Preparation, accountability remain elusive concepts to White Sox

Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams (L) owner Jerry Reinsdorf (C) and general manager Rick Hahn (R) stand on the sidelines before a baseball game against Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
(Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

If you’re looking for Lance Lynn to say something informative and enlightening, you won’t get it after a disappointing start.

Lynn trafficked in terseness following another White Sox loss to open the series in Toronto on Monday, like here:

Lynn has faced these command struggles before. He walked 154 batters across 2017 and ’18 and led the league in wild pitches in ’19. Grifol is confident his pitcher will smooth the mechanics, find the zone, and get back on track. According to Lynn, the solution is quite simple:

“Throw more strikes,” he said.

And this seems like a longer answer, until realizing he was asked to elaborate in the middle of his response.

‘‘Two-out walk, pretty much it,’’ Lynn said afterward. ‘‘Gave up four because of it. They’ll haunt you; they’ll haunt you bad. Tonight it happened.’’

The day after such a start, and with a former ballplayer doing the interviewing, Lynn was willing to answer at length. You’ll have to decide whether that’s a good thing.

Lynn appeared on A.J. Pierzynski’s YouTube show, and Pierzynski spoke as, for and to a White Sox fan when he asked Lynn bluntly, “What the f— is going on?”

For those that can’t watch the video, a transcript of Lynn’s answer:

“To be honest with you, we are in the midst of everybody learning a whole new way of going about things in this organization, coaching staff and everything, and guys are taking the right steps. The problem is it hasn’t clicked. We’ve been in games against good teams and just didn’t finish them, whether it’s not scoring at the end, losing in extras, things like that. The process, the way of going about things, preparing and all that, are at a whole new level here, and that’s where we’re at right now. We got guys that are literally trying all new things and learning on the fly, things all the way around.”

Lynn then went on to reference the poor performances, taking responsibility for his part, before circling back to “all the new concepts.”

Credit Pierzynski for maintaining his skepticism, saying that Lynn’s response scared him: “New concepts? What are the new concepts, scoring more runs than the other team?” Lynn responded by citing an entirely new coaching staff on the hitting side, and that said concepts hadn’t yet translated to winning baseball.

The rest of Lynn’s interview was fine/entertaining, particularly his disregard for sweepers and the pitch clock, although when Pierzynski asked him another blunt question (“Who’s the leader?”), Lynn didn’t have a direct answer for him, either.

But raising the subject of preparation is the stunner, just during Pedro Grifol’s introductory media conference, Rick Hahn went out of his way to reference how much the White Sox’s pregame planning was going to shift:

“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.”

Four weeks into the regular season, the White Sox are 7-16, and one of their most prominent veterans says the White Sox are still getting used to what the new coaching staff is doing, and those struggles just happen to resemble everything the White Sox have been doing wrong for years. Grifol just got here, and even he’s tired of referencing the team’s piss-poor plate discipline.

By the end of Monday’s postgame session, Grifol lamented that he was repeating himself about the urgency of the Sox plate discipline and swing decision issues.

“We’ve talked about this before,” Grifol said. “Going from the amount of chases that we are having right now to no chasing, it’s not going to be an overnight thing. However, it can improve daily. That’s what we’re expecting. That’s what they’re expecting. That’s the work that’s being done. So I’m looking for improvements. It’s going to happen.”


That refrain — “It’s going to happen” — is a crutch for everybody, but what’s awesome about being a White Sox fan right now is that there’s no reason to take anybody’s word for anything. Grifol’s new to managing and new to the White Sox, and players spend their entire careers trying to ignore track records, odds, probabilities that work against them.

And then there’s the front office.

Daryl Van Schouwen got a hold of Kenny Williams, who says he says he’s “not in a good place” and “not so pleasant to be around right now,” which, whatever, who cares. But there was one sentence that jumped out to me, because it included the same word Hahn used after last season, and the particular context of the White Sox front office continues to pervert the definition:

Williams said he wasn’t putting Hahn or anyone else in the front office on notice by saying changes would have to be made if the Sox don’t win.

