Pedro Grifol should be considered a dynamite managerial hire for White Sox

Pedro Grifol, pictured at a Chicago Blackhawks game, has been handed the keys to the Chicago White Sox rebuild.
Pedro Grifol, pictured at a Chicago Blackhawks game, has been handed the keys to the Chicago White Sox rebuild. / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Chicago White Sox manager Pedro Grifol is, after all the votes have been counted, the most popular, well-liked, and adored Pedro since Napoleon Dynamite's best friend.

All that was missing at Grifol's introductory press conference last November, after all, was the "Vote for Pedro" t-shirt Come to think of it, though, he never did loosen his tie and whip open his shirt.

Grifol did have the classic smooth Pedro Sanchez haircut (without the wig) and he can always ask Sox pitcher Dylan Cease for tips on growing the cool Pedro mustache.

Grifol, apparently, doesn't need to drum up any additional votes from Sox supporters. Most Sox fans didn't know their newly discovered Pedro from Napoleon's Pedro roughly four months ago but seemingly didn't care.

The Chicago White Sox need Pedro Grifol to be outstanding this year.

All that mattered is that Grifol wasn't Tony La Russa, had no apparent ties to him, and didn't have any personal experience of life in America before television.

La Russa, despite winning 155-of-288 games, a division title, and a playoff game, wouldn't even have garnered many votes for class president at a local high school by the end of his two years. Napoleon's Pedro ended up hiding his shaved head in a hoodie. La Russa was the Sox's bad haircut.

Few Sox managers in recent decades, however, have been welcomed by as many open arms as Grifol.

Yes, of course, there was some initial grumbling from the "Vote For Ozzie Guillen" campaign but those folks were many of the same naysayers upset that La Russa took nine years off before taking the Sox job while ignoring the fact that Guillen hadn't managed in 10 years.

Grifol won his press conference and continues winning to this day. He stole the gist of the campaign speech of Napoleon's Pedro ("Vote for me and all your wildest dreams will come true") and Sox fans were sold.

General manager Rick Hahn didn't even have to get up and do a funky dance to get the crowd cheering.

The positivity and hope surrounding the arrival of Grifol has been refreshing after two years of La Russa bashing. All it took, looking back, was Grifol being a spry 53-year-old and not the 76-year-old La Russa that was away for a long time.

Nobody, after all, asked Grifol how he was going to relate to all the young players on the Sox roster and whether or not he was aware Twitter was not just the sounds from the birds in his backyard.

That was a far cry from the hiring of La Russa, which was met with skepticism, laughter, shock, warnings of impending doom, and off-the-field issues.

The overwhelming pro-Grifol response, though, is as strange as the overwhelmingly negative reaction La Russa received two years ago. Have you looked at the resumes of the two gentlemen in question or have you just concentrated on their birth certificates?

Ask yourself this, Sox fans, how excited would you have been if Grifol replaced Rick Renteria after the 2020 season as Sox manager? Replacing Renteria with Grifol is effectively what the White Sox have done now that the dust of the annoying La Russa era has settled.

Some would argue that Grifol and Renteria are the same guys, just as Terry Bevington, Jerry Manuel and Gene Lamont were the same guys two and three decades ago. The 53-year-old Grifol toiled anonymously in the Seattle Mariners minor league system before attracting just as little fanfare as a Kansas City Royals coach.

Renteria, 55-years old when named Sox manager, basically followed the same quiet, workmanlike career path.

Yes, most Sox fans had at least heard of Renteria (unlike Grifol) since he managed the Chicago Cubs for a year (2014) and was one of Robin Ventura's assistants with the Sox for a year (2016) before becoming the first manager of the Sox rebuild in 2017.

But it's not a stretch to say the Sox fired Renteria in 2020 and basically hired his less experienced stunt double two years later.

The well-liked (by players, more than fans) Renteria, of course, never deserved to be fired in the first place. He did get the Sox to the pandemic playoffs in 2020 after suffering through the three worst years of the rebuild.

The Sox were always quick to deny accusations they hired Renteria as manager just to fire him, merely needing someone to do the heavy lifting of the rebuild before a qualified manager could be brought in to win the championships.

The Cubs, after all, did exactly that to Renteria just a few years before with Joe Maddon. But that is precisely what the Sox also did just a few weeks after the 2020 playoffs, replacing him with a 76-year-old who hadn't managed in almost a decade.

Grifol, by the way, also hasn't managed in a decade, since he led the High Desert Mavericks in the California League in 2012. But the hiring of Grifol was likely just Hahn's response to owner Jerry Reinsdorf's forcing La Russa on him two years ago.

Hahn, we know now, was never going to bring in a guy Reinsdorf had even heard of, someone like Bruce Bochy, Joe Girardi, Maddon, or, yes, Guillen.

Hahn, after all, didn't need another manager who would text the owner before he would text the general manager.

Sox fans, judging by the positive response to the Grifol hiring over the past few months, understood and sympathized with Hahn.

Time, as well as a few series with the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins, will tell if Grifol was a great hire or an underwhelming hire like most Sox managers of the past.

But it did serve the purpose of quieting social media, where it became sort of a city pastime like 16-inch softball to bash La Russa as often as they can.

How can you rip Napoleon's Pedro, a harmless young man with a bad wig who would give you a complimentary gift on the way to class while asking for your precious vote?

Grifol, like Napoleon's Pedro, has said all the right things so far. He's told Sox fans that his team will be prepared, players will be held accountable, and even required to run hard to first base.

The goal every game, Grifol promised, will be to kick various body parts of the opponent all over the field. Those are words any Sox fan can get behind and respect.

Grifol is sort of their own Iron Mike Ditka, at least the take-no-prisoners Ditka we knew before the Super Bowl and non-stop commercials.

Grifol has restored Sox fans' confidence without even stepping in a dugout yet. La Russa, by comparison, sitting in the corner of the Sox dugout always looked like he was an aging Joe Louis standing near the door as a greeter in a Las Vegas casino. But, of course, without the smile, friendly handshake, and photo op.

Grifol is just the third full-time Sox manager without major league playing experience after Pants Rowland (1915-18) and Terry Bevington (1995-97), who also wore pants but didn't get the nickname.

He also didn't get the World Series title Rowland won in 1917 by beating the New York Giants and John McGraw.

Bevington went 80-81 in 1997 with an everyday lineup that had Frank Thomas, Ray Durham, Ozzie Guillen, Albert Belle, Mike Cameron, Dave Martinez, Harold Baines, and, for a while, Magglio Ordonez, Tony Phillips, and Robin Ventura.

A quarter century later in 2022 the Sox had a similar season and also fired the manager. Bevington was replaced with Jerry Manuel at a time when the fan base would have been thrilled to have La Russa and would have invented Twitter just to tell everyone how thrilled they were. But the timing has never been a Sox strength.

The time was right after 2022, though, for La Russa to go back to retirement. Few Sox fans, those excited or even bored or disinterested in the Grifol hiring, would disagree with that.

Of course, the official narrative is that medical reasons forced the change in leadership from the guy with the Cooperstown plaque to the guy who has Salvador Perez's phone number on speed dial.

The Sox, true to form, didn't come to their senses and fire La Russa, and La Russa didn't suddenly have a moment of clarity and quit. All we know is that the smile on Hahn's face the day he introduced Grifol was enough to make Sox fans smile.

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