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As expected, the White Sox did not look all that far for a new hitting coach. It will be Frank Menechino, Charlotte’s hitting coach in 2019, that replaces Todd Steverson, with a replacement for assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks to come at some point.
Menechino joins Rick Renteria’s staff using a similar route that Renteria himself traveled. Renteria had experience elsewhere before he was hired from outside the organization to serve as Robin Ventura’s bench coach, then ascended to the managerial seat following Ventura’s dismissal without any other candidates interviewed.
Along the same lines, Menechino served in two different hitting coach roles with the Miami Marlins from 2014 to 2018. The White Sox didn’t accurately relay Menechino’s Miami experience, however. In the press release, the team says:
Prior to joining the Sox organization, Menechino spent five seasons (2014-18) on the Miami Marlins major-league staff, including three (2014-16) as the assistant hitting coach and two (2017-18) as the hitting coach.
The White Sox got the amount of years in each role right, but they got the order backward. Menechino indeed served as the hitting coach for two years, but it was from 2014 through 2015. Before the 2016 season, the Marlins demoted Menechino to assistant hitting coach to clear a role for Barry Bonds in a splashy hire forced on Don Mattingly by owner Jeffrey Loria. Bonds only lasted a year — and Menechino may have been doing more of the work anyway — but Menechino stayed on. The Marlins replaced Bonds with Mike Pagliarulo, under whom Menechino remained the assistant for two more seasons. He was dismissed in a larger coaching shakeup after the 2018 season.
The reverse order is actually more impressive, because Menechino arrived in Miami at the same time as Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto, and one year into the career of Giancarlo Stanton. They all turned out OK. In fact, they turned out too well, because the Marlins traded all of them and forced the coaching staff to start over, and many coaches were canned due to the lack of results.
Now Menechino is being entrusted with a similar step in the White Sox rebuild. He’ll inherit Yoan Moncada, a revitalized Tim Anderson and an Eloy Jiménez who is just starting to get it, but he’ll rejoin Zack Collins, and be rejoined by Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal.
As was the case with Renteria, the previous season served the purpose of the interview process. On a conference call with reporters, Rick Hahn said, “Our comfort level with Frankie grew substantially over the course of the season. He impressed all of us, from Chris Getz, who was his immediate supervisor, to Kenny [Williams] to myself to Ricky and others who dealt with him even as early as spring training.”
So, like Renteria, his hiring is an internal-external hybrid that results in a qualified coach, even if it’s not the kind of widescale recruiting you’d like a struggling organization to conduct. Menechino should be more or less fine, especially since Hahn seemed to indicate that he’s forward-thinking enough for a job in 2020. The bigger concern is what the pipeline produces for him.
It’s clear the White Sox would like better discipline from the hitters, because while Steverson’s tenure boasted some big-time success stories, all of them involved forgoing walks to significant degrees. Renteria is hoping that the next step in their fine-tuning involves zones that aren’t so easy to expand.
“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.”
The question from here is whether the lack of walks comes down to instruction or acquisition. Menechino sounds like he knows that walks aren’t great as a primary purpose.
That’s not a whole lot different from what most coaches say, because that’s all coaches can say. That said, Charlotte walked at a rate significantly higher than the rest of the International League. How much of that is noise from an insanely friendly environment for hitters? Who knows, but just like Sox hitters, we have to work with what’s thrown at us.