The 2012 season for the Chicago White Sox to this point has been full of surprises.
Whether it be the performances of Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, AJ Pierzynski, Chris Sale, Jake Peavy or the entire bullpen, many players on the Sox roster are exceeding expectations.
However, the man who has been the most surprising and impressive thus far for the White Sox may not even be the one playing.
It’s the one calling the shots: Robin Ventura.
Robin Ventura's first two months as White Sox manager have gone as well as anyone could have hoped. (Image via Art of the Pale Hose)
Last season, the White Sox were a team that often appeared to have no signs of life whenever they took the field.
It seemed as if whenever the opposition took a lead, no matter how early in the game, their fate was sealed. Likewise, whenever a lead was blown by the bullpen, there was no fight to change the momentum back.
With pretty much the same roster as last season aside from a few pieces, Ventura has totally changed the mindset of this ball club. From the first pitch to the last, this team appears to bring the energy and fight every single game.
During their nine-game win streak alone, they scored six times in the first inning and trailed in four of them. Even in yesterday’s loss, they came from behind to tie or take the lead at four different points in the game.
This is the kind of fight that the White Sox did not have in the last two or three seasons under Ozzie Guillen, and a lot of credit has to go to Ventura for changing the culture of that clubhouse.
In fact, these players are now going the extra mile to protect each other. How many times over the past three years (especially against good opponents) did we see White Sox batters get hit and retaliation was never in order? Now, it’s happening every time someone is plunked. That sends more than just a message to the team on that day; it sends a message to the entire league: one that says we aren’t afraid of anybody.
On top of that, he has the White Sox just playing a more fundamentally sound game.
When every new manager is hired, they most certainly use the cliché ,”We are going to go back to working on the fundamentals.” It’s one thing to use the cliché; its another to go out and actually do it. Robin has, and the play of this team has shown that.
Hawk Harrelson says a lot of things not worth listening to, but he’s absolutely right when he says the White Sox have not overthrown a cutoff man this season. That, along with situational hitting and outfield defense as a whole, is miles ahead of where it was last season.
In 2005, the White Sox promoted grinder baseball and the idea of ”win or die trying.” In the last three seasons of Ozzie Guillen’s tenure, that whole concept seemed to be lost. Now, however, that edge the White Sox have lacked looks to be alive and well once again.
It’s one thing to get a baseball team to play well. However, changing the entire culture within two months is something totally different.
For someone do to that within first 53 games hes ever managed, I’d call that a pretty big surprise.