Robin Ventura's hire as the White Sox 39th manager + Ventura's lack of previous big league managerial experience + Ken Williams' talk of patience for Ventura as he grows with the job = White Sox rebuilding for the 2012 season.
This equation actually could extend out another level to include the White Sox coming up well short of their 2011 postseason goal, after making an "all-in" financial commitment in the neighborhood of $127 million. But this is baseball, not college trigonometry, so we'll keep it simple.
Assuming a rebuild based on Williams' end of season "holding pattern" comments and the inexperience of Ventura is an easy jump to make. The White Sox could go young in 2012, but then be ready to seriously contend again in 2013 with one year in the dugout for Ventura and the team having a better idea as to where it stands overall.
But look at the $44 million owed to Adam Dunn over the next three years or the $39.5 million due for Alex Rios in those same three years or Jake Peavy's $21 million still left on his contract. Factor in this trio's sub-par performance in 2011, with Peavy fighting his way back from season-ending 2010 surgery to reattach his lat muscle, and it quickly becomes apparent veteran presences will exist on this next version of the White Sox.
Rebuilding might have more to do with the confidence levels of these struggling veterans than having nothing but youth in the lineup.
Make no mistake, though, that even with $89 million earmarked for 12 players, a youthful flavor will be featured in the White Sox lineup. Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, Tyler Flowers and Addison Reed figure to join second baseman Gordon Beckham and third baseman Brent Morel as prominent 2012 contributors in the under-30 set. Having Ventura in charge could benefit the growth of those inexperienced performers.
"My guess would be it probably confirms a little bit that young guys who have been in there will stay in there," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko during a Friday conference call with Chicago reporters. "If you look at the end of last season, we had a lot of young guys on the field in that last month. This move probably confirms those guys stay on the field.
"Whether it means older guys we have as pitchers and hitting, does it mean they leave? I don't know about that. They look at it Robin might help out Beckham or Morel, that maybe he can get them over the hump to turn into solid everyday players."
Konerko and catcher A.J. Pierzynski find themselves in interesting positions in the midst of this retooling, with the payroll almost certain to drop to some extent. Both organization staples returned via multi-year free agent deals prior to highly productive 2011 seasons and both players have full no-trade veto power.
If the White Sox truly decided to make a commitment to youth, would these players look to play elsewhere or be asked to move elsewhere? Pierzynski was asked near the end of the regular season about waiving his no-trade clause, but said he hadn't give it much thought in the context of the whirlwind finish for the team.
"Right now, I want to be here and stay here and finish my career here," Pierzynski said. "If they came to me, we'll see. But that's the way I'm looking at it."
A USA Today report from earlier this week mentioned Konerko being claimed by the Diamondbacks on waivers near the end of August. Williams had interest in Paul Goldschmidt as part of his list of players in return, and Arizona general manager Kevin Towers quickly declined. In that article, Konerko said that he probably would have left the decision up to his wife if asked, but he would have asked the direction the White Sox were going.
During Friday's conference call, Konerko said he would have to listen if he was approached about a potential move in the realm of the retooling process.
"You always listen to things on the table," Konerko said. "If Kenny [Williams] or [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] were to call and say, 'This is what we are doing and the road we are going to go, what do you think,' you listen to it all and make a decision.
"It doesn't mean you say yes. The way I look at it is I signed up for three more years at end of last year. When I signed on the contract, my thoughts were, 'I'll finish with the White Sox, good or bad, during the length of the deal.'"
When the White Sox won the World Series in 2005, Konerko pointed out the preseason predictions had them third. He added that being tabbed as favorites hasn't done them well over the past few years.
There seems to be no problem for Konerko or Pierzynski to be part of a youth-based squad, if there is a clear-cut organizational approach. All they want is for that initial equation above to have a final total of increased victories in the end.
"I hope to expect more winning than we did last year," Pierzynski said. "Obviously, you would love to have [Mark] Buehrle back, and still have guys like JP [Juan Pierre], [John] Danks and [Gavin] Floyd and Carlos [Quentin], guys who you know what you are getting when you go to battle. But it's up to the owner, general manager and manager to make moves if they see a way to improve the team."