With Pedro Grifol, White Sox finally have manager and process they can stand behind

Today was supposed to be a travel day for the World Series before a rainout pushed the middle three games back a day, which is why the last three teams to fill their managerial vacancies all held their introductory media conferences this morning.

Before the White Sox formally announced Pedro Grifol as their new manager, the Marlins and Royals did the same with Skip Schumaker and Matt Quatraro, respectively. I don’t track much Marlins media on Twitter, but the Royals voices I follow relayed favorable first impressions of their new manager.

When Grifol’s session wrapped up nearly an hour later, I also had the urge to say that he made a fine first impression, but it felt trite. These press conferences are the spring training of a manager’s career. Today marks the start of the brief window where Grifol will be part of the White Sox, yet independent of all the angst the franchise foments. At some point, something will be Grifol’s grif-fault, but today is not that day.

Then I remembered that the White Sox failed to afford their fans that smallest of luxuries with their previous two managerial hires. From the introductory graphic with the wrong signature to Rick Hahn’s reliance on the passive voice, everything about Tony La Russa’s Zoom introduction suggested that few in the organization thought he was the right man for the job. Before him, the White Sox introduced Rick Renteria on the defensive — not because Renteria was unqualified, but because they’d promoted the bench coach from a failing enterprise without a process.

With this history, a great first impression actually counts as newsworthy, because the White Sox actually allowed their new manager to make one.


Hahn was visibly and audibly thrilled by Grifol’s presence, and used the word “gushing” a few times when he became aware of his effusiveness. He said the White Sox’s initial list of managerial candidates approached 30 names. They ended up interviewing eight candidates from seven different organizations (including the White Sox). “A few candidates” made it to a second interview with Hahn and Kenny Williams, followed with a final approval interview from Jerry Reinsdorf.

Hahn relished relaying details of the kind of process the White Sox failed to implement for their previous three managers, which would be like me telling Peak TV fans about a great little show I just discovered called “The Wire.”

Except I have no intent to ever watch “The Wire,” whereas we can grant that Hahn wanted to have this kind of moment the last time around before Reinsdorf intervened. Knowing this, it was hard to not take Hahn’s praise of Grifol as a passive-aggressive roast of the La Russa era. Some quotes:

“We’re very proud of the process that led us to Pedro.”
“With the hiring of Pedro, [we] feel like we are taking a major step to putting ourselves back on track on the trajectory that we all felt we were on over the previous seasons prior to last season’s disappointment.”
“A modern baseball mind who is seeking to build a cohesive and inclusive clubhouse environment and one where the attention to detail and the accountability will be priorities.”

Hahn is not immune to such barbs himself, and he had to open himself up to shots when he said the White Sox had been “a little insular,” and that “sometimes it’s good to get a little bit of a reality check from the outside,” but at least he acknowledged the White Sox hadn’t shown any inclination for getting such perspectives with the last few turnovers, and wanted to use this one to make such interest clear.

Grifol offered some of that perspective by tucking criticism into a candy-coated shell. When asked about what he saw in the White Sox from other side of the field, he said, “It was a really difficult club to prepare for because if the energy was high, they can beat anybody in the game. If the energy wasn’t, we were able to have some success against them.”

Grifol kept most of his strengths and suggestions at surface level — energy, communication, fluency in Spanish and analytics — Hahn piggybacked on Grifol saying “We’re going to be prepared to play” with another pointed criticism of the previous administration.

“We spent a lot of time with Pedro talking through improvements to our pregame planning, something that he was heavily involved in in the past, as well as how we prepare from an offensive standpoint to get the most out of the traits of the players on the roster,” Hahn said. “How we go about our business in that area in particular I think you’re going to see a lot different from what we had in the past.”


It sounds like the coaching staff will represent such changes. Hahn said that pitching coach Ethan Katz and bullpen coach Curt Hasler will return, but he also confirmed the reports that Charlie Montoyo has joined the White Sox as a bench coach, a position he’d previously held with the Tampa Bay Rays.

It doesn’t sound like Grifol and Montoyo had any previous ties. Grifol said they’d spoken a few times and there’s a whole lot of respect involved, but Hahn said it was a “collaborative” decision prompted by the demand for Montoyo’s services. As long as Grifol was allowed to shoot down the idea then, and is allowed to revisit the pairing later, it shouldn’t be a problem.

New faces should occupy the staff spots that weren’t confirmed, as Hahn said a majority of spots will be filled from outside the organization. Mike Tosar, who worked with Grifol in Kansas City and helped Jorge Soler and Salvador Perez unleash their power, is the favorite as the new hitting coach, both from James Fegan and the KC side. It also sounds like the White Sox will make further changes to their strength and conditioning unit — Grifol nearly announced something along those lines, before consulting with Hahn in a sidebar where Hahn said it was premature — which squares up with a rumor I’ve heard.


As for Grifol himself, I’m reluctant to make too much of initial statements, because what he stressed are typically what every new manager stresses — effort, energy, fundamentals, communication, information, etc. Starting with Ventura, every manager the White Sox have hired has been billed as more detail-oriented than the guy who came before. Grifol is renowned for his communication skills, but communication is always a little easier when somebody else is ultimately responsible for the content of the message. The buck stops with Grifol now, so we’ll see what happens.

