Following up on the White Sox’s week from hell

White Sox vs. Athletics at Guaranteed Rate Field
(Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

The bizarre shooting incident at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday night remains unresolved. Also up for speculation and debate? Whether the White Sox should have stopped the game.

According to a police report obtained by the Chicago Tribune, a Chicago police commander “told the Sox at 8:12 p.m. that Chief of Patrol Brian McDermott wanted the Sox to stop the game for public safety reasons, but play continued.”

That sounds dangerous and without regard for the safety of their customers, but Jon Greenberg talked to a Connecticut-based attorney who advises teams and venues on safety, and he warned about unintended consequences of suddenly clearing out an entire park:

[Steven] Adelman said he thought it was the right decision to keep the game going if police believed there was no imminent threat.

“This is a conversation which I have had in different contexts,” he said. “Exercising ‘show-stop authority’ yields a whole bunch of other unintended consequences. Now you have fans who are angry, confused, frightened, all of which is a deviation from what they thought would happen. And when you surprise people and scare them, suddenly rational people whose actions are foreseeable turn into irrational people who do things that you didn’t expect. That is a much bigger public safety problem.”

When you watch the video of the section, the alarm does look remarkably contained.

So, the question comes down to whether the White Sox, their security and Chicago police truly could determine there was no active threat, or whether they were just lucky with a guess. I’m still withholding judgment, because while they’re such a poorly run organization in most other regards, I’m not prepared to be so cynical that I’d think the White Sox would risk human lives for a little more concession money from a decent-sized crowd watching two teams with nothing to play for.

On the White Sox’s baseball-related predicament

Before shots were literally fired, the national baseball writing world was taking aim at the White Sox’s player development as they reviewed the overly long tenure of Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn.

Keith Law doesn’t hate the White Sox, but the franchise has reached a state where a simple recitation of results, timelines and processes provides an accurate simulation of loathing. Law approached the firings of Williams and Hahn from a player-development standpoint, noting in paragraph after paragraph how the White Sox were very, very bad at it.

The biggest and most consistent problem is that the White Sox have struggled to develop their own talent. The 2020 roster had just one regular position player drafted and developed by the White Sox, Tim Anderson, while none of their five primary starting pitchers were White Sox draftees. Of 60 games, just four were started by players they drafted – two each by Carlos Rodón and Jonathan Stiever. In 2021, the last time the White Sox made the playoffs, they had two more homegrown players in the lineup – Andrew Vaughn, drafted in 2019; and Luis Robert, signed as an international free agent – and received 27 starts from homegrown pitchers, 24 from Rodón and three from Jimmy Lambert. They got 15.6 WAR total from players who began their pro careers in the White Sox’s minor leagues, whether via the draft or international free agency, a very low total for a team that won 93 games. (I’ve omitted José Abreu, who was already a star in Cuba when he signed with the White Sox at age 27.)

He goes as far back as Buddy Bell’s complete mishandling of Courtney Hawkins’ career, which you can do with the White Sox because they made so few changes to the front office over the last decade. It’s a comprehensive accounting, and an excellent thing to link to for posterity, a quick “how we got here” on the player-development side, which happens to be the purview of front-office front-runner Chris Getz.

Meanwhile, at FanGraphs, Michael Baumann does a good job of informing the general baseball audience about Reinsdorf being the root of all the White Sox’s problems, and how much of a(n AL Central) force they could be without him.

There’s no structural reason the White Sox can’t be successful. They have history and branding half the league would kill for. They play in the third-largest media market in the U.S., and though they share it with a richer and more popular neighbor, if Houston and Philadelphia and Toronto can spend enough to put out a winning team, so can the White Sox. Most important, they play in the easiest division in baseball, where the last-place club in the AL East would have a decent shot at winning the division.

They’re also lucky enough to have an owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, who cares whether the team wins. Not every team can say the same. Unfortunately, Reinsdorf seems to care how the White Sox win.

