So doomed was White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto that in the wake of his firing, none the references that openly mourned his departing were really worth having. Despite all of his adjustments, his most avid pupil Adam Dunn, easily had one of the worst 34-home run seasons of all-time and represents colossal free agent disaster in a way few in franchise history ever have. Gordon Beckham, who praised Manto’s work ethic and temperament, just wrapped up his fourth-straight sub-.700 OPS season. And how much even is the recommendation of Robin Ventura worth at this point? The man who can best testify to the quality and commitment of Manto’s work runs the sloppiest outfit in the league.
Paul Konerko vouched for Manto too, but who demonstrates the doomed nature of a hitting coach more than Konerko? His greatest hitting mentor is Greg Walker,a coach who ran into too much stagnation for even his pristine reputation to survive, and even Konerko’s own famously inscrutable plate approach was useless against the forces of talent decline in 2013.
Chances are that there was no above-average offense that the Jeff Manto could have coaxed out of the 2013 White Sox, and while now isn’t really the time that grievances would be aired, most first-hand accounts portray a hitting coach doing standard hitting coach things. The next glaring flaw identified in Manto’s process, other than by himself in radio in introductory radio interviews, will be the first.
That’s giving him the benefit of the doubt, because he can be given the benefit of the doubt and still be justifiably fired. Process is more important than results, but when the results are the very worst–and also the least-patient and least-disciplined–offense in the American League, there’s no harm in shuffling the deck and hoping for the best.
While a company man at 35th & Shields is not taken down without great consideration, this is the kind of easy fix that can make the White Sox better without actually changing anything or costing much. Even a name like Rudy Jaramillo doesn’t break the bank. Little obvious fixes like not giving Jeff Keppinger 450 plate appearances, or not letting a Paul Konerko who is willing to return in a lesser role hit against right-handers anymore, hiding Dayan Viciedo somewhere, or just not commit 121 errors next season will all be easy to make happen. The 2014 White Sox will be better, both because they can’t keep this up, and because some stuff is just too easy not to fix.
And none of those efforts require any parsing of General Manager Rick Hahn’s words about the future of the club, which true to form, left all of his options open. Whether Jose Daniel Abreu, a mystery due to his career taking place in Cuba but also the rare free agent under 30, counts as a splashy move “just to make a splashy move” or a “long-term fix,” isn’t being answered soon, nor are the identities of the pitchers the front office think would be more valuable converted into bats on the trade market about to be revealed.
How much organizational rebuilding and rededication to the scouting system that the more methodical Hahn will get to carry out while a win-now ownership pushes for an immediate improvement, and how much the new room in the budget will be utilized to secure immediate improvement will be the stories of the off-season. Until we have it, Southside Showdown will be rolling out reviews and looks forward for every Sox player on the 40-man roster and our personal off-season plans, to provide regrettable decisions before the White Sox provide their own.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan