Pedro Grifol didn’t have a real baseball reason for pinch-running Zach Remillard for Eloy Jiménez in the eighth inning of the White Sox’s loss to the Twins Saturday night. The White Sox trailed 3-2, sure, but Luis Robert Jr. represented the tying run 90 feet ahead of Remillard at second base, so more speed at first base wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything in and of itself except in a few very specific circumstances.
Then again, Grifol hasn’t always substituted in a way that corresponds with the odds. If you’re charitable, you could call him an optimist. He visualizes a Yasmani Grandal double that would score Remillard from first so clearly that he already has Grandal’s inevitable pinch-runner stretching in the dugout. If you’re uncharitable, you could say it’s easy to distract him with all the possible permutations and get him to lose the bigger picture.
But that’s besides the point for this particular discussion, because it turns out that Grifol lifted Jiménez because he’s still dealing with the groin issue that cost him a couple starts earlier in the week.
“I’m glad you mentioned that because he’s not running down the line and I choose to put him there with that kind of effort down the line. I want his bat over his legs. I want to make sure I get that out there clearly for everybody. I choose his bat over his legs. That’s all he can give us. I’ll continue to monitor that and if I think it becomes a problem for us where he’s going to get hurt or compromise us in any way running the bases, then I”ll make a change. But for right now I’m choose his bat over his legs.”
And when asked if Grifol would give Jiménez a day off?
“I’m not giving him a day tomorrow. He’s playing tomorrow. We’ve got to win that ballgame tomorrow.”
I know that last line is getting a lot of the attention, but I’m going to set that aside for now to draw attention to another part I find more troubling:
I’ll continue to monitor that and if I think it becomes a problem for us where he’s going to get hurt or compromise us in any way running the bases, then I”ll make a change.
This, after a game in which Jiménez was lifted for a pinch runner in a situation where a slightly faster runner wasn’t necessary, setting off a chain of substitutions that resulted in Zach Remillard standing in the on-deck circle with two outs in the ninth, and the Sox having lost their DH if the game went any further. I can think of no greater compromise than a scenario where a pitcher has to hit for himself in the year 2023.
We just discussed this on Saturday. Jiménez’s half-availability shouldn’t be all that limiting in isolation, but when it exists in conjunction with Andrew Vaughn’s unavailability, and the White Sox’s decision to carry three catchers, it compromises the White Sox as much as any individual development.
“Myopia” came to mind last week when I wrote about the way the White Sox drained “attention to detail” of all its meaning, although I used it in a different context:
But specific to the White Sox, it’s worth disregarding “attention to detail” because it’s a symptom of their overall myopia. When you lack the ability or willingness to step back and make sweeping changes to the franchise, then trying to fine-tune the potentially correctable aspects of a flawed model is all that’s left. It’s spiritually aligned with overinvesting in relievers to jealously guard the few leads the White Sox generate, instead of imagining a world where the White Sox offense scores more runs.
Ironically, you can find myopia everywhere you look, whether you’re weighing the White Sox’s unwillingness to make transformational changes to the roster year after year, or whether you’re listening to Grifol explain late-inning moves in an isolated game.
Which brings us back to that line that flooded Van Schouwen’s mentions:
“We’ve got to win that ballgame tomorrow.”
And here’s where that nearsightedness kicks in again. At the same time Grifol is saying that he needs a half-capable Jiménez in the game no matter what, the White Sox are content to let Vaughn soak up a roster spot without playing for a week (“He might come in (Sunday) and be available to pinch hit, but I’m hoping for Tuesday”). It’s not just that Grifol can’t see the forest for the trees. He’s in the middle of a wild fire, and he’s comparing pine cones.
I don’t envy Grifol, and there’s very little he can say that he hasn’t said before, a fact of which he’s well aware:
‘‘We were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position,’’ Grifol said. ‘‘It’s hard to win that way, especially on the road. We battled. Freaking broken record, we battled. We just came up short.’’
He also lacks the pizzazz to package the same frustrations in a more relatable way, but that isn’t an excuse to traffic in literally unbelievable statements. A quote like that one isn’t being rejected simply out of reflexive cynicism/fatalism/nihilism, but because the actions he isn’t noticing are saying something entirely different. His record is the only thing he can be judged by, and it’s as freaking broken as it sounds.