Over the weekend, Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura confirmed that Hector Santiago will be the club's primary closer for the time being. My initial reaction was one of general confusion, although I knew throughout the spring that Santiago was being seriously considered for the role. But the more I think about it, the more I'm warming up to what the move means on a larger level.
When you bring in a new manager who's never done the job at any level before, he spends all of spring training refusing to name a new closer, and then decides during the first week of the season that a 24-year-old with two games of big league experience is going to be taking the ball in the ninth inning, skepticism comes easy. People were already going to put Ventura under a microscope given his inexperience, and it's only magnified with roster decisions like this one.
But you know what? I'm digging what this says about Ventura. While everyone has jumped to ask questions about what Ventura's inexperience will mean for the White Sox, the biggest reality of the situation is that we simply have no idea how he's going to manage. At this point, we have only bits and pieces of how he'll ultimately run his team when we've played more than just a couple games.
And yet, in naming Santiago the team's closer, Ventura is showing a willingness to go against the grain that's not always particularly common in managers. There's an emerging breed of managers appreciating the less conventional, like Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon, but the overwhelming majority still hold to the tenets of the good old days. While we're looking at an awfully small sample size, Ventura already is showing signs of being that kind of "outside-the-box" manager.
Simply being unconventional doesn't make this kind of decision, naming Santiago the closer, one that I would support, though. There really does seem to be some very good baseball logic pulling the strings behind the structure of this bullpen. While Santiago will certainly see his fair share of high-leverage situations in the closer role, this gives Ventura the flexibility to use his best relievers at his own discretion when things truly get sticky.
Realistically, it would be hard to call Santiago more than Chicago's fourth-best relief pitcher. Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain both have fairly long track records of success at the MLB level, plus Addison Reed is considered arguably the best relief pitching prospect in the sport right now. Traditional logic would say that one of those three pitchers should be taking the ninth inning, but then you're essentially saying that pitcher appears only in what amount to save opportunities.
For an inexperienced manager still trying to feel out the job, having some additional flexibility with the bullpen could ultimately be a huge plus. If Ventura had named Thornton the closer, he'd essentially be limiting himself to using one of his very best relievers in only a select number of situations. For pretty much anyone new to any job, some added freedom can be huge to finding one's way.
Ultimately, what this all says to me is that White Sox fans should have faith in Robin Ventura. Yeah, he's still basically a total wild card, but there's nothing we can do but go with the information we have. And so far, what I see is a manager willing to make unconventional decisions in the best interests of the team.
While I got pretty sick of having a manager so prone to saying crazy things off the field, I'd be more than happy with a manager who is willing to do some seemingly crazy things on the field. Well, as long as I can make sense of it all. (Adam Dunn, shortstop? It might just confuse hitters into striking out on every at-bat.)
Satchel Price is a newsdesk contributor for SB Nation Midwest and a feature columnist for SB Nation Chicago. His baseball writing also appears on MLB Daily Dish and Beyond the Box Score. For more of his splendid whimsy in display, follow him on Twitter.