MIKE CRANSTON, Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura wouldn’t say Wednesday whether he’s been offered the chance to return next season and backtracked from an earlier comment that he’d like to come back for a sixth season.
USA Today reported earlier in the day that the White Sox decided to retain Ventura, if he wants to stay. Citing an unnamed team official, the report indicated that Ventura hasn’t told the front office of his 2017 plans.
“I appreciate all the concern, but like I’ve said all year long, I’m waiting until the end of the year,” Ventura said before his team’s game against Tampa Bay.
The 49-year-old told reporters last month that he did want to return.
“I said that a while ago, yeah,” Ventura said. “Again, we’re getting to the end of the year before we’re doing anything.”
General manager Rick Hahn declined an interview request and a team spokesman said Hahn is not planning to talk to reporters until Monday, the day after the season ends.
Ventura, in the last year of his contract, carried a 373-432 record in five years heading into Wednesday’s game.
The former White Sox player hasn’t led Chicago to the playoffs and is facing a fourth consecutive losing season. They sat at 76-81 Wednesday and in fourth place in the AL Central.
The White Sox have decided in recent years to add veterans in hopes of contending. They traded for third baseman Todd Frazier last winter and got off to a 23-10 start that included a six-game lead in the AL Central.
But the White Sox were 18 games under .500 since.
“You’re disappointed if you’re not going to the playoffs. That part has never changed,” Ventura said. “Especially with the way we started off, we were excited. You thought it was headed in that direction and then it didn’t.”
The season has also included some bizarre off-field incidents. Adam LaRoche retired in spring training after executive vice president Ken Williams banned his son, Drake, from the clubhouse. Ace Chris Sale was suspended five days in July for tearing up throwback uniforms he didn’t want to wear.
Sale later criticized Ventura, saying he should have backed him in the dispute with the marketing staff.
“It was quite a ride. It really was,” Ventura said. “You just deal with it when it happens. Like I said, every team has its challenges and this one is no different. We had some unique ones, I would say this year. You handle it, you handle it inside the clubhouse and that’s my job.”
Sale, who won his 17th game Tuesday, may have pitched his final game with the White Sox. Hahn has hinted at a rebuild after declaring that the franchise is “mired in mediocrity.” Sale could return needed high-level prospects.
Chicago has made the postseason once since winning the World Series in 2005, and the fan base has expressed growing frustration with Ventura.
“That is part of the gig, absolutely,” Ventura said. “I want them to understand that it pains me when we don’t win.”
The White Sox took Ventura with the 10th overall pick in the 1988 draft from Oklahoma State, where he had an NCAA record 58-game hitting streak.
The lefty-hitting third baseman spent 16 seasons in the big leagues, mostly with the White Sox and Mets, winning six Gold Gloves and making two All-Star Games.
He was a surprise hire as White Sox manager after Ozzie Guillen left following the 2011 season. Ventura, known for his easygoing personality and calm demeanor, guided Chicago to an 85-77 record in his first year and finished third in the AL Manager of the Year voting.
But that was followed by a 63-99 mark in 2013. Two more losing seasons followed, and the White Sox entered Wednesday’s game one loss away from a fourth consecutive sub-.500 season.
“I’ve always enjoyed Robin. I’ve always backed Robin,” outfielder Adam Eaton said. “I think he’s a tremendous manager, people person, communicator. So for me I’ve enjoyed my time with him. I’d welcome him back. I’d love to have him back, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the higher-ups.”
(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)