“No, that’s ultimately ownership call,” Williams said. “I’m talking about the realities of sports. When you do not accomplish the goal at hand, and you’ve been given the opportunities we’ve been fortunate to be given to try to rebuild this thing, to tear it down and rebuild it — and we were on the right track and right now the train is off the rails a little bit — it would be naïve of me to think if things don’t correct themselves that we wouldn’t be looked at as well. As it should be.

“Accountability around here is not a problem.”

That’s a fascinating sentence, because the way he meant it and the way it’s actually true are two completely different things.

I’m sure Williams intended to express that the White Sox have high expectations and are willing to take hard looks and make tough calls when things go wrong. But given that the White Sox haven’t accomplished anything meaningful since 2005 and failures have been met with shrugs and promotions, it turns out that accountability is not a problem for White Sox executives because accountability simply doesn’t exist.

It’s like when Hahn said last October that questioning the entrenchment of the front office was “a fair question given pro sports and given the accountability we all want to have,” only to realize that most people would prefer zero accountability if they could still maintain their titles and salaries, and Hahn happens to be living that dream.

And if that’s not enough, this all dropped right after the Pirates handed Bryan Reynolds an eight-year, $106 million contract extension, leaving the Athletics, Royals and White Sox as the last teams that haven’t been willing to commit nine figures to any player. Not only do the Pirates have the White Sox’s inverse record at 16-7, but now Jerry Reinsdorf is making Bob Nutting look like George Steinbrenner.

These are merely the most recent advancements in the ongoing progression of “late-stage White Sox,” which is my unified theory of the way Reinsdorf’s general neglect led to a pervasive rot that can’t be reversed by the current leadership.

Hahn hired Grifol under the assumption that the White Sox weren’t prepared, and now Lynn is saying the White Sox are flailing because they’re struggling with preparation, which can only mean that the talent is the problem.

Here’s a reminder that the White Sox are at the height of their alleged contention window and they’re still grappling with fundamental questions like “Are our players any good?” and “What are we telling them?” What does that say to you? And will Reinsdorf ever care to hear it?

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upnorthsox

“Accountability around here is not a problem.”

Because there is none, so no problem.

Matt

05 will always be special, but in a way I feel like it became a short term blessing, long term curse. Accountability has no place when people have a job for life.

md03

I don’t think so comparing them to the Bulls. Garpax got way too many years and they just backed into one conference championship, then fired themselves in shame. Both regimes had their hits, but Jerry is too focused on that Arizona heat and his other businesses anyway so I think we’d have these guys around regardless til they see themselves out. Hopefully Kenny’s article is the writing on the wall where he knows to retire/resign and Hahn leaves with the new regime or president.

StockroomSnail

Somebody, maybe everybody, sold their souls….I don’t know how else to explain a team that hasn’t won a playoff series otherwise THIS CENTURY rolling to an 11-1 record to a championship.

670WMAQtheElder

There is a big difference between accountability and being HELD accountable. You know, having consequences. The other kind of accountability can be merely just finger pointing.

StockroomSnail

“We have accountants, rest assured. “

Matt

It’s a true Paradox with the White Sox. No one knows how to fix the problems they create or accept responsibility for them. It’s always something, from Players need to be better(even though we see players regress immediately upon arrival to the southside) or injuries(despite taking risks on players who have medical concerns in the draft or trade or FA) to making the concept of Accountability ambiguous that the integrity behind the sentiment has no meaning to regular fans who deal with accountability in their day to day lives without the loyalty of an old owner just happy to be in the position he is. No one in the organization really knows how to fix the problem without blaming something else they view is out of their control because its so entrenched in their culture. They blame fans for being too hard on them, they blame media for being too hard on them, they blame anything that diverts the attention from their inability to evaluate/develop/execute and show results for their process outside 1 season in 05. And the sad part is I don’t think they even have the self awareness to realize this or see that the perception of their behavior leads fans to assume this to be true. Appreciate the coverage Sox Machine and all of the White Sox community provide for fans just wanting a decent team to root for that isnt always making us the low hanging fruit.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt
md03

Add in that they threw in Grifol to be the face of this mess and speak to it daily just shows how yellow-bellied the 4 guys that make up our entire front office are.