That last concept always needs to be appended to any allegations that Reinsdorf wants to win, and assumptions that losing makes Reinsdorf miserable. It’s another form of the famous-to-me Cigar Aficionado quote about Reinsdorf’s m.o. from 1995: “Throughout the fall and winter, he was still driven by the dream: to create a World Series winner in a business climate that made sense to him.”

Baumann piggybacks on a terrific essay from Steven Goldman at Baseball Prospectus, about the way Reinsdorf’s loyalty only enabled in a front office that never felt inspired to actually solve problems.

While trying to get one more ring for the owner before he goes the way of all flesh has generally been a strategy that provokes little more than panic moves—just ask anyone around for approximately four decades of Angels baseball under Gene Autry (weirdly, it was better than Angels baseball under Arte Moreno, but it still wasn’t good.)—Williams-Hahn consistently demonstrated the lack of urgency for which Viciedo is emblematic. As a result, no matter what the ostensible plan was, some combination of wishful thinking and a lack of depth resulted in constipating daily doses of Adam Engel and Leury García. They were always breaking glass and getting hit in the face with a pie. 

Complacency and whistling through the woods as a strategy was ever the non-plan plan, Williams-Hahn acting as if Reinsdorf has the prostate of a much younger man. In 2017, the Sox received a terrific .330/.380/.506 season from Avisaíl García, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse the .257/.310/.388 seasons they waited through—from a corner outfielder/designated hitter—to get it, not to mention what they received after. They pretended Yolmer Sánchez’s glove was good enough to carry his bat for most of a decade.

(I cut off that paragraph before he mentions Alejandro De Aza in the same sentence as Adam Dunn. De Aza was fine for what he was, but because he was actually adequate, the Sox then needed him to be good.)

On Pedro Grifol

Listening to the first hour of Bernstein & Holmes on 670 The Score on Wednesday, Leila Rahimi asked the eponymous pairing, “How on Earth did Pedro Grifol survive this? Just timing of the contract?”

Laurence Holmes responded, “I made a reference to our old colleague Jimmy Piersall, [in soft, high-pitched voice] ‘He’s an ass-kisser!’ If you ask anyone, Pedro’s a survivor, and he’s been surviving by kissing ass for a really long time.”

Holmes isn’t alone. Greenberg said the same thing in an indirect way by likening Grifol to famous Bulls coaching failure Jim Boylen. If you don’t follow the Bulls, you missed a hilarious era, but Boylen basically survived a disastrous first impression into an equally dopey second season because he excelled at flattering his bosses.

Right on cue, here’s Grifol on Chris Getz.

“He’s extremely articulate, he’s smart, he’s been around,” said Grifol of Getz. “He’s got experience. Player development really prepares people to do this type of stuff. He’s got experience in the clubhouse as a player, and as an executive. He’s well-equipped to do what he’s being asked to do.

“Even as a player, you can tell he had characteristics of becoming an executive at some point if he chose to go that route. And then when he got into the front office, I know he was highly regarded as a young executive. He’s certainly equipped to do what he’s being asked to do by Jerry right now.”

Grifol catches my intention whenever he invokes Reinsdorf directly. It brings to mind the way he snapped at reporters about his lineups back in June:

At the time, it was strange that Grifol got so pissy about a standard question, but it was stranger still that he instructed people to escalate complaints above the boss of his boss.

When searching for the exact wording of that quote, I came across a story I missed about Grifol serving his suspension inside Reinsdorf’s suite at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“That saying that the farther you are away from the game, the slower it is or the easier it gets? It looked pretty slow and pretty easy from up there,” Grifol said before Tuesday’s game. “It was pretty nice. I was able to see a lot of things that I think are really important for our growth, fundamental things that we probably need to address.”

Two weeks later, Hahn and Williams were abruptly fired. Grifol remains, and supposedly safe for the 2024 season despite showing no particular acumen for the job whatsoever.

