White Sox Manager Pedro Grifol and my WAY TOO EARLY CONCERNS

On Thursday morning, the White Sox announced their brand new managerial hire Pedro Grifol. They welcomed the former bench coach of the Kansas City Royals, with a press conference LIVE on their YouTube channel.

I was pretty excited to ingest the presser. Full disclosure, I rarely attempt to listen to anything Rick Hahn is involved in because he says a lot and nothing all at once. I’m busy like most of yous and tend to not want to waste my time. However, we have a new manager and I was really hoping to hear about Pedro’s ideas on managing and thoughts on my beloved team that has fallen on hard times.

After listening to the press conference, a prior podcast that interviewed Grifol back in 2021, numerous tweets and sound bytes and Josh Nelson’s Twitter spaces, I came away feeling pretty meh about the new skipper’s first day on the job.

Some of the people in the White Sox blogosphere who’s opinion I trust, like White Sox Dave and Jordan Lazowski seem to really LOVE this hire. I’m just not there yet.

My 38 second response from the presser, via the FromThe108 Podcast

That’s a bit tongue in cheek, but it struck me as funny that my initial thought was that they probably fired Ricky Renteria “the teacher” one year too early and decided to rectify that by hiring another “teacher” like Pedro Grifol. Materially his resume is filled with individual reclamation projects of sorts, which is different than being a manager in the traditional sense, but all in all positive.

I really liked Ricky Renteria (I know most of yous didn’t). I don’t mind at all a manager coming in and taking this approach to managing. Which is what this materially feels like. We talked in great detail on the most recent 108 Podcast about the manager hire and the White Sox upcoming off-season, see below.

Manager talk starts at the 24 minute mark with Josh Nelson. Please SUBSCRIBE, SMASH THE LIKE BUTTON and COMMENT. Now, on to my WAY TOO EARLY CONCERNS!!

How Much “Coach Speak” is Too Much?

Picture of Pedro Grifol and his beautiful family from the White Sox twitter account

The press conference was a lot of coachy coach-speak. Lots of talk about communication, energy, being detailed, preparation and the like. It felt like the Manager’s Press Conference for Beginners booklet was being followed word by word. So much was being said, with very little actually being said, it sounded like a typical Rick Hahn press-conference.

The presser almost seemed too rehearsed. Too polished (well except for a few moments, one of which we’ll get to shortly). I was expecting at least a bit of a peek behind the proverbial curtain into what Grifol will be like as a manager. It would’ve been interesting to hear in what way he feels he differentiated himself from other candidates. Or how he could have a competitive advantage against his peers, but I didn’t really get that. However, I guess it was effective, because much of the normie media types had the same thoughts on it.

Maybe I’m way off base here, but I feel like I’ve watched a good amount of hires in this town by major sports teams that “won the press conference” and sucked eggs that it’s pretty much of a zero correlation to doing an actual good job with the team. I need more.

Pedro did say a few things in the presser that I enjoyed. He talked about his want to “exploit every edge”. That’s something I don’t remember hearing any prior hire talk about. Pedro also mentioned improving the defense, which I love. However, there was no follow up into the details. How does he expect to do this other than take away Andrew Vaughn’s outfield glove. More push in the direction of actionable items and less on the platitudes of energy and communication and we could’ve gotten somewhere. Maybe I’m asking too much.

Who hired Charlie Montoyo?

(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

One of the most curious things about the White Sox supposedly thorough interview process is that in the end, it seems like they asked their new “autonomous” manager to take not only the pitching coach they have in stock (sound familiar), but they also lined up his second in command, by hiring Charlie Montoyo as bench coach.

Now, this is not a slight to Montoyo at all, he’s got pedigree and experience. His resume is not really in question here. The process, which ALLEGEDLY were people’s biggest concern, seemed to get skirted a bit on a substantial portion of the remainder of the coaching staff. At 23:55 of the intro presser that is embedded earlier in this blog, Grifol is asked if he has a previous relationship with Montoyo and he answers “We’ve spoken a few times”.

EXCUSE ME!??!!!? The person that is supposed to be his right hand. His confidant. The person that he is supposed to be able to be brutally honest with and shoot him straight while simultaneously having his back is being thrust upon him? YIKES! As Chorizy-E mentioned in the 108 podcast this week, “Bench Coach is like the best friend role, it’s weird that either they didn’t let him choose his best friend or he doesn’t have one.” Yea, that is weird. Doesn’t seem like quite the “PROCESS” most people were clamoring for.

Once again, at the 40:00 mark of the presser, the question was brought back up about how Montoyo was decided upon and Hahn leapt up and said it was a “collaborative effort”. He noted that it came up in the 2nd interview with Grifol. He couldn’t remember who brought it up. Oh sure, the guy who’s been hustling for a decade and a half trying to get his first manager job is bringing up a guy he’s spoken to a few times and suggesting him as bench coach. Right, it was HIS IDEA.

Also, in that spot, how is Pedro going to push back on whatever it is the White Sox brain trust is trying to push on him. Hahn later notes “it’s not like we were trying to arrange a marriage or anything”.

What was even worse, was when I went to listen to the CHGO podcast, starring friends of the 108, Herb Lawrence and Sean Anderson. These are fellas who’s opinions I also trust, but……At some point in the podcast, Herbie brings up the question and Sean goes out of his way to try and sweep this situation under the rug saying that because Kevin Cash (current manager of the Rays and Montoyo’s old boss) went to Florida State and so did Grifol (mind you 6 years apart) that has to be the connection, so it’s fine. WAT?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!

You don’t have to go with “HE’S NOT TLR SO IT’S GREAT!”. It’s okay to have critical thoughts, you aren’t on 670 anymore. Grifol was asked directly and really doesn’t know the guy.

I’m not sure why the White Sox brass did this. Or who gave the actual order. But it appears like more obfuscation for a GM that is great at playing the media. His escape hatch has been built. And it’s eerily silent on the questioning side of this.

New Ideas or Hahn Ideas?

As the presser was ending on Thursday, my friend Josh Nelson was firing up a Twitter Spaces to discuss the event. Josh is very good about being immediate with using Twitter Spaces to level set, lay out a template and then allow people to chat and ask questions about White Sox goings on. I really only set out to listen in. As the discussion went on, I decided I should jump in quickly to ask about “NEW IDEAS”. New ideas seemed to be a focus of Hahn when describing what he would like to see in a new manager hire.

I think most White Sox fans would also like to see some new ideas walking in the door. Hahn even mentioned in the presser at roughly the 17:00 mark that all 30 teams tend to be too “insular”. Great! But the further I got along in the presser and the down right giddiness in Hahn’s countenance I started to wonder and I asked the question of Josh.

I guess it’s SLURP THE GM season again for the major outlets

“Do you think that Grifol is really bringing NEW IDEAS that they intend to use or does he just agree with enough of Hahn’s ideas that TLR wouldn’t execute that that’s why he became the hire?” Josh chuckled and noted that it was a good question. He answered that we’ll probably know at least a part of the answer depending on how the roster shakes out. If there is any material shifts in the personnel, he thought it would be likely that there are Grifol ideas permeating. However, if the roster remains materially the same then we might be experiencing the same ole, same ole.

I’m not trying to denigrate Hahn’s thoughts on the team. I know he fashions himself as being a baseball strategist from listening to him on Shane Riordan’s podcast. He brings it up multiple times. I just look at his commentary about insularity and his track record with the White Sox and really, really hope that he is open to new ideas and that Grifol and company are actually empowered to integrate those ideas.

I’m skeptical that a front office that doesn’t seem too interested in outside criticism will hold up their end of the bargain and take on a new manager that will be able to push brand new initiatives that are counter their established priors. I’m interested to see who this turns out.

In Conclusion…

Pedro is very likable. Definitely a guy I can see myself rooting on. He’s also a first year manager. There are going to be some gaffs, some mistakes. There’s going to be things he screws up and has to learn right here on the job. He doesn’t have a pedigree of working for an industry leader. He’s spent a decade with the Royals, who binked 2015, like the White Sox binked 2005.

If Pedro is the man we think he could be, the man we hope he will be, he’s going to embrace those challenges. He’ll embrace (ours, the fans) criticisms of him. That’s the guy we hoped they hired. We don’t want the old, usual White Sox bullshit where they go hide when the times get tough.

But if this roster manages to stay reasonably healthy. If hiring Pedro actually inspires Rick Hahn to do his damn job in the off-season and at the trade deadline. Then maybe this thing will pay off handsomely. But after the initial impression, I am left wanting more.

-BeefLoaf

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