Sox’ seasonlong scarcity of runs leads to firing of hitting coach Jeff Manto
BY TONI GINNETTI Staff Reporter September 28, 2013 10:52PM
Chicago White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto talks with hitters Gordon Beckham (15) and Adam Dunn (32) during batting practice on Wednesday February 29, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times
Updated: October 30, 2013 7:00AM
The first staff casualty of the White Sox’ terrible season is hitting coach Jeff Manto, who was let go Saturday before the Sox secured a 6-5 victory over Kansas City — ironically with the benefit of four home runs — to avoid a 100-loss season.
The lack of runs through the season was the most telling part of the team’s struggles, with Manto held responsible.
“It’s sad because you don’t fire a team, but he takes the blame for all of us for what we did,’’ said Adam Dunn, who often had praised Manto for trying to help him through his own struggles.
“The bad part is we as a unit cost a man a job, and that’s hard to take. He works so hard and genuinely cares. It’s sad.’’
Manager Robin Ventura was emotional in talking about Manto, who was part of the corps that started with him last season in his first year as a manager.
But expectations were growing that some coaches would be held accountable for the team’s poor performance at the plate. The Sox are last in the American League in runs.
General manager Rick Hahn said the rest of the staff will remain, with a search for a new hitting coach to include outside and inside candidates. He stressed the team will seek someone with coaching experience.
“Those are guys I came in with, and I know the work he did and what went into it,’’ Ventura said. “I know what he was trying to do and I respect and thank him for it.
“It’s tough, but that’s what happens in a season like this,’’ he said, adding he went to bat for Manto, 49.
“What we go through on a daily basis, it’s tough,’’ Ventura said. “These guys are my friends, too.’’
Manto was a minor-league hitting coordinator with the Sox from 2008 to ’11 before joining Ventura’s first staff last season.
The Sox were among the American League’s home-run leaders before this year and fourth last year in offense — Manto’s first year as hitting coach.
This team ranks last in runs, 13th in homers and 12th in total bases.
“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 to work with our hitters,’’ Hahn said, adding the decision “was not an indictment of Jeff’s work ethic.’’
He said it was Manto’s decision to exit before Saturday’s game rather than wait for the announcement to come Monday.
Ventura said he felt a measure of “guilt,’’ as did the players.
“This is the first time something like this has happened as a manager, but as a player you feel the same way. Anytime a guy doesn’t get to come back, it’s tough. Even as a player, it was that way.
“Everybody is accountable and the guys understand that,’’ Ventura said. “There wasn’t a real happy clubhouse today, and it shouldn’t be.’’
Paul Konerko said Manto was like other coaches who “pour their heart and soul and passion into it.
“The coaches especially, they all know it’s a tough gig. They know what they signed up for.’’