Except for the part about managing upward. He appears to be Boylen-great at that part.

Speaking of which, here’s Grifol on Reinsdorf:

“[Reinsdorf is] a big-time competitor,” Grifol said. “He wants to win. He wants to set this thing up right. That’s what we’re in the process of doing.”

“That’s what we’re in the process of doing.” Good Harry Lord. Maybe he’s Harold Hill after all.

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karkovice squad

Their response just seems incoherent rather than reflecting an organized emergency plan.


Very well said!

We may follow a lousy team and worse organization but the Sox sure generate content.

As Cirensica

In a decent team, a guy like Grifol wouldn’t matter much. However, the White Sox consistently operate with no margin for errors which exposes Grifol’s bad decisions, and magnifies its impact.

Having said that, Grifol’s terrible baseball acumen is not what worries me most. It’s this vibe I get where Grifol is unable to extract and nurture the best baseball attributes from his players. The team frequently looks disengaged. Unprepared. And Grifol seems to be OK with that leaving his players to think of external factors rather than their performance as the cause of bad results. This is bad leadership. This can sink talented teams. For this reason alone, Grifol have got to go.


Grifol has so little to work with it hardly matters. This won’t be a talented team again for a long time.


The few young semi-interesting young players the Sox do have would be better served by a less chaotic and dysfunctional clubhouse environment. Managers generally don’t matter unless you have a really bad one or a really good one, but I think it’s safe to say Grifol falls safely into the really bad category.


They could at the very least elevate Montoyo. No managerial search required.

Trooper Galactus

Ah yes, the Renteria route.


Appreciate the content from everyone at Sox Machine. The entire Sox Content Community has done an outstanding job of covering this team as it should be, an unserious org that is held back with self imposed restrictions and a lack of creativity to find real solutions. My overall perception as a no body fan, is the culture that was the talk of the team for a few weeks is basically just reflecting the ownership. If it doesn’t come easy(relative to the owners economic and inter personal values), then why try?

Last edited 30 days ago by Matt

Interestingly, Klaw likes Getz and thinks he would do a good job if he was allowed to actually do the job with autonomy (which, of course, is not going to happen)


If we want to be charitable, we could say we don’t know if there are things he would change about the farm system but hasn’t been allowed to do. Maybe he recommended an overhaul, but hasn’t been given that authority. We also are beginning to see some progress on the position player side. And it is possible he would be a better overall administrator than leader of the farm system.

But regardless of all that, the way to go is with someone who has already shown the ability to run a system and apply best practices. I might be somewhat encouraged about Getz if I heard he wanted to surround himself with good people from Tampa, Dodgers, etc. The idea he just wants to pull in more ex-Royals he knows doesn’t say much for him. Grifol’s tenure should have already put an end to that idea.

Trooper Galactus

That sounds like speculation based on zero actual evidence.


I’m not defending Getz here but he is the farm system director, he’s not in charge of scouting and drafting. He could give his opinions on organizational needs but inevitably he was given football players, basketball players, and water polo players and was expected to make baseball players out of them. The pitchers drafted were “speed and stuff” but strike-throwing was a tertiary concern, with predictable results. When you get the same bad results from over a Half dozen scouting directors and farm directors, the problem is higher than them.


Post game Pedro is always saying the Sox “need to tighten (things) up”, as if they are close to being anything other than a bad team.


What do you mean, they beat Seattle in extra innings and just won against the A’s. Today will bring to an end an unforgettable week in their history. Things couldn’t be tighter…..


That video clearly shows that this was not an active shooter event, to have conflated it into one would be akin to yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

Trooper Galactus

I think at least pausing the game, even just for ten minutes, while they figured things out wouldn’t have been unreasonable or caused undue panic. Call it a delay for a medical emergency.


When, some day, historians seek to understand Late Reinsdorf, Jim’s analysis here and the many links will be an invaluable source.

