Mark Parent was talking pretty tough on Sunday, and no tough-guy, hard-nosed bench coach persona is really complete without some pledge of loyalty to the team, seasoned with a bit of implied violence. Or at least, that's what all the bench coach handbooks say.
So while it was notable that Parent made a pledge of retaliation ("You hit our guy, we'll hit your guy") for future White Sox batters hit by pitches either intentionally or through reckless disregard (I'm assuming Parent isn't envisioning avenging every wayward curveball), it certainly wasn't shocking given his prior reputation, and given the way the last 150 or so years of baseball have gone down.
If anything, one would assume that Parent had done his homework. Maybe he didn't know that the White Sox had been 5th in plunkings received over the last five years, but 28th in bruises dished out (h/t @SSS_UGod), and I can't be sure he was specifically in the sad saga of Cleveland relievers and the broken hands left in their wake, but he spoke with a certain awareness that his audience would be receptive to a newly aggressive approach.
It seemed unlikely to start a controversy, but that's viewing it entirely within its context.
Outside of its context, Mark Parent is announcing his intention to use large men hurtling rock-hard spheres at people at extremely high speeds as a violent deterrent, and was applauded for doing so. That sounds a lot worse.
At Hardball Talk, Craig Calcaterra saw Parent's comments as the continuation of an ugly trend that he feels has no place in the game.
"Longtime readers know my view on intentional plunkings and beanball wars: I hate ‘em. A pitched ball could potentially kill a guy, so the idea of a pitcher intentionally aiming one at a batter is just abhorrent to me.
I don’t know how any reasonable person can see their team’s player get hit and have their first impulse be 'we need to hit them!' as opposed to “that pitcher needs to get ejected and suspended.'"
That's fair. While circumstances have changed drastically from when Ray Chapman died in 1920, Marlon Byrd's case of multiple facial fractures this year wasn't exactly easy on the eyes, and Brent Lillibridge having his dream season ended with a broken hand was a pretty clear example of what kind of damage could result from a more aggressive baseball landscape. Plunking and its resulting discord evokes the tribalistic passions that baseball fandom already appeals to, but the fallout isn't worth the thrill.
Of course, any discussion of the White Sox mindset on this matter is incomplete without Jim Margalus' chronicling of the September incidences at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, which outlined distinct variances from the normal HBP rates of Cleveland relievers when facing the White Sox.
"This doesn't tell me that Judy is throwing at the White Sox intentionally. But his performance, when combined with what his colleagues are doing, strongly suggests that they've been advised to pitch inside as freely as they'd like.
The Minnesota Twins operate by the same playbook. Known for being control artists, the Twins have plunked just 98 batters since the start of the 2010 season...
... and a quarter of them have been White Sox (23)."
At those rates, Parent and Ventura would have a lot of hits to order. If the Sox believe they're getting hit with impunity because teams doubt that there are any consequences to recklessly pitching them inside, what recourse do they have to remove that notion? While using violence to justify more violence is folly, that might not even be what Parent is doing.
There's a major step in-between ordering players to nail batters, and pitchers actually following through, and there's yet another step between actually ordering pitchers to retaliate, and just talking about it during SoxFest to change public perceptions about the operational policy at 35th & Shields. It's too soon to know about how Parent operates, or how much Parent's tough talk gets filtered and modified by Ventura, (or who even noticed SoxFest took place outside a 50 mile radius), but so far all he's done is attempt to change the reputation.
And the issue is all about reputation. While brawls and the general incompetence that occurs when baseball players has been ascribed to having clubhouse unifying properties in the past, it goes without saying that the White Sox--especially this paper-thin team with not much other than organizational filler backing up at several positions--won't actually benefit from a beanball war, and are hopefully too smart to actually be courting one.