Manto: It was a fantastic run that fell short
Former White Sox hitting coach to miss chemistry of organization
CHICAGO -- Jeff Manto was not happy about leaving his job as the White Sox hitting coach.
But it was not so much the actual act of having his duties relieved this past weekend that was most bothersome, but rather having to leave an organization where he really enjoyed working.
"It was a fantastic run that fell short personally," Manto told MLB.com by phone from his home Monday night, showing the same upbeat demeanor he featured even in the toughest times this past season.
"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."
Manto presided over an offense in 2012 that played a big part in the team's sitting atop the American League Central for much of the season, prior to a September fade. That year, Manto's first moving from the White Sox Minor League hitting coordinator to the big leagues, the team finished fourth in the AL in runs scored, third in home runs, fifth in OPS and fifth in slugging.
Some people will point to the ensuing 2013 debacle and talk about last year's team overachieving. Manto disagrees, simply believing he got to work with a talented, healthy offense.
That talent disappeared to some extent in '13, or at least got much younger. That relative health also took a dive with key players like Paul Konerko, Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo missing significant time. They also never found a replacement at catcher for A.J. Pierzynski's consistency with the bat, and in Conor Gillaspie they ended up going with a rookie, albeit a talented one, at third base.
There were no excuses made by Manto, whose '13 offense finished last in the AL in runs scored and joined the Marlins as the only two teams in baseball that failed to score 600 runs. The White Sox were also second to last in the league in OBP and OPS.
All of these struggles left the move by general manager Rick Hahn as less than surprising for Manto.
"Statistically, we had gone down considerably in a few categories, and that speaks volumes obviously," Manto said. "So I could see it coming. I knew the numbers were definitely not there.
"This was not unexpected by any of us with the situation we were in. We lost Viciedo for a month, Beckham for a month. Konerko was banged up quite a bit. We were in search of an offensive catcher, with a rookie third baseman and a rookie right fielder [Avisail Garcia at the end of the season].
"We kind of expected those numbers that we just put up," Manto said. "You can't hide them. It just didn't work."
Hahn told Manto on Friday afternoon that the White Sox were going to go with a different voice, and Manto understood the decision. He was given the option of leaving but wanted to keep the hitters in their normal routine Friday and Saturday. He did not want to be around for the "fanfare," as Manto put it, in Sunday's season finale.
Losing his White Sox job does not mean Manto is done as a hitting coach. He will sit back and see what is open to him, taking with him a positive experience as part of the White Sox from the 2008 season on, even if it did not end the way he would have liked.
"The coaches especially, they all know it's a tough gig; they know what they signed up for," Konerko said after the Manto announcement Saturday. "As far as Mick [Manto] goes, never had to go looking for him. Never had to wonder where he was at. He was a very hard-working guy."
"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."