Robin Ventura is back as White Sox manager in 2016 but a different staff will surround him.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn announced Friday afternoon that Ventura would return for a fifth season. However, the White Sox dismissed bench coach Mark Parent late Thursday night and also are in search of an assistant hitting coach as Harold Baines plans to step down to become a club ambassador.
As they wrap up their third straight losing season and have missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons, Hahn said all changes have been considered, including a managerial change. In spite of the team’s recent failures and a fan base that took to social media on Friday to voice its frustration, Hahn the White Sox are confident they made the right choice with Ventura.
“If we didn't feel as an organization that Robin had the ability to be a championship-caliber manager, he wouldn't be here,” Hahn said. “If we felt we didn't have a championship caliber hitting coach, he wouldn't be here.
“The people who wear this the most, the people who lose the sleep over this as much as anybody, the people who on a daily basis feel as passionately about it as our fans do, want the same things that our fans do.”
Saying they sought a new voice on the bench, Hahn disclosed that Parent learned after Thursday’s loss to the Kansas City Royals his contract wouldn’t be renewed. Parent was well regarded as a manager during his two seasons in the Philadelphia Phillies organization (2010-11) before he joined Ventura’s staff in 2012. He is the second coach of Ventura’s to be dismissed, joining hitting coach Jeff Manto who was fired at the conclusion of the 2013 season.
Rather than wait until after the season to inform Parent by phone, Ventura wanted to deliver the news in person.
“It’s a tough day because he’s a friend and it didn’t work out,” Ventura said. “I didn’t feel (a phone call) was fair to him.”
During his opening statement, Hahn tied Parent’s dismissal in with the club’s performance -- something Hahn admits many people have had a hand in. Full of high expectations after an active offseason, the White Sox never found any kind of rhythm in 2015 aside from a red-hot week in late July that prevented them from trading Jeff Samardzija.
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Though they infused nearly $140 million in talent into the roster this season and acquired Samardzija, the offense struggled until it was too late, the defense hasn’t been consistent, the base running has been poor and the starting rotation hasn’t been as good as they hoped.
“It is unfortunate how we have played out on the field is having these repercussions for him personally,” Hahn said. “But we did get to the point where we think it is important to add a different voice to our coaching staff.”
Despite Ventura’s 295-350 record, Hahn didn’t feel a managerial change was necessary. Hahn backed Ventura because of his communication skills, the environment he has created and his open-minded nature and still believes he has room for improvement, something he hopes to see from throughout the organization.
“Robin's strengths is in that communication and in the environment he creates with those players, to allow them to maximize their abilities,” Hahn said. “Again, there is room for improvement, both from a tactical standpoint as well as from even off the field standpoint, and Robin's aware of that and he's embracing the opportunity to show that improvement, just as the rest of us who need to improve, myself included.”
Ventura thinks the White Sox have already made some of those improvements but agrees more is needed. He also reiterated how much passion he has for the job and the desire he has to get the White Sox back in contention.
“It’s communication, it’s continuing to grind on things, the fundamental things that I know some of it doesn’t look like we were there, but I feel we’ve gotten better at it as the season went along,” Ventura said. “Nobody takes it harder than we do. When you are putting the uniform on, you go through a grind and the season is a difficult thing to go through. And we are doing it 24 hours per day. It’s not just the hours we are here during the game. I grew up a White Sox person. I became an adult as a White Sox. So it’s important to me. I take it personal and it’s hard especially when it goes like this. Nobody wants this to turn around as much as I do.”