win or lose, good game or bad game.”
Ventura could have remained retired after making millions during a 16-year major league career but was invigorated by an unexpected offer — manage the team that drafted him 24 years ago.
“You look at challenges in your life,” Ventura said last week during a series vs. the Kansas City Royals. “Are you afraid to do it just because of the backlash of what might happen or what people might say? I don't care about that stuff. I viewed it as a challenge, a place I would like to work for people that I have a lot of respect for.”
Considered one of the greatest college baseball players of all time following a remarkable three-year career at Oklahoma State, Ventura was out of baseball for six years before he was hired as a White Sox roving minor league instructor last season.
Veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis, acquired recently in a trade, had issues with Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine but highly endorses Ventura.
“(Ventura) basically trusts us until we do something out of line and then he'll tell us,” Youkilis said. “That's the best way to manage in my opinion. You have to be stern at times and tell guys when they're doing something wrong. But if you show trust in your guys, they'll go play hard for you.”
Veteran left-hander John Danks, who has averaged 11 wins a season the past five years, said Ventura's even-keel demeanor has been a good fit.
“His style is to go out and play hard and if you mess up, you mess up,” Danks said. “He doesn't get mad at you for messin' up, but they will try to correct it right there on the spot. Then everyone forgets about it.
“He has an open door. Half the time he's in here (in the locker room) with us. This is as close-knit a group as I can remember here. There aren't any cliques.”
Nearly every White Sox player interviewed had similar comments, pointing out Ventura's track record (career .267 average with 294 home runs in 16 major league seasons) brought instant respect.
“He understands the game in terms of what everybody goes through,” said second baseman Gordon Beckham. “Everybody will go through some ups and downs. He does a really good job of managing that. It seems his mood is always the same. That's been a real positive for us.”
During his debut season, Ventura has leaned on a veteran coaching staff, especially pitching coach Don Cooper, in his 25th season with the White Sox, his 10th as pitching coach.
“A lot of people make assumptions about this position, some I even made when I was a player and wasn't paying that close attention,” Ventura said. “There are little nuances, things you need to be able to do as a manager.
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Career MLB stats
294 home runs
Career highlights: Tied for fifth all-time in MLB history for grand slams (18) behind Lou Gehrig, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Eddie Murray. ... Hit 20 or more home runs nine times, including a career-best 32 with career-high 120 RBIs for the Mets in 1999. ... Won six Gold Gloves. ... Two-time All-Star. ... Was in the playoffs five times with the White Sox (1993), Mets (1990, 2000), Yankees (2002) and Dodgers (2004). ... Ranks sixth all-time in home runs (171) in White Sox history. ... A three-time All-American, Ventura was selected Baseball America's Player of the Decade for the 1980s and also was named college baseball's all-time third baseman. ... Won the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award, college baseball's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, his junior year at Oklahoma State. ... Set NCAA record with a 58-game hitting streak in 1987. ... Career College World Series .459 average ranks second all time. ... Holds OSU school record for career hits (329). ... His No. 21 OSU jersey was retired in 1998. ... The only manager in major league history who has won an Olympic gold medal. ... Selected 10th overall in the 1988 draft by the White Sox. ... Named Freshman of the Year by Baseball America in 1986 after hitting .469.