Todd Steverson

State of the White Sox: Manager and coaching staff

State of the White Sox: Manager and coaching staff

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The 2019 season is over, and the White Sox — who have been focusing on the future for quite some time now — are faced with an important offseason, one that could set up a 2020 campaign with hopes of playoff contention.

With the postseason in swing and a little bit still before the hot stove starts cooking, let’s take a position-by-position look at where the White Sox stand, what they’re looking to accomplish this winter and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

We’re wrapping things up with the manager and the coaching staff.

What happened in 2019

While it’s easy to cruise through the statistical production of players and determine just how well they performed in 2019, that’s a little more difficult when it comes to manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff.

In the end, managers and coaches are evaluated on win-loss record — or at least how close they came to meeting the expectations in that department. While the White Sox are a gruesome 83 games under .500 in Renteria’s three years at the helm, that’s not really falling outside the expectations he had when he took over a rebuilding club. So it’s pretty hard to argue that because the White Sox lost 89 games in 2019, Renteria did a poor job.

Truly, his performance as a manager can’t be determined until he’s managing a team with expectations of winning. Renteria more than anyone has been the one setting such expectations for 2020, spending much of the waning weeks of the 2019 campaign voicing his opinion that all this losing stops next season.

“I’m expecting that this is it,” Renteria said. “We’re trying to win. We talk about it, we’re going through it. I know there’s still some refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you, we’re coming in, we’re finishing this season, we’re talking about coming into next season ready to battle. Period. Exclamation point. That’s what we’re looking to do.”

Renteria and his staff did plenty in 2019 to continue developing the team’s young players into the core of the future. But the skipper's most memorable on-field moment came in September, when even after he stopped making mound visits because of shoulder surgery, he went out to the mound and had an animated conversation with Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez made a habit of following up stellar performances with ugly ones, lacking consistency in a fashion that made even the optimistic Renteria throw up his hands at times. Renteria utilized that frustration on the mound in Detroit in an attempt to get some points across to the pitcher.


When it comes to Renteria’s staff, certainly they deserve some credit for some of the breakout seasons on the roster. Hitting coach Todd Steverson did offseason work with both Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson ahead of 2019 campaigns that saw them transform into the best all-around hitter on the team and the big league batting champ, respectively. Pitching coach Don Cooper helped oversee Lucas Giolito’s transformation into an All Star. Infield coach Joe McEwing worked with Moncada, who made a smooth transition from second base to third base.

But if the coaches earn some of the credit for the things that went right, they must also be mentioned alongside the things that went wrong. Steverson coached an offense that ranked near the bottom of the game in most categories. Cooper coached a starting rotation that finished the season with a 5.30 ERA. McEwing coached Anderson, who committed a major league high 26 errors.

None of that is to say those guys are wholly responsible for those negative outcomes. Just as the players have to be the ones to turn in the good results, they’re the ones who have to turn in the poor ones, as well. Steverson, however, along with assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks, will not be back for the 2020 season.

What will happen this offseason

The White Sox have already made their coaching moves this offseason, parting ways with Steverson and Sparks and replacing Steverson with Frank Menechino, who after several seasons on the Miami Marlins staff took over as the hitting coach at Triple-A Charlotte in 2019.

Menechino impressed the White Sox with his work there, spent September with the big league club and was quickly promoted once the season was over. At Charlotte, he worked with top-ranked prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, who both had fantastic seasons playing at three different minor league levels and figure to be everyday players for most of the 2020 season.

The change, in the end, seemed to be more about how the White Sox felt about what Menechino could bring to the table than a reaction to the offensive production from a team that didn’t have expectations of doing much more than it did during another rebuilding season.

General manager Rick Hahn announced that the rest of the staff will be back in 2020.

What to expect for 2020 and beyond

There will be a change in the expectations game come 2020. That should be mostly because of the breakout 2019 seasons from so many young players, the pending arrival of Robert and Madrigal and the offseason additions anticipated to be made by Hahn’s front office. But if nothing else, the expectations, when it comes to Renteria, will be different because he’s already said they will be.

“I'm not going to make any bones about it, it's time to turn the page,” he said just last week, “it's time to get us to another level of performance. That goes across the board, it goes with all aspects of our game.”

And so judging him and his staff can reach another level, too, because it will no longer solely be about hard-to-define development but the cold, hard wins and losses. Plenty of fans have taken to Twitter and complained about Renteria during this losing stretch, suggesting he’s not the one to manage this team into a winning era, but those were conclusions that cannot be drawn considering the quality of the rosters he’s managed in his three years on the South Side. How can you judge a manager’s ability to contend when he doesn’t have the tools to do so?

That’s about to change, so there will finally be some actual evidence to back up either side of that argument.

It’s clear where the White Sox stand in that discussion. They’ve been praising the job Renteria has done for three years now, and they’ve expressed nothing but confidence that he’ll be the guy to get it done.

“When Ricky was put in that role, it wasn't with the idea that he was just going to be the right guy for the first stage, the stage that is coming toward an end here, or is at an end here,” Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. “Obviously, the history and teaching and communicating and holding guys accountable is very important now. But even at the time we hired him, we felt he had the ability to not only set the right winning culture but to put guys in the best position to win.

