2020 is shaping up to be an interesting season at 35th/Shields. Recent acquisitions have our White Sox as a fringe contender in the American League Central. There is enough significant upside with developing players on this roster to push them over the top and end a playoff drought that stretches back to 2008. One of the more interesting storylines for the upcoming season will be manager, Ricky Renteria.
Since assuming managerial responsibilities for the 2017 season, Ricky has been given less than a loaded gun to carry into battle. This season represents the first real chance for us to evaluate Renteria with a competent Major League roster. There are still holes on this roster, but it is nowhere near the levels we saw heading into previous seasons. Renteria has served as a controversial figure among the fanbase in recent years due to questionable thought-processes, however, defenders have noted that alternatives he had were not going to yield different results. That may well have been true, but in 2020 we will finally get to see if the thought-process improves.
I have been very critical of Ricky at times for a number of reasons, including lineup construction, bullpen management, and the one that offends my baseball sensibilities the most...BUNTING! With a lineup that looks on paper as if it could be one of the most potent in the American League, this will truly be a test for the embattled manager. We have heard for years that Renteria is beloved in the clubhouse and a figure that has garnered the respect of everyone in that room. It is now time for him to test his mettle because, for the first time in his tenure, this team has expectations. The corner has been turned on the rebuild and it is now time to shift to the contention phase of this project. Is Ricky the guy that is destined to lead this group?
A great deal of the criticism thrown at Ricky has been unwarranted due to the project he inherited. There isn't a manager in the league that could've turned that chicken "stuff" into chicken salad. My issues have always been more on the procedural side of things. At times, the thought-process has been truly maddening, but I'm hopeful that with a full arsenal at his disposal he will show us something. There is no denying that the front office has not done Ricky any favors when putting together rosters in years past, but all of that goes out the window when the calendar flips to 2020.
Ricky has stated himself on a number of occasions that he isn't "a sabermetrics guy" by any stretch of the imagination. My hope is that with a competent group of players in the dugout, we begin to see a thought-process that is more in line with generally accepted and successful ideas of the modern era. How Ricky tackles lineup construction issues and bullpen management, especially with the new three-batter minimum in play, will be paramount to his evaluation.
Renteria's calm demeanor and willingness to go to bat for his players is a welcomed sight and something that doesn't go unnoticed by the guys that are out on the field. How Ricky manages a group that is ripe with potential but still dealing with some developmental question marks will be one of the biggest stories surrounding this team in the new year. Will we continue to see the same thought-process that is archaic at times, or will we begin to see him manage according to the strengths of his roster? If Renteria is able to extract the high-upside potential that is evident with many members of this young core, I believe we are looking at a guy that will be occupying the managerial seat for many years to come (there's one of my noted vague takes, I know).
There is little doubt that Renteria has the backing of the front office group with the Sox. It's nice to finally see that group give him the weapons he needs to go into a 162-game battle. It will be interesting to see what kind of manager Ricky is when he isn't put in a position to fail on a night in, night out basis. Before this team reports to Glendale in mid-February, I expect there will be additional roster tinkering. But as it stands right now, this team is on the periphery of being a viable contender. When the 2020 season comes to its conclusion, we will know a lot more about whether or not Ricky Renteria is part of the White Sox future long-term. Is he going to get the Doug Collins treatment when the Jordan-led Bulls were finally ready to contend? Or will he be the leader of this group as it enters what could be an era of excellence? The clock starts now, and it's time for Ricky to show us what he's got.
One last thing: for the love of all that is holy, STOP BUNTING!