The White Sox finalized Robin Ventura's new coaching staff, and it contains no surprises -- except for the overarching mild surprise that none of Ventura's coaches have little major-league coaching experience. The new guys include:
- Hitting coach Jeff Manto
- Bench coach Mark Parent
- Third base coach Joe McEwing
There's only so much any of them can say at this point, considering they haven't been able to do anything or talk to anybody yet, so I looked for some information beyond the standard-issue introductions.
Hitting coach Jeff Manto
Manto spent the last four seasons with the White Sox as their minor-league hitting coordinator, and he talked to us in July of 2010. He struck me as a positive, energetic guy, and he used the word "adjustments" a lot.
Manto is making the same jump he made in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He was its roving hitting instructor from 2002 to 2005, and then served as the Pirates' hitting coach from 2006 to 2007. Freddy Sanchez won a batting title under his watch, which is something. Manto wasn't fired individually, but he was effectively pushed out when Neal Huntington took over as GM and fired Jim Tracy.
I looked through Bucs Dugout to see what they said about Manto over the years, and I found this gem:
For starters, Manto is no fan of on-base percentage, partly because he believes its emphasis on walks does not take into account that a base-on-balls is not always a desired or productive result.
While dismissing runs created, Manto offered his own statistical category: "runs produced" -- measured by adding runs and RBI, subtracting home runs from that total and dividing that number by games played.
Along those same lines, I found a Manto quote relayed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dejan Kovacevic (one of my favorite beat writers, now a columnist) from the spring before Manto's first season:
A lack of patience long has been a bugaboo for Pirates hitters, but Manto has no plan to isolate on drawing more walks.
"Do we want Jason Bay walking if a pitch is an inch outside and there's a man on third? I'm not so sure. There's a time to walk and a time to understand what's going on."
- Feb. 16, 2006
In Manto's defense, this seems to be what a lot of hitting coaches think (and preach), probably because they don't want their hitters to disengage from attack mode. Also, the Pirates aren't exactly a talent machine. But based on a couple other things I've seen -- including one of Manto's defenses on Bucs Dugout -- I'm guessing you won't see Manto calling out any hitters, so prepare to be exasperated if there's another slow start.
Most of what Manto said to Gonzales is boilerplate stuff, which is to be expected. To me, the most interesting aspect was that he emphasized his experience working with sports psychologists. Obviously, this is all about fixing Adam Dunn.
Bench coach Mark Parent
Parent embodied the journeyman backup catcher in the late 1980s and early 1990s, playing for the Padres, Orioles, Phillies, Cubs, Pirates, Rangers and Tigers over his 13-year big-league career.
He managed two different Philadelphia farm teams, guiding Single-A Lakewood to the South Atlantic League championship in 2010, and Double-A Reading to a 74-68 record and a playoff berth this past season.
He's a big guy, standing 6-foot-5-inches tall. Daryl Van Schouwen said Parent will bring an "authoritative, 'old-school' presence," and play the bad cop to Ventura's good cop, per Buddy Bell's plan. A survey of one of Parent's players at Reading said he was a positive influence, and connected well with players.
Perhaps one player he can connect with is Tyler Flowers, since he knows what it's like to move a massive frame behind the plate.
Third-base coach Joe McEwing
To us, he's Joe McEwing, who has climbed his way up the coaching ranks in the White Sox system. He was the Charlotte Knights' hitting coach before managing at Winston-Salem, after which he was promoted back to Charlotte.
To fans of the Mets and Cardinals, he's the superutility guy known as "Super Joe," which was used to both praise and deride him, depending on what one thought of scrappygrindygrittyguys.
McEwing is a fan of that type of player:
‘‘We’re all basically the same player — grinders, not silver spoon-type players,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘We had to work for everything we got. We’ll bring that to the guys, that’s all we know. Grind it out and get the best out of what we’ve got that day.’’
But grinder jokes/nausea aside, there's nothing wrong with hard work, and McEwing earned respect of his teammates and coaches at every stop by doing his damndest to stick in the big leagues. In fact, one of his biggest fans just became available:
"It's one of the greatest games I've ever seen played," he said. "What did he not do? He made all types of plays at second. He made all types of plays at third. He got clutch two-out hits against good pitching.
"Why fight it? I'm in love. We're in love."
That's Tony La Russa talking, and Jerry Reinsdorf has extended an invitation for La Russa to rejoin the White Sox in some kind of special advisor role. McEwing's presence might be an incentive. I might be drawing a connection that's not there, but, hey, La Russa admired McEwing so much that he wanted a pair of Super Joe's spikes to remember him by when he left St. Louis for New York. It's like they always say -- if you like a guy enough to want his shoes, you might want to help him coach.