(MCT) SURPRISE, Ariz. — Chicago has been blessed with some of the most quotable managers in all of baseball, from Leo Durocher and Eddie Stanky to Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen.
In a town that appreciates colorful characters, a manager who doesn't mind speaking his mind is worth his weight in gold.
Which brings us to Dale Sveum and Robin Ventura, the current leaders of the Cubs and White Sox, respectively, who face each other in a Cactus League game Thursday at Hohokam Park.
Finding the right word to describe these two is difficult, though "vanilla" probably would be in the right area.
Neither one is likely to go on a rant about rats at Wrigley Field, talk about caviar being served in the clubhouse or call their own pitcher a "lunatic," as Guillen, Piniella and Mike Quade did, respectively, during their stints in Chicago. They may have a lot on their minds, but neither Ventura nor Sveum make headlines for something said to the media.
"Global assessments?" Ventura said, referring to their pre- and postgame interview sessions. "Nah, we just care about the baseball stuff. And having been players, you can relate to how they view the media through you and what you're saying, and how you go about stuff. I'd say we're fairly similar with that _ keep it to a minimum and just keep it about baseball."
Ventura and Sveum have much in common. Both are in the second year of their contracts, and in their first full-time managing job, though Sveum managed in the minors and briefly in Milwaukee _ the final 12 games and playoff series at the end of the 2008 season. Both command respect in their clubhouses, and treat players like they wanted to be treated when they played themselves.
Both have laid-back demeanors, which is part and parcel of their personalities.
But Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf loved Ventura's leadership skills as a player and his knack for avoiding controversy is probably one of the reasons former general manager Ken Williams hired Ventura to replace the fiery Guillen.
Sveum's manner has won him plaudits in the clubhouse and with management.
Jeff Samardzija described the "trust" factor, saying Cubs players know their manager always will have their backs.
The two friends played in the same era and were also teammates for a short stretch in 1992 when Sveum played 40 games with the White Sox.
"Played against him and played with him," Ventura said. "So it's fun conversations, different stuff ... not only baseball."
The two keep track of each other's teams and Ventura said he hopes the Cubs do well this year, "even though (Sox fans) don't like them."
"You don't want to see anyone struggle," Ventura said. "I'd rather see the Cubs do well and we do well and we beat them when we play them. It's like being in big leagues and playing with your friends. I respect what he does, how he goes about his job. I just don't have as many tattoos as him, or ride motorcycles."
So Ventura has a tattoo?
Not yet. But he's thinking of getting one.
"Only if I become a closer," he said, "because that's part of the rules of baseball."