Citing the need for a new voice, the White Sox fired hitting coach Jeff Manto on Saturday night with one game left in the regular season.
General manager Rick Hahn said Manto, the team’s hitting coach for the past two seasons, was relieved of his duties before Saturday’s game, a 6-5 win over the Kansas City Royals. Word of the move was first reported in the team’s television broadcast.
Hahn said he expects the rest of manager Robin Ventura’s staff to return in 2014 and said the club would soon begin a search to find Manto’s replacement. The team’s next hitting coach is charged with helping to turn around an offense that ranks 29th in the majors in runs scored.
A year after they finished fourth in the American League in runs and had five hitters finish with 25 or more home runs, the White Sox are on pace to score 601, their fewest in a 162-game season since they put up 587 in 1970. Entering Saturday, the team’s .302 on-base percentage was it’s lowest since Major League Baseball lowered the pitcher’s mound in 1969.
“This is about accountability and the fact that we haven’t performed the way we want to as an offensive unit,” Hahn said. “One way to help remedy that is to get a different voice in here.”
Hahn said the team has already accumulated a list of both internal and external candidates to fill Manto’s role. With a planned roster overhaul also on the docket, Hahn doesn’t want the search to linger. Ventura will be included in the search but the second-year manager didn’t want to get into any details on Saturday.
Ventura choked up as he discussed the dismissal of Manto, who acted as the team’s minor-league hitting coordinator from 2008-11.
“I know the work that went into it and how sometimes it doesn’t translate into what people see,” Ventura said. “I know what (Manto) was trying to do and I respect that and I thank him for it because it’s tough. That’s what happens with a season like this. Right now I’m still trying to get through this because these guys, what we go through on a daily basis, it’s tough. These guys are my friends and I respect what he did.”
Ventura said the news wasn’t popular in the clubhouse with players.
Adam Dunn has long been a proponent of Manto’s. The two worked together constantly over the past two years and Dunn credits Manto for helping him to get back on a track after a disastrous 2011 campaign.
“He’s works so hard and he really genuinely cares about how each and everyone does,” Dunn said. “For the way that things happened, it’s sad. … You’re not going to find a better hitting coach. He does everything you want a hitting coach to do.”
Paul Konerko has long described the hitting coach as having the worst job in baseball. He said Manto’s performance was the same in 2012 when the team won 85 games and this season where it has lost 98.
“There was no difference in the way we worked or the way the team worked,” Konerko said. “There was as much early hitting as there was last year, the information before the games, all that stuff. That’s the only stuff they have control over. It was all the same. It’s just a matter of guys executing on the field. You’re kind of at the mercy of that.”