Rick Renteria doubled down on his declaration that it’s time for these White Sox to make the move to winning baseball.
Well, he’s said it so much at this point it’s less of a double down and more of an octuple down.
“I'm not going to make any bones about it, it's time to turn the page,” he said Thursday, “it's time to get us to another level of performance. That goes across the board, it goes with all aspects of our game.”
This is expected to be a busy offseason for the White Sox, and Rick Hahn’s lengthy to-do list means he’ll be addressing plenty of those aspects. But the first one addressed was the hitting coach, Frank Menechino announced Thursday as the replacement for Todd Steverson.
Menechino gets a promotion from the same job with Triple-A Charlotte, his role for the past season after the White Sox hired him last winter following five years in the majors with the Miami Marlins. From Hahn and Renteria on Thursday came plenty of compliments of Menechino’s ability as a communicator, as a teacher.
“He's got a very sound message about his approach to hitting and teaching hitting. He's an effective communicator in getting that message across to players,” Hahn said. “And he has a number of different tools in his box about how to get that message across and different ways to teach and effectively get guys to buy in to what he's preaching from an offensive standpoint. He's a very skilled, diverse teacher and that's going to serve us well over the coming years.”
While Steverson took a ton of heat from fans upset with the White Sox place at the bottom of the offensive ranks, the quality of the players on the roster will likely produce the seismic change there, not the removal of one hitting coach for another. The White Sox saw plenty of positive strides in that department in 2019, with Tim Anderson winning a batting title, Jose Abreu winning an RBI crown, Yoan Moncada blossoming into the team’s best all-around hitter and Eloy Jimenez blasting 31 home runs in his rookie season. Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal — who both worked with Menechino in Charlotte — had spectacular seasons in the minor leagues and are on the doorstep of the majors.
None of that, however, could keep the White Sox out of the basement in many of the most important offensive categories, runs scored chief among them. And so Menechino is tasked with continuing to develop the team’s core players into stars of the future as well as getting the team to hit better. Those things go hand in hand, obviously, and Hahn himself will share in that responsibility this winter when it comes to improving the roster.
As for Menechino, he’s got his own strategy for coaching up Anderson, Moncada, Jimenez and the like.
“You get to know them, you get to see what makes them tick, you get to learn them, see how they think, what improvements they want to make,” he said. “I’m a firm believer (that) it takes three years in the big leagues, roughly 1,500 at-bats, to figure out who you are as a big league hitter.
“Once these guys have the experience, ups and downs, all the different stuff, little adjustments here, little adjustments there, once you figure out who they are and what they want to do, that’s when you figure out what they will become. Once they have the belief in who they are and what they can become, now it’s my job to be their eyes to keep them where they want to be.
“And when I see things going bad, I have to have the relationship where I can approach them and say, ‘Hey you’re not doing this right, you’re falling back to this.’ So it’s getting to know them, getting to see where they’re at, where they think they’re at and want to improve on.
“You can have a relationship with a guy where you can go in there and get the best out of him. That’s kind of my plan with guys that have successful years. I ask questions. ‘Where do you want to be? Where do you see yourself? Who do you see yourself as?’ This is where you come together.”
It all rolls into the White Sox making the moves they believe necessary to take the next step, to make the jump from rebuilding mode to contending mode. How?
“Hopefully what it does, maybe it expands the underlying value of things we need to do in terms of getting on base more, and that simply means that guys are going to be more apt to be aggressive with their pitches, staying in their lanes, trying to do a little bit in terms of being more disciplined. I think it keeps the line moving, it allows guys to continue to improve upon their approaches,” Renteria said. “I think the way he connects to guys, as we've seen with a lot of the things we've talked about, seems to be a place that we need to go to. And that, coupled with, hopefully, some additions, will continue to improve us overall, give us an opportunity to be on the other side of winning and losing.”