“His ability to communicate with all 25 or 26 guys on a daily basis, to know where they're at, to know what they're capable of doing and putting them in the best position, makes us fairly confident that once that roster is deep enough and strong enough that he's going to be able to maximize the win potential with that roster when the time comes.”

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White Sox part ways with hitting coaches Todd Steverson and Greg Sparks

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AP

White Sox part ways with hitting coaches Todd Steverson and Greg Sparks

The White Sox will have a new hitting coach in 2020.

The team announced Wednesday that it parted ways with Todd Steverson, who was the team's hitting coach for the past six seasons, adding that assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks will not have his contract renewed for the 2020 season, either. The rest of the coaching staff will return.

Steverson's departure comes after a 2019 season that saw several of the team's young, core players break out offensively. Tim Anderson went from a .240 hitter in 2018 to the big league batting champ, with a .335 average by season's end. Yoan Moncada went from 217 strikeouts as part of a disappointing 2018 season to the team's best all-around hitter. Eloy Jimenez hit 31 home runs as a rookie. And the always consistent Jose Abreu led the American League with 123 RBIs.

But those individual performances didn't stop the White Sox from struggling offensively as a team. Among AL teams, only the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals scored fewer runs. The Tigers, Royals and Baltimore Orioles were the only AL teams with a lower OPS than the White Sox. The Tigers, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners were the only AL teams who struck out more than the White Sox. The team ranked 25th in the major leagues in home runs and dead last in the bigs in walks.

"One the one hand, you expect talented players to perform well on the big league level. On the other hand, you can't take things for granted and guys need instruction and adjustments and occasionally some good luck to help get them to fulfill their potential," general manager Rick Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last week, asked about the disparity between some of the individual accomplishments and the team's combined hitting numbers. "Overall, we've struggled in a few categories that we want to get better in, and we know we have to get better in. But when you look at some of the individual top performers, you have to be pleased with their progress and feel really good about where TA and Yoan are right now and where Eloy is, even."

In complimenting the staff — all but two of which will be back next season — Hahn might have hinted at a potential change in focus. He applauded their efforts from a player-development standpoint, but with the White Sox looking ready to shift from rebuilding mode to contending mode in 2020, perhaps the player-development skill isn't as much of a priority as it has been in recent seasons, or perhaps the White Sox will look for someone with a different skill set altogether.

"Certainly when we assembled this staff, we wanted it to be filled with guys with roots in player development so that they were able to teach our young players and hold them accountable and set standards," Hahn said. "And we're certainly very pleased with how that's unfolded."

Well, now we know that the White Sox will have a new hitting coach moving forward.

A potential candidate to fill Steverson's shoes might be Frank Menechino, who was hired away from the Miami Marlins organization last season and served as the hitting coach at Triple-A Charlotte this season. Menechino joined the White Sox at the big league level once Charlotte's season was over. He was present at Charlotte for the excellent Triple-A performances of top-ranked prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, two players who figure to reach the major leagues in the early portion of the 2020 campaign.

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Rick Hahn says decisions on White Sox coaching staff yet to be finalized

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn says decisions on White Sox coaching staff yet to be finalized

Will there be changes on the White Sox coaching staff? Those decisions have yet to be finalized, general manager Rick Hahn said.

While he sang the praises of manager Rick Renteria, Hahn said that the team is still finishing up discussion regarding the future of Renteria’s staff.

“It's still a little premature on 'everyone coming back' conversations,” he said during his end-of-season press conference Friday. “We need to sit down and finish up with Ricky the evaluation of where we're at.

“Certainly when we assembled this staff, we wanted it to be filled with guys with roots in player development so that they were able to teach our young players and hold them accountable and set standards. And we're certainly very pleased with how that's unfolded. We'll deal with specific staffing issues once the season's over.”

That’s not a “yes” or a “no,” obviously, to the question that was asked, whether the coaching staff would return in full for 2020.

Fans have been particularly critical of certain members of the coaching staff this season, though the coaches certainly have accomplished the goal of developing some of the team’s most important young players into stars in the making. Their work with players who aren’t a part of the team’s long-term future, players who have struggled during the team’s losing seasons in recent years, is nowhere near as important.

Though as Hahn declared Friday, the White Sox are moving into the “next stage” of their rebuilding effort, and if that stage has less of a focus on player development, perhaps — and this is pure speculation — there would be a desire to bring in coaches with different skill sets.

We’ll find out after the season ends.

And for fans who are frustrated with Renteria, know that the team still fully supports their skipper and believes him to be the right man for the job.

“When Ricky was put in that role, it wasn't with the idea that he was just going to be the right guy for the first stage, the stage that is coming toward an end here, or is at an end here,” Hahn said. “Obviously, the history and teaching and communicating and holding guys accountable is very important now. But even at the time we hired him, we felt he had the ability to not only set the right winning culture but to put guys in the best position to win.

“His ability to communicate with all 25 or (soon to be) 26 guys on a daily basis, to know where they're at, to know what they're capable of doing and putting them in the best position, makes us fairly confident that once that roster is deep enough and strong enough that he's going to be able to maximize the win potential with that roster when the time comes.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.