CHICAGO -- At least one Chicago White Sox decision for 2014 already has been made.
Manager Robin Ventura said the Opening Day starter next year will be Chris Sale. Outside of that, Ventura acknowledged that any and all changes could be made from a club that nearly lost 100 games for the first time in 43 years.
“There's a fair chance of anything,” Ventura said.
Loyalties and sentimentally are out the window when a team struggles as bad as the White Sox did this year. Ventura saw that firsthand Saturday when his hitting coach, Jeff Manto, was fired.
Ventura knew changes were coming, which still didn’t make it easy to stomach the fact that he lost a coach whom he also considers a friend. Ventura even choked up in the postgame press conference Saturday after Manto’s firing had been announced.
Now that the offseason has arrived after the team lost 4-1 to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, everybody knows that more significant upheaval is coming from general manager Rick Hahn.
“There has to be changes,” Gordon Beckham said. “Whether or not it’s top to bottom, you have to look in the mirror and see what you have to do better. Rick is really smart. He has a plan, I’m sure of it. It’s not his fault or the coaches’ fault. The guys on the field didn’t get it done.”
The Boston Red Sox, who entered the final day of the season with the best record in baseball, are continually cited as the example of how you can go from last to first in just one season. But the Red Sox also cleared enough money off the books in their last-place season to add free agents like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes.
“It depends on what happens in the offseason as far as what's going to happen personnel-wise,” Ventura said. “At this point you hope that's going to happen, but we're different than we left spring training with this year. We've added some younger players here at the end that we didn't have leaving spring training this year. So we're going to see how that goes and try and make some adjustments here and there and hopefully get some players in here that can turn this around, and the ones that are here, make better.”
Beckham knows that swooping into the free-agent market and landing guys comparable to what the Red Sox added is a tall order.
“I will say we have a good pitching staff and some good players we’ve added,” Beckham said. “(Avisail) Garcia is a stud. Some people did some things we can build off of. There is light at the end of the tunnel but it’s faint right now. Any team can go from worst to first but more things have to happen than just hoping to show up next year to win. It can’t be as bad as this year but it can if you don’t do your work.”
There is no denying how bad it was, though. The White Sox lost for the 99th time Sunday, a total they haven’t reached since the 1970 team dropped 106 games.
Captain Paul Konerko, whose contract expired with the end of Sunday’s game, said 2013 was a perfect storm of how everything can go wrong. He may or may not be back next season to help fix it.
But he remains optimistic enough to see a brighter day ahead. After the game ended players threw T-shirts into the stands and Konerko took the microphone to address the fans saying he appreciated their support in a trying season and promised that it would get better.
“Every year there is a team or two, usually one in each league that just gets pushed under water early and never gets let up,” Konerko said. “We were that team. There will be somebody else next year. No matter what the win-loss total is, you can have a worse roster, worse players, however you want to do it on paper, I feel that whoever is here next year it will be a better year than what went on.
“It’s not just between-the-lines stuff. Off the field there was all kind of things and scheduling things and this and that. It was just a really rough year all the way around. It went way beyond (the norm). The numbers say it all too, but even it went beyond that. I don’t see that happening again for whoever is here.”