The way the White Sox parted ways with Jeff Manto could have been more graceful. I'm guessing they didn't plan an unceremonious exit during the season's penultimate game first made public by Hawk Harrelson.
That sounds like an acrimonious environment in the making, but Manto cleared the air in an interview with Scott Merkin. Really, Manto had nothing but nice things to say about his just-short-of-two-year stay on the South Side.
"I learned a ton," Manto continued. "Mind you, I'm sitting here working as the hitting coach alongside [assistant hitting coach] Harold [Baines] and [White Sox manager] Robin [Ventura] and getting to talk with Paulie (Konerko) every day. I got better as a hitting coach surrounded by so many good people. I'm very, very sorry it had to end, to be honest." [...]
"Everyone deals with injuries, but I was disappointed I couldn't get the guys who came in to play in a better direction," said Manto, who praised Hahn for the way he handled the dismissal and praised Ventura for being a leader and friend. "Being part of the close clubhouse Robin is running was really satisfying. It was a good situation, so it does hurt. It was more than a professional relationship, and it was not easy leaving that clubhouse."
Manto always seemed to put on a good face for every line of questioning, which is probably why there were a number of Sox employees inside and outside the clubhouse who were sad to see him go.
That said, Manto knew the team's statistics dug his grave. He offers some reasons that might sound more like excuses, but self-defense is understandable. It's just that the pile of Schlimmsteseits (worst-sinces) were zu groß to ignore.
Here's the tally of lows the White Sox set in recent history.
|Category||2013 total||Worst since...|
|Home runs||148||1992 (110)|
|Extra-base hits||404||1991 (404)|
The good news? The Sox avoided becoming the first team in franchise history to not have one regular with an OPS+ of 100 or better. In fact, two cleared that bar, even if one didn't finish the season with the team (Alex Rios). If you don't count Rios, then the Sox are the third team in the 113-year history of the organization to field one. 1968 (Pete Ward) and 1910 (Paul Meloan) are the others.
Then again, Dunn and Rios barely cleared the bar. Dunn finished at 103, and Rios left a 100 OPS+ behind. In fact, Dunn's 103 is the lowest team-leading OPS+ in White Sox history. Even Meloan finished at 104 in 1910.
How much of that is Manto's fault is impossible to deduce, especially since the usual problems don't apply. It's easy to replace a hitting coach who's a hardass without a cause (Jack Clark comes to mind), but Manto's on the other end of the spectrum. Guys like Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham said Manto was great to work with, and that he put in the time and then some. That's combination of qualities usually engenders job security, but with hitting coaches, that's far from enough, and that's why it's "the worst uniformed job in baseball."