What stood out to me is what’s stood about White Sox managers this century: You can sense the difference when the manager actively sought the job. Guillen and Renteria wanted to manage the White Sox. Ventura and La Russa had to be coaxed into it, and that deficit in desire created a cloud that always returned when times got tough.

There should be no doubt about Grifol’s mission. He shared a story from 2011, when he realized that his heart was back on the dugout, even though the farm director job he held at the time paid better, and provided more reliable hours. He told his wife and daughters that in order to pursue a path toward managing, they’d have to downsize their house, and that he’d have to manage in winter ball to make ends meet.

The way Grifol tells it, they wouldn’t allow him another option.

“They snapped right back at me and said, ‘How in the world can you tell us to chase our dreams if you’re not chasing yours?'” Grifol said, taking a moment before looking at his family. “I can’t thank you enough for that.”

Desire for one of baseball’s most coveted post-playing positions should be a given. Great first impressions at an introductory media conference should be a given. A process to find the best guy should be a given. When it comes to the White Sox and what counts as their processes, there are no such guarantees, but the excitement that radiated in the room and through the live streams should show them the reward of conducting themselves like professionals.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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asinwreck

I got the sense, mostly from the discussion about coaching hires, that the decision to hire Grifol was made a couple of weeks ago. If true, they kept a lid on it pretty well.

Hahn never mentioned La Russa by name, but, wow, were there ever a lot of comments about how unprepared the team was last season. The emphasis on pregame planning that both men discussed should be standard practice. That the supposedly detail-oriented Tony La Russa’s game planning was apparently identified by outside candidates as a weakness is both obvious and pathetic.

Perhaps having a manager on the same page as the GM resolves that issue, but both men still report to the guy who thought La Russa was a good idea in 2020. If Grifol can effectively manage up Reinsdorf, he is a Hall of Fame baseball person.

dwjm3

Good points…He needs to have an excellent relationship with Jerry if he is going to succeed at this job. We know the front office isn’t good, so I would suggest he get on Jerry’s good side in hopes of getting Jerry to spend that extra marginal dollar on the club.

As Cirensica

Hahn speaks like a first year GM…mentioning pregame preparation, communication, the importance of fitness, etc like he just discovered it and he hasn’t been in this business for more than two decades.

upnorthsox

Or in charge of implementing it for over a decade.

itaita

You can make an argument this was the first time he was able to hire the manager he wanted.

As Cirensica

So because he didn’t pick a manager before, all those facets of the game were no part of his mindset? Got it.

itaita

More like he was never allowed to implement it before. Look, my mindset is not so much defending the job hes done but more “who would’ve succeeded in this job?” How good is a GM going to look if an owner is going to undercut you on your manager hires, force you to throw out unrealistic contracts at top tier FA targets or have to deal with Kenny doing who knows what over your head as well. There might be 2 or 3 guys that could work around those margins and why would those guys want to come here when they could go to normal franchises.

soxygen

Is it possible that the reason it wasn’t announced earlier is that he would have preferred the Royals job and wanted to await the outcome of that process before negotiating with the Sox? Then when the Royals announced it, the Sox began negotiating with him on terms?

Last edited 28 days ago by soxygen
GrinnellSteve

Before having my enthusiasm tamped by seeing what team Rick foists upon me, I’m excited for Opening Day. I think this is a good hire.

dwjm3

Signing Brandon Nimmo would get me excited.

670WMAQtheElder

If RH truly has “the power” it will be very interesting to see what he does with it to fix this roster. I still believe that TLR was calling the shots last off season with Garcia’s ridiculous contract and all the bullpen spending. That is how TLR wanted to manage: Cardinals 2011. Since the Sox were coming off a huge AL Central win, TLR had the power in office politics. In 2022, between failure and health, he lost power with JR. Just like KW lost power when he signed Shields. Now it is clearly RH in charge. Let’s see what he does with it.

GrinnellSteve

There’s no appropriate place to put this so I’ll just drop it here: I’ve been amazed at the thought and effort people have put into their offseason plans. We’re being given a wide range of approaches and targets. Reading the plans is way better than most of what the Sox actually delivered to their fans this year. Thanks, OPPers!

Hulksmash

Seconded! They’ve been a blast to read.

Adam

Agree!! Whenever I have a spare 10 minutes or so I like to find a new one to read. Great way to pass the fall

BenwithVen

Real “Nikita Khrushchev at the 20th Party Congress” energy from Rick there. He could hardly contain himself.

I think Pedro nailed it as far as press conferences go. His comment about how teams measured the White Sox depending on their energy level speaks volumes about how other teams viewed the White Sox last year. Just a team a you could have your way with because they didn’t show any fight or willingness to adjust.

I’ll die happy if I never have to hear the term “observational analytics” ever again.

