Jeff Manto pays price for White Sox's lack of hitting

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Hitting coach fired as worst season in franchise's recent history comes to a close

On Friday, Rick Hahn left the door open for a coaching swap.

On Saturday, the hitting coach found the exit.

The White Sox fired Jeff Manto two games shy of his second full year with the club. Based on how it went down, the club probably would have liked to have announced it after the second full season concluded, but word got out through a pretty significant outlet: Hawk Harrelson.

While waiting for Charlie Leesman to finish his warmup tosses in the top of the sixth inning, Harrelson thanked the CSN Chicago broadcast crew during their final game of the season. He then thanked Steve Stone for putting up with him through a miserable season. He compared calling an 100-loss season to serving as a hitting coach, in that they're the toughest jobs in their respective fields, and Harrelson said the analyst has the much harder half of the call. Stone sounded appreciative of the appreciation. It was a nice moment.

And, oh, by the way:

"And talking about hitting coaches, Jeff Manto was relieved of his duties."

Well then.

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Speaking to the media after the game, Hahn explained the timing.

"We had a conversation with Jeff and allowed him to choose whether he wished to finish the season and have this announced on Monday," Hahn said. "Jeff decided that he felt it was best for him to leave at the start of tonight's game."

Hahn said that he anticipates the rest of the coaching staff will remain in place. In Manto's case, though, the results of the season spelled his doom.

"We are at the bottom of several important offensive categories, including, most importantly runs scored, as well as walks and on-base percentage, and it's our belief that the best way to begin to address -- or continue to address -- some of those issues is to get a new voice in here to work with our hitters."

As hitting coach of the Pirates before coming to the White Sox organization, Manto advocated swinging the bat, perhaps to ill-advised degrees. He didn't provide the same kind of fodder with the White Sox, but the numbers have have done all the talking.

"I think there's certainly room for improvement in our hitters' approach," Hahn said. "Having a different voice usually comes with a different approach and a different mindset and priorities."

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It wasn't a question of work ethic. Hahn thanked Manto for his diligence at the start of his announcement, adding that Manto is "a hard worker and a good baseball man, and I expect him to get another opportunity elsewhere."

In the White Sox clubhouse, players praised Manto for his availability, and said he was merely a casualty of their failures.

"Jeff can't go up there and hit for us, so it's our fault," Gordon Beckham said. "Hitters take the blame. He'd still be there if we hit well."

"There was no difference in the way we worked," Paul Konerko said. "There was as much early hitting as there was last year. The information before the games, really the only stuff they have control over, it was all the same. It's just a matter of guys executing on the field, and you're kind of at the mercy of that."

Robin Ventura, who had hoped to retain his entire staff, took the news harder than anyone.

"For me, this is the first time something like this has happened as a manager," he said.

"These are guys that I came in with. I know the work he did and everything that went into it. Sometimes it doesn't translate into what people see, but I know what he 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 we're still trying to get through this," Ventura said when asked about potential replacements, voice shaking briefly. "It's tough. These guys are my friends, and I respect what he did."

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Regarding the next hitting coach, Hahn said the team has a list of potential candidates from inside and outside the organization, and will begin contacting them after the official end of the season. Potentially anticipating questions about the newly hired Jim Thome, Hahn said that he wouldn't rule out anybody, but "the ideal candidate will very likely have experience in the position of hitting coach at the major-league or minor-league level."

Assistant hitting coach Harold Baines will assume the duties for the season finale. While the Sox will seek a new hitting coach for next season, it won't have an affect on Baines' employment status.

"Harold's very valuable in what he provides for the organization. He's filled a number of roles on the major-league coaching staff already, so I don't see this as having a big impact on Harold going forward."

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