Leave it to the Chicago White Sox and general manager Kenny Williams to zig when everyone else thinks they'll zag, to take the path through the woods when everyone else is looking at the paved roads.
The White Sox picked a manager Thursday straight out of left field, a guy who has never been in a major-league dugout as a skipper or as a coach.
But you know what? Because Robin Ventura was in the dugout for 2,079 games as a player, and because of who he is, the choice is perfect.
Ventura was in a White Sox uniform for 1,254 of those games. He was a player's player, beloved in the clubhouse. He knows the White Sox. He's popular in Chicago. -- maybe moreso than Ozzie Guillen was (though not as loud, not nearly as loud).
Can he manage? We'll find out.
This is one of those hires that could turn out to be out-of-the-box brilliant ... or a spectacular failure.
I will say this: Last time the White Sox named a manager who had never called the shots in a big league game, they won a World Series title. His name was Ozzie Guillen.
Consider this another promotion from the White Sox Alumni Club (Ventura will become the 17th former White Sox player to manage the club). There are no guarantees that it will work, but say this for owner Jerry Reinsdorf: He's been around a long time and the guy appreciates -- and facilitates -- White Sox tradition.
The biggest names in the Sox rumor mill were two highly respected coaches, Davey Martinez of Tampa Bay and Sandy Alomar Jr. in Cleveland. If Chicago was going with a rookie manager, why not Ventura? He knows the players very well, he knows the Chicago media, he knows the South Side terrain.
Ventura had been working as a special assistant to director of player development Buddy Bell since June. Every GM has special assistants, but I've never heard of a director of player development having one.
But that's what savvy GMs do: They stash talented people in their organization, because you never know when, say, an Ozzie will wear out his welcome.
Williams, on a late afternoon conference call Thursday, called Ventura "one of the classiest people I've ever met in the game." The GM, while admitting this was an unexpected development, said he interviewed Ventura from 1994-1998, when Williams worked in player development and Ventura was the White Sox third baseman.
"He just didn't know it," Williams said.
Among the criteria Williams listed that Ventura fit: "A passion for the city, for the organization and the drive to win a World Series championship. This person had to have leadership and communicative ability, I think, that will work with our veteran players and with our young players."
Will that lead to managerial brilliance? Who knows?
"I have a passion for it, I have a passion for this team and this city," Ventura said on the conference call. "the passion is there to do it. I was asked to do it. I'm honored to have this opportunity."
Ventura, 44, has a lot in common with White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko in terms of character, baseball acumen and blue-collar work ethic. Clearly, after the rifts in the organization that developed under Williams and Guillen, Ventura is a uniter, not a divider. Which is exactly what the Sox need.
Now, if he can just get Adam Dunn to hit ...