In the Wake of the News
9:12 PM CDT, April 6, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas — It wasn't worse than a noogie from Nolan Ryan, but losing his first game as White Sox manager to Ryan's Rangers hurt Robin Ventura.
Not that Ventura showed it. There are Mandarin dictionaries easier to read than Ventura.
"I figured we were probably going to lose a game this year,'' Ventura cracked in the clubhouse Friday after the 3-2 defeat. "You don't like losing. We got some guys on late but just didn't get them in.''
If wasting a strong John Danks start by stranding seven runners and going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position vexed Ventura, Chicago will be the last to know. If third baseman Brent Morel striking out four times and failing to field a grounder cleanly enough to force out the lead runner, who eventually scored the go-ahead run, rankled a former Gold Glover at the position, it never showed.
I doubt frustration will show much on Ventura no matter how trying his first season becomes. That doesn't mean Ventura won't feel any or occasionally even unload his share behind clubhouse doors. It means Day 1 reminded us Ventura possesses the discipline and professionalism to express it over a long summer in a way players appreciate.
"He has been cool, calm and collected all spring and was no different today,'' Adam Dunn said. "We wanted to win it for him to make his first game a memorable one but just couldn't.''
Dunn's 431-foot home run — his first since Aug. 4, a span of 52 games — left the most positive impression from the Sox's opening day. Next was the steady demeanor of the manager.
"Robin was even-keel as always, cracking a joke here and there,'' Paul Konerko said. "He's very dialed in. I didn't feel different doing it for him than anybody else I've played for.''
Holding players accountable won't be hard for Ventura. Making his feelings accessible to fans through the media will be — affecting his appeal more than the standings. Refreshingly, the Sox now have a manager only worried about the latter.
Example: Ryan arranged finally to meet Ventura and shake hands before the game in a hallway outside the Sox clubhouse as a gesture related to their infamous brawl on the mound 19 years ago. It spoke to the respect the Sox manager commands from his 16-year playing career that the Rangers chose not to show a video clip of the fight — a popular pregame montage showing Ryan working over a 26-year-old Ventura.
Asked if he was glad finally to talk to Ryan after all the attention paid the incident, Ventura chuckled.
"I think everybody here was,'' Ventura said, referring to media. "It's just nice to say, 'Hey congratulations.' It wasn't anything more than that.''
A Rangers reporter pressed for details about location.
"I don't know how many feet to the right but out in the hallway,'' Ventura said, smirking.
Another postgame exchange reinforced how Ventura will guard information the way he used to protect the third-base line in late innings. Did using relievers Matt Thornton and Addison Reed mean Hector Santiago would have closed the ninth inning if the Sox had regained the lead?
"Or (Jesse) Crain … or (Will) Ohman … maybe (Nate) Jones,'' Ventura said.
Minutes later, Thornton confirmed how coy Ventura can be even with players about important matters such as the Sox closer.
"When the phone rings, we just get up,'' Thornton said.
Do you know who it is?
"No,'' Thornton said.
Has Ventura told any relievers who it is?
"No,'' he said. "I don't know if you're ever going to get anything out of him.''
If the Sox surprise everybody and contend for a wild-card spot, Ventura's minimalism will be considered brilliant. But if they lose 90 games, Ventura's reservedness will create more frustration than he shows.
Before his official return to a major league dugout for the first time since retiring in 2004, Ventura wondered how he would adjust to the speed of the game as a manager. I don't think he meant Sox hitters approaching at-bats as if they were double-parked.
The Sox struck out 13 times in a game that lasted only 2 hours, 23 minutes. Their strikeout total broke the Rangers opening day opponent's record set in 1991 with Ryan also on hand — striking out nine instead of sitting in the owner's box next to former President George W. Bush.
"You're just trying to think ahead, but that was a quick game,'' Ventura said.
With 161 left, players took Ventura's don't worry-be happy perspective out the clubhouse door.
"Really, it's not important to us,'' Gordon Beckham said. "We started out great last year (2-0) and struggled so …''
Indeed, it's a new Sox season. Just listen.
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