CHICAGO -- Robin Ventura played against Jim Leyland's teams only once. That was 1999, when Ventura helped lead the Mets to the National League Championship Series and battered Leyland's Colorado Rockies, going 14-for-33 with eight RBIs in nine meetings.
As a manager, Ventura has his White Sox on top of Leyland's Tigers for the American League Central, despite losing 10 of their first 15 matchups. He also has Leyland's respect.
They come from drastically different backgrounds -- Ventura an All-Star and well-respected player who never managed professionally but spent time in player development, Leyland a career Minor Leaguer who spent more than a decade managing in the Tigers' farm system and then coaching before getting his shot. But they seem to have a mutual respect.
"So far, he's made it look easy. I mean, Robin's a former outstanding player. He knows what it's all about," Leyland said. "You knew he was going to have a calming influence after a personality like Ozzie [Guillen] -- which was great, they won a World Series, don't take this wrong. Ozzie did a great job, a fantastic job -- and this was probably the complete opposite from a personality standpoint.
"First of all, [Ventura] played the game for a long time and was a very good player, and he's also very aware of how hard it is to play the game. And I think he was smart enough to know that this place probably at the time he got in, just needed to get settled in without a lot of whatever you want to call it. He was smart enough to do that."
Experience aside, Leyland believes Ventura had the makeup for managing.
"Like they say in football, some guys have a nose for the football. Some guys have a nose for managing. I think he does," Leyland said. "I think he's done a great job. He really has done a terrific job. I don't know this, but he's kind of let them play, just play the game, go play the game."