Pay no attention to ‘attention to detail’

White Sox manager Pedro Grifol
(Photo by Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports)

If Pedro Grifol’s tenure with the White Sox accomplishes nothing else, he certainly accelerated the lifecycle of the phrase “attention to detail.” It usually takes years for that mission statement to fall apart, but here it happened in just 3½ months.

Not that it’s necessarily Grifol’s fault. Just like the White Sox’s fortunes as a whole, a problem that’s reached its breaking point while Grifol happens to be in charge. Nevertheless, he’s certainly the most severe example of “attention to detail” being used to build a guy up and tear a guy down.

When you google the name of a White Sox manager and the phrase “attention to detail,” and you can find articles that state the renewed focus at the beginning of his administration, only to bemoan the lack of it by the end of it.

Here’s Rick Hahn when announcing Grifol last November:

“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.”

And here’s Grifol on Saturday:

Grifol was asked if he has seen the attention to detail he wants from his players.

“No, no, no, no,” the first-year manager said. “We have to get better at that. That’s something we’ve spoken about individually. I have conversations with these guys. I don’t like doing too much team stuff. I do have a lot of individual conversations on things we need to get better at. I have a lot of meetings with our coaches on things we need to address.”

Here’s Hahn on Tony La Russa back in February 2021:

“I would think so,” Hahn said. “I’m fortunate in that I’ve spent the last several months working with the guy. I’ve been able to see the focus, the attention to detail, the intellect and the things that are really going to serve us well over the course of the summer.

Feb. 17, 2021

And here’s Seby Zavala this past March:

“We lacked that attention to detail, urgency last year in spring training and it kind of trickled into the season and we were never able to get it back,” Zavala said. “But this year everybody is real detail-oriented and making sure we do the little things and make sure something like last year doesn’t happen again. We have too many talented people on this team to have a repeat of last year.”

Here’s a story on Rick Renteria’s first spring training:

Success for this camp begins with Renteria. He’s exceedingly upbeat, with an attention to detail shared by his staff. That detail ranges from simply talking to a pitcher after his bullpen session for a few reassuring moments, or moving pregame practice solely to the back fields Thursday in order to focus on drill work.

And here’s Steve Stone on Renteria after Renteria’s firing in October 2020:

Here’s praise for Robin Ventura at the end of his first spring training:

For those of you who know him, it has been amazing to see Robin Ventura’s unruffled karma spread through camp. There is an incredible amount of positive teaching going on — the coaching staff jokes about “Coaching Up” — and there is an efficient focus on details and fundamentals in camp. We have been able to see this attention to detail exhibited in games in terms of outfielders hitting cut-off men, bunting (both as sacrifices and for base hits) and our ability to harass the opponents’ running game. Almost every person I asked, listed this as the biggest positive for the spring.

“Attention to detail” wasn’t front of mind at the end of Ventura’s tenure because of everything else that went wrong in 2016, the cruel and unusual way Jerry Reinsdorf effectively made Ventura fire himself, and the fact that the White Sox immediately hired Renteria without a process.

(As for Ozzie Guillen, you never got “attention to detail” stories because he was more likely to talk about how little work he did.)

This 11-year journey shows that Grifol isn’t alone in promising “attention to detail,” and it’s probably common with other organizations as well. It’s a succinct way to easily emphasize how a new leader might reinforce standards, and its inclusion of the word “details” makes it easy to overlook how non-specific it is.

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.

So Grifol isn’t unique here. He just happened to arrive at the precise moment the White Sox reached a dead end, and all the practice and preparation couldn’t provide an escape. There isn’t going to be an outlet unless there’s an overhaul.

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asinwreck

Drinking games tracking when White Sox management utters this phrase and variations on “accountability” will result in cirrhosis.

roke1960

This organization is rotten from the top all the way down. But it starts at the top. As long as Jerry is in charge and he keeps a stooge like Hahn as GM, nothing will change. No manager can fix Jerry’s aversion to big contracts and Hahn’s total ineptitude.

ndhp257

“Attention to detail” is just coach speak to avoid talking about difficult things like…player A sucks or player B sucks or the GM sucks and the roster sucks etc.

SupportSoxFamily

At 39-55, just to finish .500 the Sox need to go 42-26 (.618). Granted, .500 could win this Division, but that would then require the Sox to play teams that do pay attention to details. The Sox are in a serious Baseball conundrum where they’re in their current position because of their front office. They now must rely on the same front office to trade the players they brought in (by paying attention to the details) for numerous celebration parades for new players they again evaluated (through those nasty details) that will eventually result in actual parades. Yes, paying attention to the details is important, but the one’s they keep overlooking are the results. Thank you Sox fans for not showing up at the ballpark to see a bad team play.

hitlesswonder

Rick Renteria was the best Sox manager in the last 13 years.

Firing him and bringing in two worse managers was actually not a savvy baseball operations move.

Augusto Barojas

Renteria was terrible as well. I recall how badly he mismanaged the bullpen in a way that cost them the division title in 2020, as well as in the last game in the playoffs vs the A’s. He might be better than TLR and Grifol, granted, but that hardly makes him good.

They never hire anybody with a solid, actual track record. Jerry is the worst owner in all universes.

Willardmarshall

Is there any task more suitable for AI than bullpen management?

karkovice squad

Lineups

soxygen

“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.”

Jim boils it all down so well.

Listening to Rick Hahn reminds me of the famous Reagan quote: “there’s gotta be a pony in here somewhere.”

Last edited 10 months ago by soxygen