Here’s one more. Scoop Jackson was moved to pen this for the Sun-Times. A sample:

To watch this misery of a Sox season wrapped and bowed up into a single week was Shakespearean and Kid Cudian and could only be explained by the thoughts and beliefs that there’s more (worse) to come, that the next month or so of games can’t end quick enough. And while Sox fans deserve better than what this whole season became, we definitely don’t deserve what the last week gave us. The detached arrogance of a two-times-over billionaire who made it slow-cooled ice clear that our emotional investment and deeply rooted connection to his team means very, very, very little to him.


Grifol sounds more like Benny Hill.


It’s astonishing how quickly Grifol has managed to make me actively dislike him.

Typically this level of dislike takes years of repetitive failures and arrogance. But he’s white sox concentrate.

The white sox are getting more efficient at something, remarkably….being insufferable.


It took several years listening to RH spout corporate word salad blather before I actively loathed the sound of his voice.

Trooper Galactus

That bullshit where he did that interview at Cork & Kerry’s and insinuated we wanted to see the rebuild fail more than we wanted to win was when I was out on him. The idea that people could see this mess coming due to his actions (and sometimes inaction) somehow made us just a bunch of Negative Nellies to be dismissed rather than reasoned observers of baseball.


Hahn speak does not ingratiate.


TLR was equally quick for me.

Well, at least the Sox are showing consistency in something.

Trooper Galactus

Narrator’s voice: “Jake Burger did not get four plate appearances.”

Separate note, I have never understood the Yolmer bashing. He wasn’t a good hitter, but he was a superlative defender. He was fine for what he was and, like all too many players, people hated him for what he wasn’t. Given the stopgap garbage the White Sox have flung into the position since he left they really could have used a guy who was good on at least one side of the ball. He was also a great clubhouse guy through the worst of times.


Also, Yolmer Sanchez at his best hitting, was slightly below league average. His 2017 was his best hitting season, and 2019 he got a GG. He was most valuable (and above average) in 2017-18.

Trooper Galactus

Jim has pointed out that Yolmer needed to play a LOT in order to get to 2.0 WAR, and it was always heavily weighted on his defense. Still, how much different would we have felt about second base all these years if we had a healthy, double-plus defender there who was hitting ninth every day?


White Sox baseball— Getting ahead by kissing behind.


Reinsdorf very often gets blasted for being cheap. Fans and media alike mention it. Mully on The Score is a broken record mentioning that the W Sox have never signed a $100 M player.

Fact is that spending money doesn’t guarantee a winner. Ask the Yanks and the Mets. Then check out where Baltimore and Tampa Bay’s payrolls rank as they rack up about a 100 wins this year. The rankings I saw earlier this season had the W Sox 12th in payroll and many of the teams above them will miss the playoffs.

It’s not how much a team spends, but HOW and WHERE they spend it. Giving Keuchel, Grandal, et al the big contracts is a problem. Not spending to fill obvious holes (RF, 2B, C) is a problem.

Occasionally, teams get lucky and get an all-star+ season like L Robert, Jr for about $3M.
W Sox (all teams, for that matter) need about 3 of those guys. That’s who to spend the money on.

Look at the list of the highest MLB contracts, starting with Trout and going down. A huge percentage of them won’t be in the postseason this year.

The W Sox spend more than Minn, Cleve, Det, and KC. They just don’t spend it on players that can win 90+ games. Or maybe they overrate the players that they do spend it on.


So “cheap” and “Stubborn” get conflated. Is he too stubborn to spend on the analytic side? Or is he too cheap (even though it would be much cheaper than stopgap free agent contracts)?


 “Maybe he’s Harold Hill after all.”

You mean we’re having a parade? With 76 trombones?

Someone call Rick Hahn.

To Err is Herrmann

I’m still waiting for a joke about how the police called Guaranteed Rate Field a “crime scene” after the shooting. It has been a crime scene since April.