Parent wants White Sox to play with more attitude
Bench coach prepared to take on responsibility of raising club's energy level
CHICAGO -- Mark Parent serves as the White Sox bench coach, preparing for his third season as part of Robin Ventura's coaching staff.
But if the White Sox manager wants Parent to add an extra job responsibility to his list of duties, a task something along the lines of attitude developer, for lack of a better description, then Parent is ready to be that guy. In a recent interview with MLB.com, Parent talked about this basically immeasurable but important intangible missing from last year's 99-loss squad.
"As far as the whole clubhouse, we lost a little bit of [edge]," Parent said. "You have to have that element: that guy who is ready to fight, who is ready to fight for the team, fight you, fight whatever, and keep people in line.
"We've got to look for something like that. We've got to have that. That's something I know [executive vice president] Kenny [Williams] and [general manager] Rick [Hahn] have mentioned a few times in meetings we've had.
"If Robin wants me to be that guy, I'll be that guy," Parent said. "I have no problems with it. You would like for the players to police themselves like other good teams do."
Parent focused much more on the addition of energy than confrontation attitude-wise, although the two work hand and hand on rare occasions. The White Sox had these sorts of presences in the form of Jake Peavy, Orlando Hudson, Eduardo Escobar, their late pregame instructor Kevin Hickey, and of course, A.J. Pierzynski, to name a few. Peavy was the only one of the players still on the roster at the outset of 2013 and was moved to Boston in a three-player trade at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
That topic of clubhouse attitude can be argued like the old chicken and the egg conundrum. Williams has talked about having players with that "Chicago tough" persona helping to build a winner, while Hahn readily acknowledges that aspect but also stresses that good clubhouses often come from successful teams.
Fixing what arguably was Major League Baseball's worst squad in terms of defense and fundamentals becomes a more hands-on project for the front office and coaching staff. Parent pointed out that after the '12 team stood out as one of baseball's best in these categories, the group did more work to improve during Spring Training '13.
So, it might be a case of quality over quantity when players arrive in February at Camelback Ranch.
"You still have to have your quantity, but you just need to make sure everything is quality," Parent said. "This [past] year is going to be a prime example to remind these guys that come back of why we do this stuff in the spring.
"From PFP [pitchers' fielding practice] to pickoffs to rundowns, there's not a facet in this game that we didn't screw up that should never happen at this level and the things that we didn't mess up last year. It was really disappointing. The reason why? I have no idea. We were so good at it last year and so bad at it this year.
"They [prepared] well [during Spring Training '13]," Parent said. "I guess when you come off of a good year, you relax a little bit. As a player, you think, 'We've got this and we can do this every year.' But there are 14 other teams in this league over there that are trying to win and you have to go do your job every day. You have to be focused on what the team needs to do each day to help them win."
Fundamentals include moving a runner from second to third with less than two outs and scoring a runner from third with less than two outs. The White Sox struggled in all areas last year, needing to improve situational hitting and take an occasional walk.
New hitting coach Todd Steverson will be entrusted with this particular challenge, placed among a group of free swingers dotting the White Sox roster.
"Well, you remind them," said Parent when asked about changing the free-swinging culture. "It's the definition of insanity: continue to do the same thing and come up with the same results. It's not good.
"There are certain guys who had pretty good numbers for the year, but they could have had better numbers. Some guys had bad numbers and this is why: your approach to hitting and your approach to the game. Hopefully next year our bench will be even better that if a guy is not getting it done, we can sit him for a day or three or a week. Nowadays you have to sit them. That's the only way you can get to a guy."
Hahn and his staff continue to put together the '14 roster. Parent is ready for improvement, whether it includes that clubhouse edge or is in the middle of a modified rebuild.
"There's nothing good about losing 99 games," Parent said. "So you just wait to wake up every morning and read the transactions or hear something at night where we acquired this guy or traded this guy for this guy and see how the front office goes about it.
"I have all the faith in the world that they will want to be competitive and being competitive isn't going at it halfway, either. If you want to compete, you've got to compete. If they decide they want to rebuild some more and let our younger kids catch up or learn at this level, then so be it. We'll have to teach more at this level."