Last edited 29 days ago by BenwithVen
calcetinesblancos

I love how much Rick so obviously despises everything about TLR.

upnorthsox

I love how UNS so obviously despises everything about Rick. I do hope that he doesn’t prattle on endlessly about it though.

calcetinesblancos

Did you try intimidation?

upnorthsox

I threatened him with having to watch the Bears vs Lions game……..in its entirety. That’s fear of god shit right there.

As Cirensica

What is UNS?

dwjm3

He is referring to himself in the third person.

a-t

The subject of Tony La Russa is the only time I’ve ever seen Hahn depart from his standard bloodless professional manner. I remember watching him talk almost literally through clenched teeth at Tony’s introductory press conference, and then this one with a goodly quantity of barely veiled shots at TLR. Altogether it gives the impression of a front office that was entirely aware of his incompetence and was powerless to do anything about it. The more owners meddle in baseball decisions, the worse off their teams are.

calcetinesblancos

I mentioned it on this board a long time ago, but there was this live PBS interview awhile back where Rick was smiling and then they asked him a question about TLR and the smile instantly went away. It was clear as day how he felt about him. When they did the re-broadcast later they played clips of the team during that part and only played Rick’s audio.

gibby32

A paraphrase of a Grifol complimentary comment about Montoyo, which you would never hear from LaRussa: “if I’m the smartest guy in the room, we’ve got a problem”.

dwjm3

Walking a hitter with a 1-2 count was certainly a symptom of Tony’s delusion that he was the smartest guy in the room.

670WMAQtheElder

RH apparently suffered through two years of TLR, had JR pull the rug from under him back in 2019, and stayed around? The “why” would be a great story. Any thoughts?

mrridgman

It’s also possible he hopes that the job gets better from the standpoint of autonomy. Many people suffer through a situation they don’t like under a similar hope/belief (usually misplaced).
In the Sox’ case that won’t happen unless the organization “structure” changes for the better.

theSKOT

Many times, I have tried and failed to articulate why RH didn’t resign when Tony was hired. I think it all comes down to him knowing that he would probably never get another GM job and the paycheck that comes with it.

Sometimes you just need to shut up and toe the company line. Use of passive language is your friend.

ayeitsfabes

If Billy Eppler, a guy who couldn’t get to the playoffs in 5 years with prime Mike Trout, can find a another GM job immediately after being fired, RH would absolutely get another opportunity to GM

steelydan52

I’m with you on this one. I get that Hahn is a GM and gets paid very well so he lets things go on around him knowing he doesn’t have the pull he wants. But I’ve mentioned before that, for me personally, pride HAS to come into play. None of us has any idea what conversations have taken place with the big trio or how much say the board of directors have. Well, Jim and Josh may know but I sure as hell don’t.
I also believe that Hahn would land on his feet elsewhere just for the fact that the rest of the league probably knows what he went through and how JR operates and meddles.

gibby32

I don’t know about the interplay of the “trio”, but I do know that the Board has no say.

a-t

Do GMs ever resign in protest over ownership decisions? I’ve never heard of it I don’t think. Doing so indicates an unwillingness to be a company man that billionaires don’t like in underlings, so quitting a GM job like that probably means they are not getting another.

HallofFrank

Would you quit your dream job, even if your boss made weird decisions you disagreed with but didn’t affect your pay?

To Err is Herrmann

I think it’s called Stockholm Syndrome?

dongutteridge

Charlie Montoyo is a lifetime .400 hitter in the big leagues.

So, there’s that.

upnorthsox

Can he still play RF?

PauliePaulie

Tosar?
Was really hoping the Sox wouldn’t hire anyone else from the Royals’ org.

Jason

What’s left unstated deserves to be explicitly stated.

Jerry Reinsdorf owes it to the fans who give their money, time, attention and family ties to this backwards organization an apology over the travesty of last year.

Its nice that Rick is so thrilled he got to play the part of a standard professional baseball organization with a Hiring 101 process. But I remain where I did last year:

Sell the damn team, Jerry

It’s a requirement before I give this org another dime (okay I might buy a few beers if tickets are free and the weather is nice).

Now to another abysmal off-season where I can remain comfortable with my stance.

MrStealYoBase

Well this hiring didn’t make me want to scream from the top of a mountain so that represents a marked improvement over the process from the last decade.

steelydan52

We all know who Hahn reports to but if Grifol is truly HIS hire then I have to believe he will do what he can to provide Grifol with the best team he can. Meaning getting a good 2B and RF and another starting pitcher. At least. Hahn’s hands are kind of tied with Grandal and Pollock. I really feel that Hahn is going to be productive this off season to make his hire look great. Now I think we get to see what Hahn is made of with TLR and his meddling ways gone. And we will find out if Jerry and Kenny let Hahn do his thing.

dongutteridge

He just needs to sign Trea Turner, Aaron Judge and Carlos Rodon.

Done. Simple.

steelydan52

Yes, simple for us but I think we all know that’s a pipe dream. And unless he was leading us on he did say trades would be more likely than FA’s. We can just hold on to he will do whatever to make his hire look good. Well, as long as Reinsdorf agrees.