Grifol might have sent White Sox baseball back a century in home opener
By Joe Santoro
Pedro Grifol owes Michael Kopech an apology.
The rookie manager also owes all Chicago White Sox fans an apology for the 12-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Monday. It is, after all, the White Sox's most one-sided and embarrassing home-opening loss since the very first game at the new Comiskey Park in 1991 (16-0 to the Detroit Tigers).
That's right, White Sox fans. Grifol sent White Sox baseball back three decades on Monday. All that was missing on Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field were hits by Wilson Phillips and Whitney Houston coming out of the stadium speakers between innings.
The most disturbing thing is not that the White Sox lost 12-3 in its home opener after a promising four-game series split at Houston. Teams lose their home openers. They even get blown out. It happens.
The Chicago White Sox were absolutely dominated in their home opener.
Granted, it doesn't happen like that very often. The Sox, after all, have only lost three other home openers (other than 1991 and Monday afternoon) by nine or more runs in their long history (12-2 in 1973, 12-0 in 1970, and 9-0 in 1968).
So, yes, you could argue that Grifol actually sent White Sox baseball back five decades on Monday. All that was missing were a few hits by Led Zeppelin, Heart, and Chicago.
The most troubling takeaway from Monday afternoon is not that the White Sox lost a ballgame. Just a hunch, but the Sox will likely lose another game this season. Be prepared.
The disturbing takeaway from Monday is that Grifol looked like a guy that has no clue about how to protect a young and vulnerable starting pitcher.
After what Grifol (and the Giants) did to him, Kopech might need to go on an Aaron Rodgers weekend darkness retreat and ponder the meaning of life. It was like watching an 18-month-old being thrown into the deep end of the pool and told repeatedly to simply keep kicking those legs.
Kopech, in case you've already wiped it from your silver and black memory, pitched 4.2 innings against the Giants and allowed eight hits, seven runs (all earned), and three walks. He threw 92 pitches and, to be fair, a few of them actually stayed in the park.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound former phenom had a start like Monday's once before. He allowed nine hits and seven runs in just 3.1 innings on Sept. 5, 2018, in a 10-2 loss to the Tigers. But then it was discovered he was injured and he didn't pitch in a game after that for nearly three years.
Hopefully it won't take him that long to get back on a mound after what happened on Monday.
The Giants pounded Kopech for five home runs and it would have been six if not for yet another brilliant catch by Luis Robert Jr. high above the center field fence. There were, unfortunately, four home runs that Robert couldn't pull back in a frightening fifth inning.
If someone made a movie about that fifth inning the Motion Picture Association of America, if they have any sense of decency at all, wouldn't allow anyone under the age of 19 to watch it in a public theater.
Kopech threw 23 pitches in that gruesome fifth inning. Again, to be fair, some of them didn't fly over an outfield wall. But, in addition to the four in the inning that landed in a galaxy far, far away, another nine missed the strike zone.
Michael Conforto sent Kopech's fourth pitch of the inning into the seats for a 4-0 Giants lead. Two pitches later, Thairo Estrada made it 5-0 San Francisco.
That was precisely the moment that Grifol should have sprinted to the mound, given Kopech a pep talk, and sent him to the showers.
It was, after all, just Kopech's first start of the season after an off-season when he underwent knee surgery. He's just 26 years old and still wondering what happened to the 22-year-old that used to wear his jersey and used to throw fastballs in triple digits.
Kopech's confidence was a bit fragile going into Monday afternoon. In the fifth inning, it turned into silly putty.
Grifol, though, didn't take Kopech out after the Conforto homer or even the Estrada homer. He left Kopech in to face Joc Pederson, a guy who took the Sox starter deep in the second inning and nearly did it again in the third if not for Robert.
That was just Grifol telling an 18-month old to keep kicking those legs.
Kopech got Pederson to fly out to right because, after all, Pederson is not ex-Giant Barry Bonds in 2001, even though the 34,000-plus Sox fans on Monday would disagree.
The next hitter, Mike Yastrzemski, then sent Kopech's second pitch into the seats for a 6-0 Giants lead. For some reason, there's more to pitching than simply kicking those legs as fast as you can. Who knew?
Grifol still didn't take him out of the game. Grifol was now turning into a 19th-century manager expecting his shell-shocked pitcher to stay in there and pitch until his arm and his psyche fell off.
Somebody named David Villar then stepped to the plate. Nobody would have blamed Villar if he actually sprinted to the plate for fear that Grifol would suddenly wake up and realize he was needed on the mound because his fragile starting pitcher had already melted down into a puddle on the mound.
Villar, though, took pity on Kopech and didn't even swing at the first four pitches. The fifth pitch, though, landed in the seats for a 6-0 Giants lead.
Where was Grifol? He should have been on the mound before Villar touched home plate. Was he in the dugout in full Tony La Russa catnap mode? Was he texting Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez and asking him when he should take Kopech out?
Grifol left Kopech in the game after Villar's homer and watched his battered starting pitcher walk Brandon Crawford on five pitches. Only then did Grifol take Kopech out of the game.
The most home runs Kopech had ever allowed in a game before Monday was four (in 2018 and again last July 5 against the Minnesota Twins). Kopech is not a stranger to giving up homers. He did, after all, allow 15 last year in just 119.1 innings.
The five home runs Kopech allowed to the Giants are the most in White Sox history in a home opener. Reynaldo Lopez, now the Sox's struggling closer, gave up three to the Seattle Mariners in 2019. Jose Quintana was touched for three against the Detroit Tigers in 2017.
No other Sox pitcher has ever allowed more than two in a home opener.
The Giants, though, hit two more bombs in the ninth inning off Jose Ruiz and finished the day with seven, the most home runs the Sox have ever allowed in a home opener.
So, yes, you could argue that Grifol actually might have sent Sox baseball back 100-plus years on Monday.