The White Sox need Pedro Grifol to be cleaner than Tony La Russa

Just how much of a tangible difference a manager makes on a baseball team over 162 games has never been fully nailed down. It’s generally thought that the best ones only add a few wins and the really bad ones only take a few wins away. Most of them are just there, so front offices didn’t really care about adding names. But what we can answer for the first time this season is what happens to a team when you trade a manager who has been asleep most of the time? It worked A League of Their Own! Although it was just the manager waking up and paying attention.

That was not an option for the Chicago White Sox and Tony La Russa, given that he is 143 years old. So the Sox completely replaced him with Pedro Grifol, who was previously the Kansas City Royals’ outfielder. What Grifol will become is anyone’s guess, but Sox fans will be relieved that he should know the rules and not do anything to prove his genius. At least they hope so.

While intentionally walking guys with two strikes or it is not clear how the extra innings worked or if you are having problems remaining conscious (both in the dugout and behind the wheel) were the most poignant annoyances during La Russa’s reign of “huh?” his biggest offense was that the Sox, night in, night out, were just a structural mess. They didn’t do a single thing right like the winning teams. They couldn’t catch the ball, they didn’t take the extra base while teams were happy to run at them, they didn’t always (or regularly) play hard, they took crappy batters in crucial situations, and they made the same mistakes game after game.

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And no one seemed to take responsibility for it. It was shocking to see the same manager — whose ship in St. Louis was run so tightly we all mocked him — manage a team, or at least a team that was essentially one long school break. He just let it happen. And neither player seemed to take the reins. While José Abreu was generally praised for what he meant to his teammates, he was found wanting when it came time to cash a few checks for his teammates’ antics. That’s part of the reason the Sox weren’t too mad about letting him go to Houston in free agency.

Grifol might not run a military base or anything, but getting anyone to perform at any level would be a big step forward for the Southside club. Because even with a pretty hot winter, the Sox are the most talented team in the AL Central.

That won’t stop much gnashing of teeth about Comiskey, because the Sox haven’t done much to fill a giant hole at second or in the outfield and bolster his rotation if Lucas Giolito wanders off to the zoo again. and Michael Kopech shows Tom Glavine-like speed without the Glavine-like control. Reports from Arizona are not encouraging. Or whatever support they’ve added to the rotation will come in the form of a potential swamp monster.

Grifol isn’t going to make the Sox a great defensive team, because any innings they pitch with Eloy Jiménez in right field will be the definition of a gas battle. Oscar Colas will probably be in the lineup before too long before Eloy burns the entire park down. The infield isn’t as bad as advertised, with Elvis Andrus moving to second after filling in for an injured Tim Anderson late in the year. Anderson was already a very good defensive shortstop in 2021, and an average one last year. What you get this year, spin the wheel!

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This is somehow even harder to decipher given the reputations of most of the players. Anderson, one of the best contact hitters in the league, was unable to hit the ball more than a foot and a half off the ground. They cannot keep Jimenez or Luis Robert on the field, or Jiménez is already in trouble in spring training. No one knows for sure what they will get from Yoán Moncada from year to year. Yasmani Grandal is dead. So adding in just Andrew Benintendi’s one-off offense, or Andrus discovering the launch angle at age 33, isn’t the surest solution to these questions. Sure, it could be an absolutely lethal offense if Anderson returns to form and the others stay healthy… but not if some of those things don’t happen. This is a team that finished 19th in runs scored last year. All Grifol can do there is pray for health.

As far as pitching goes, Dylan Cease may see a bit of a flattening in his BABIP or on-base numbers, but at worst he’ll still be one of the best in the second round, and at best he’ll be a Cy Young candidate again. . On the flip side, Giolito should bounce in the other direction in those categories, and giving up more ground balls than he did last year would actually result in more outs than he would with more skill in the field if the Sox find him. As for Clevinger, he’s already secured too much bullshit for a guy who’s a sucker now and hasn’t been well for four years.

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It’s just unfortunate that Liam Hendriks has non-Hodgkins lymphoma and what that means on the field is the least of it. But the Sox should be fine, if not gangbusters, through a combination of Kendall Graveman, Aaron Bummer and Reynaldo López before the deadline, while Joe Kelly continues to chase every microphone and camera south of Roosevelt Street.

It is enough? If Grifol improves the Sox by five games, just as a manager, it still won’t be enough to match Cleveland’s 92 wins last year. And yet, having an actual manager and getting everyone to perform to career standards is probably enough to at least be part of the central debate. With the top three seeds in the AL East and the top two in the West, finding wildcards for an improvement class in the Central could be difficult. We know the Tigers and Royals will be dog-ass. The Guardians will depend on the development of some young players or just repeat last season. The Twins are turning it back again, with too much hanging on whether Byron Buxton can stay upright for more than a week.

The Sox need more than a managerial boost and acting like a real live MLB team. Fortunately, they have enough to ensure this.