ActiveAndUnavailable

Sigh… Ok… Where to start…

Accountability: If accountability isn’t the problem, when’s the parade, Rick? My fall gets filled pretty quickly, and I want to make sure I have it on the calendar. 2 post seasons in 10 years…

New System: Lynn has been a part of 5 organizations in 12 years. If you can’t adjust to new leadership, and you’re questioning “new concepts,” maybe it’s you? To talk out of both sides of my mouth, Maybe I’ll defend this a little bit… The 2021 Sox won the division thanks to an incredible first half (54-35, as well as a TERRIBLE AL Central). Then the TLR effect took over from the “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” mantra,and they went almost 500 at 39-34. Call me an optimist, but maybe there is a time period to get TLR out of their system (I look at the ground ball rate specifically). However, the further the go down this path of losing, the harder it is going to be to dig out.

Alberto: Fegan tweeted that TA is likely going to need like 15 ABs in a rehab stint and him and Alberto are closer than Moncada. If we’re already trying to hype up the return of Hanser Alberto, maybe the season is already lost.

Last edited 1 year ago by ActiveAndUnavailable

“If we’re already trying to hype up the return of Hanser Alberto, maybe the season is already lost.“

Don’t discount the return of our 2nd best reliever.

ActiveAndUnavailable

Is the return of the first best Reliever Joe Kelly?

Right now, Graveman’s first.

The rest is pain.

soxygen

Positionless baseball! Let’s try it.

upnorthsox

“No, that’s ultimately ownerships call,” Williams said. 

I thought the reality was that KWs job is to talk to ownership and from that, talk for ownership. If he can’t do that then what the hell is he doing?
In a way, this is really throwing the owner under the bus. Kind of a, “not my problem talk to the owner”, comment.
Hahn in effect did the same thing to JR last year with TLR. It’s amazing to witness people do this to their boss and suffer no consequences.

I guess they get away with it because JR really is totally checked out. In this kind of environment could we really expect the players to care or buy in from people who who have no consequences if it goes to shit, which of course it has. No, they are going to stay clear and mind their own and with any luck get sent off to a much better place in July.

As Cirensica

I guess they get away with it because JR really is totally checked out.

Yup. There is no other explanation. You can tolerate some degree of incompetence, but this level of incompetence with 2 years of close to 200M in payroll? No, it makes no sense unless Jerry completely checked-out or he has not enough mental capacity to run/oversee a sport’s team and KW and RH are taking advantage of an old man. It just does not make any sense that Jerry hasn’t fired them yet.

asinwreck

So much of the organizational decay over the past decade resembles the USSR’s Era of Stagnation in Brezhnev’s final years under an ossified Politburo unwilling or unable to change course.
One key difference is unlike Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, and the rest of that Politburio, none of the Board actually dies. Another is there’s no Gorbachev figure inside the organization capable of meaningful reform. For a time, fans hoped that would be Hahn. It’s clearly not him, and there’s no evidence Getz, Shirley, or anyone else on the payroll is capable of building a competent, modern baseball organization.
When your organization can be compared unfavorably to late-Brezhnev Soviet history, it may be time to sell.

StockroomSnail

I’m getting Adolph in the bunker vibes.

Let the rabble rouse! Let them eat funnel cake!

upnorthsox

Kenny Williams, who says he says he’s “not in a good place” and “not so pleasant to be around right now,” which, whatever, who cares.

Preach it Reverend Jim!

As Cirensica

…right now the train is off the rails a little bit …

A little bit? LOL? This rebuild is not about 2023 unmitigated disaster. It is last year, and the year before.

The “contention window” looks like smoke and mirrors. Like I said before, the ‘window’ turned out to be just a White Sox team standing on tiptoes over the fence while looking at the big boys play a brand of baseball that only in their wildest dream they will be able to play. There is your window. This FO is so incompetent, there might be a case of criminal negligence or fraud, but the owner is letting it happen, so one has to question what kind of state of mind a 87 years old Jerry Reinsdorf is at.

