Following a disappointing 81-81 record last year with a roster many felt was good enough to get to the World Series, Chicago White Sox fans hope new manager Pedro Grifol will be able to fix all the problems that kept them from getting to the postseason. To do that, he will have to be a leader the players can follow and who will take his teaching to heart.
Considering how talented the team is, Grifol's honeymoon period with the club could be short-lived if the team doesn't show signs of being one that could make a run at a title.
Thus, if there's one thing Grifol needs to do, it's to get the players to buy into his philosophy and coach out the bad habits which have plagued this team for several seasons.
Grifol made his intentions known about what he wants out of his club when he was introduced as the team's new manager back in October.
"We will communicate. We will be fundamentally sound, we will play with passion, pride for this uniform. This means something. We will respect the game, our fans, earn their trust," Grifol stated. "We will be prepared to control the strike zone on both sides of the ball. We will work hard and play winning baseball every night. We will definitely hold each other accountable."
The Chicago White Sox need a lot from Pedro Grifol in the 2023 season.
The first thing to stand out from that statement was his reference to making the team fundamentally sound. If there is one thing the team seems to have had difficulty with over the years, it's doing the little things correctly.
Frustration by the fans reached a fever pitch as they witnessed pitchers not backing up plays, baserunning mistakes costing runs, hitters striking out too often, and fielding miscues that led to big innings.
Defensively, the White Sox were last in the American League in errors with 101 and matched that "worst of" designation in fielding percentage at .982.
At the plate, the White Sox were third in the AL in batting average at .256 which was aided by their number two spot in total hits with 1,435. The problem was the team lacked power as it hit only 149 homers (10th in the AL) and rarely took walks, finishing with 388 which was 14th worst in the league.
Grifol will be tasked with teaching discipline both in the field and at the plate. The athleticism of the players has not been in question but if they think their athleticism is what will get them by then they have another thing coming.
Grifol will have to instill an ability in the players to focus on their jobs and understand what their responsibilities are on the field and at the plate.
It sounds so elementary but that has been the problem for years. The White Sox were bested by a Cleveland Guardians team that did the little things right and were fundamentally sound on a much more regular basis which led to them taking the division by 11 games.
Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu were the team leaders last season, although most of that responsibility fell to Abreu as Anderson played in only 79 games due to injury.
Since Abreu will likely be gone via free agency and who knows what will happen injury-wise, Grifol has to be a strong voice in the clubhouse the team can rally around. He has to build solid and respectful relationships with the players to gain their trust and let them know who is in charge.
If Grifol can get the players to buy what he is selling and play to their potential, there is a chance the White Sox can turn things around in 2023.