CHICAGO — Rick Renteria is getting a second chance to manage in Chicago — this time on the South Side.
The White Sox promoted Renteria from bench coach to replace Robin Ventura on Monday, hoping he can help turn around a struggling franchise.
Renteria takes over a team with one playoff appearance since the 2005 championship year. And he gets a second chance after the Cubs unceremoniously let him go after the 2014 season so they could hire Joe Maddon.
“I appreciate this tremendous opportunity,” Renteria said in a statement released by the team. “We want to field a team that plays smart baseball, takes advantage of any opportunity within the game and competes hard each and every day in a way that makes White Sox fans proud of our team’s effort.”
Renteria also thanked Ventura and singled out his former boss for “unmatched” class and professionalism.
The White Sox noted that Renteria is the only Latino manager in the majors, and general manager Rick Hahn said his ability to communicate with players in English and Spanish was a “real plus”
“Rick is incredibly well respected within the game as one of the top baseball men,” Hahn said. “He is a knowledgeable teacher of the game who loves to develop players and spends hours watching video looking for any nuance that gives us an edge.”
Ventura announced Sunday after the final game against Minnesota that he would not return, insisting the decision was his and he wasn’t pushed out despite five seasons without a playoff appearance.
The White Sox went 375-435 but finished with losing records the past four years after an 85-77 debut in 2012. They finished fourth in the AL Central at 78-84 despite a 23-10 start that gave them a six-game lead in the AL Central on May 9. They went 55-74 the rest of the way thanks to injuries, a slumping offense and struggling bullpen.
There were also some strange incidents this year, starting with Adam LaRoche’s abrupt retirement in spring training after executive vice president Ken Williams banned his son from the clubhouse. Ace Chris Sale ripped Williams at the time, and Sale was suspended for five days in July for cutting up collared throwback jerseys he didn’t want to wear for a start. He later criticized Ventura for not sticking up for him in his dispute with the marketing staff.
The 54-year-old Renteria led the Cubs to a 73-89 record in his lone year and drew praise for his work with their young players. But his tenure ended with an awkward dismissal, with management reversing course once Maddon became available and letting him go after announcing he would return for a second season.
The Cubs went on to win 97 games on the way to the NL Championship Series in 2015 and lead the majors with 103 wins this season, the most for them since 1910. Renteria joins Hall-of-Famer Johnny Evers as the only managers in history to manage games for both the White Sox and the Cubs. Evers managed the White Sox in 1924 and the Cubs in 1913 and 1921.
Renteria spent six seasons (2008-13) on San Diego’s major-league coaching staff and he managed Team Mexico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. A career .237 hitter, he played five seasons in the majors with Pittsburgh, Seattle and Florida.
When the White Sox hired Renteria last November, he was seen as likely candidate eventually to take over as manager with Ventura entering the final year of his contract. The change on the bench is the first move in what figures to be a busy offseason. The question is how far the White Sox go in rebuilding.
They have tried to contend in recent seasons by bringing in high profile players such as Adam Dunn, Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton, Todd Frazier and LaRoche, only to come up short. The team’s struggles have coincided with a resurgence brought on by a major overhaul on the North Side, where the Cubs drew over three million fans — compared to 1.75 million on the South Side.
Sale and fellow All-Star starter Jose Quintana would no doubt command a high price on the trade market. Their contracts that don’t expire anytime soon. Slugger Jose Abreu, Frazier, Cabrera, Robertson and Eaton might also be attractive to other teams.