Steve

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a-t

What Lynn is saying does make some sense, and to me boils down to: “the previous regime was incredibly pure old-school, and the new staff is much more new-school and we’re not yet used to it”. They’ve never had the new-school stuff like a biomechanics lab or analysis; the players who have spent all or most of their pro careers with the White Sox have thus largely never been exposed to stuff like this, and it’s not as natural as if they were just entering pro ball as teenagers or collegiate players.

The present Sox are still very much reaping what TLR and Menechino etc sowed. Whether the new staff can sow and then reap from their presumably better concept remains to be seen… but it had better start rather soon or the season is cooked regardless.

HallofFrank

Lots of damning sentences for the Sox FO here, but I’m not sure there’s any more damning than this one, for a team in the middle of its “contention window”:

leaving the Athletics, Royals and White Sox as the last teams that haven’t been willing to commit nine figures to any player. 

Al Kohallik

I see JR in front of his TV and VCR watching tapes of 2005 wondering what people are griping about

670WMAQtheElder

Hahn hired Grifol under the assumption that the White Sox weren’t prepared, and now Lynn is saying the White Sox are flailing because they’re struggling with preparation, which can only mean that the talent is the problem.”

I disagree with this conclusion. The Sox are not struggling with preparation. They are struggling to learn how to play/bat in a new way. Most people struggle when trying to learn new things, and why should baseball players be any different? Old habits die hard, as the saying goes. And some people are actively resistant to change. Why wouldn’t some ball players be the same way?

Robert is a case in point. He’s a free swinger and the staff is telling him to learn the zone and take pitches. This might be the first time in his entire baseball life he’s having to do this. And he’s young. So he doesn’t have a clue right now. He’s guessing. Some day it might just click for him. Eloy is another who has to change. Same for Vaughn–he’s said as much. Moncada and TA is just a too small sample size.

And, remember, all but Vaughn were away from the new staff because of the WBC so what they might have picked up in the spring they have to now when it counts.

So what Lance says is very plausible. Time will tell if the poor start is because of the learning curve or talent. If it’s the former, then that is a real indictment of TLR and his staff because he cost his players two years of development.

FishSox

Not just cost them 2 years, but developed negative habits that caused regressions.

JR’s Culture Club

KW to the Sun-Times: “I’m not in a good place, right now.”

Sox fans to KW: “You are in the only place [the White Sox Front Office] that would keep you hanging around.”

FishSox

…which is my unified theory of the way Reinsdorf’s general neglect led to a pervasive rot that can’t be reversed by the current leadership.

Just the meddling by hiring TLR sent a message throughout the organization that the ship was completely rudderless. Young players, Robert, Vaughn, Elroy, Sheets, Burger…they never got to learn what it takes to just come to the ballpark everyday and prepare yourself to do your job. Now we are faced with talent that can’t do their jobs. They learned how to be slugs and not have accountability. Now they’re slugs.

ParisSox

You’ve managed to summarize the dysfunction of the team and our pain and suffering as white Sox fans in one brilliant article.

I’d rather you be writing brilliant articles about winning baseball, but it is what it is sadly.

soxygen

The world According to Lance: “…Things all the way around.”

Brooks Boyer, work your magic.

“Come to Guaranteed Rate Field, drink beer all the way around.”

Wayne

“Are our players any good?”
They were generally positively regarded around baseball before White Sox development, coaching, and training staff got to them.

awkwardsilence

During the mess that has been the last few years, I have started wondering how we will look at this era of the team in 10 years or so. Where will we decide rock bottom is and when will we start seeing meaningful change? How long does it take for the decisions of the current front office to work themselves out of the organization? Are guys like Montgomery too talented to succumb to the organizational failures, or is too late and his development is already behind where it would be with a better organization? Unfortunately, I think until ownership changes hands we will see the disfunction continue. Hopefully we will be able to look back and remember how tough these seasons have been, but have a reason to be watching a winning team.