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Along with the introductory media conference, the White Sox put a few other things on Pedro Grifol’s to-do list for his first official day as their manager.
Grifol called Eloy Jiménez, whom Grifol briefly managed in winter ball, to showcase some of those communication skills everybody’s talking about.
And he also went to the Blackhawks game, which showed that Yasmani Grandal is indeed spending his offseason in Chicago.
Grifol also made appearances on both Chicago sports radio stations, joining Waddle & Silvy on ESPN1000, and Parkins & Spiegel on 670 The Score. Between it all, a few items shook out that are worth highlighting.
The La Russa Roast
I watched the initial press conference on NBC Sports Chicago’s on-and-off livestream, so I think I missed one section that transcended the passive-aggressive roasting of the Tony La Russa administration and rose to the level of silent screams.
“What the message is to all the players – and that probably includes most other organizations – is if you are on the field, we want you to give 100%,” Hahn said. “That means 100% of what he can give on a given day. There was one player over the course of the season who had a soft-tissue injury that was instructed if you hit a ground ball to second and you’re going to be out, we understand you shouldn’t bust it fully. He was a young player and more likely to err on the side of aggression was the thought. He was given a message of, ‘Let’s be a little careful.’ We were worried we were on the edge of an injury becoming more significant.
“Other than that message, we asked the players to keep us updated on what was going on from an injury or fatigue standpoint. But when you are out there, we expect 100% of what you have.”
When asked if that’s what he saw from his White Sox, Hahn responded, “I am not sure that message fully got through.”
On Parkins & Spiegel, Grifol was asked about whether it was unusual to take a job with a few coaches — pitching coach Ethan Katz, bullpen coach Curt Hasler, bench coach Charlie Montoyo — coming pre-installed.
Grifol rejected the premise:
“I’m extremely excited that Ethan Katz is our pitching coach. He’s done a phenomenal job here since he’s been here, and he’s got some great relationships with our pitchers. You know what’s hard? What’s hard is to have a new manager and a new pitching coach coming in at the same time. That’s hard. But the fact that we have a guy here that we completely trust, is extremely intelligent, has got great relationships with those pitchers, it’s only going to be helpful for me, and he’s going to help facilitate my relationships and trust with those guys as well.”
As for Montoyo, while Hahn left open the possibility that Montoyo was pressed upon Grifol during the press conference by calling the decision “collaborative,” Grifol said it was a name both sides arrived at independently.
Who’s the bad cop?
Since both Grifol and Montoyo have reputations as great communicators and positive presences, Matt Spiegel asked which one of them would be willing to play the enforcer.
“I think the red ass will be me. Charlie is, not a quiet guy, but a more reserved guy. I think he’s got a little bit of an edge as well and he can have it if he needs to, but I think he’s going to be the one taming me down a little bit.”
In a separate interview, Ned Yost explained how Grifol might go about it:
“Pedro doesn’t let things slide. Pedro addresses. And that is something that’s vitally important. But the thing about it is that Pedro addresses in a way that is done with love and respect, so that the player understands why [Grifol] is getting on him, and what he needs to do to continue his growth and development.”
Yost said that while he would get on a player in a way that hurt feelings for weeks and eventually needed patching, Grifol had a way of making his point without wounding, to the point that Yost would consult with Grifol before coming down on a player to better understand how to present it.
Pumping up the fan base
Waddle & Silvy asked Grifol about his impressions of Chicago, and while Grifol started with the restaurants, he then skipped to praising the fans in the same sentence.
“Great restaurants, and the fan base is extremely knowledgeable. When you stand in the dugout down there and you hear the fans talk about the game, or scream, or whatever they do, you can hear, number one, their passion, and how intelligent they are to the game of baseball, and I’m really looking forward to being part of that.”
I’d say thanks, but those seats are typically too rich for my blood.
But the best soundbite came toward the end of his appearance on Parkins & Spiegel, when he stressed energy and hard work, culminating in a team that will “work every day, as hard as we possibly fan, to kick your ass at 7:10.”
(Grifol later added, “3:05, 1:05, whatever time we’re playing.”)