The White Sox are stuck in a never ending groundhog day existence
By Joe Santoro
Did the Chicago White Sox change managers after the 2022 season?
We thought we heard rejoicing in the streets last fall when Tony La Russa supposedly stepped down and Pedro Grifol replaced him as manager. Didn't we all read something along the lines that a new day was dawning for the White Sox?
Maybe we dreamed it all up. The first 13 games of the 2023 season look an awful lot like the first 162 games of the 2022 season. You remember 2022, don't you White Sox fans? The year of injuries, inconsistencies, and indifference?
Well, it's back. It always comes back, doesn't it? So maybe LaRussa isn't gone after all. His spirit is sure lingering.
The Chicago White Sox are dealing with the same things over and over.
Maybe Grifol didn't jump off the Kansas City Royals bench to save our Sox. Maybe the Sox simply combined the manager's job into some frustrating, agonizing, sit-there-and-do-nothing hybrid manager.
A 5-8 record two weeks into the season, accompanied by the all-too-familiar string of injuries, shoddy defense, and rollercoaster pitching, looks an awful lot like 2022.
The White Sox is an agonizing groundhog day, 50 first dates type of organization. They are the guy who gets in his car every morning, pulls out of his driveway, drives directly into a pothole in front of his house, gets a flat tire, and breaks his hand pounding the dashboard.
Sooner or later you'd think they'd run out of tires and hands. But not the groundhog day, 50 first dates Sox. They get in their car each morning full of hope and promise with four new tires and a perfectly healthy hand and head down the driveway full of hope and promise.
Bang, smash, yell. You can set your clock to it. It happens every morning. It's bang, smash, yell followed by all the neighborhood dogs barking.
Well, the White Sox version of bang, smash, yell is Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson, and Yoan Moncada pulling one muscle or another and missing games. The sound of dogs barking is poor Sox fans who have seen this awful movie before.
We thought Grifol would make it stop. All he's done is download that ugly Sox movie, sit back, and watch it over and over again.
Well, Sox fans, you don't have Tony La Russa to kick around anymore. You have Pedro..
Grifol has yet to separate himself from La Russa and all of the inadequacies the White Sox dealt with a year ago. Yes, when Luis Robert Jr. is hitting home runs and stealing home runs away from the opposition, the team looks amazing.
Everything else though, is a rerun of 2022.
Where is the change of culture that Grifol was supposed to instill? Where is the attention to detail, the new competitive fire? Where is the team that was supposed to win by doing all of the little things correctly, instead of merely waiting for the next injury shoe to drop?
Where is Grifol's personality? Does he have a personality? Does he know he's the manager now? Tell me again how the White Sox were going to play the game differently this season. We all need to hear it right now.
Nobody is blaming Grifol for the ridiculous amount of injuries the team has suffered already this season.
We are just two weeks into the season and Grifol has already lost an important bullpen arm (Joe Kelly), his shortstop (Anderson), third baseman (Moncada), and designated hitter (Jimenez).
That is just the injured guys. The ones that have somehow stayed healthy haven't fared that much better.
New first baseman Andrew Vaughn has yet to hit a home run and he treats ground balls like they are supposed to be avoided. Infielder Elvis Andrus is hitting .146 with one walk. Left fielder Andrew Benintendi, the $75 million man, has no homers and two RBI.
New right fielder Oscar Colas, Robert, and Moncada have combined to strike out 33 times and walk just three times. Utility man Romy Gonzalez is hitting .158. He also has fanned seven times in 19 at-bats without a walk.
Hanser Alberto, the star of spring training, is hitting .222. Take away a three-run homer he hit against the Twins earlier this week and about all he's done is commit two errors at third base.
Only one (Dylan Cease) of the starting pitchers has been consistent. The bullpen is 1-4 with just two saves after 13 games. All you need to know about the bullpen so far is that Jimmy Lambert (yes, Jimmy Lambert) has been its star.
We thought the 2-2 series split at Houston was a promising sign. But, it turns out, the Astros are just going through a World Series hangover right now and are almost as bad as the Sox at 6-7.
That 2-2 split has been the highlight of the year. The Sox have yet to win a series this year, losing three and tying one. The White Sox last year, we remind you, won their first three series of the season.
Is Grifol to blame for the 5-8 start? Of course not. Blame the injuries, the same place you should have put all of the blame for the 81-81 season a year ago. But, yes, we get it. La Russa was too easy of a target.
Grifol, though, seems like he had no clue how bad things are in the wonderful world of the White Sox. Talk about biting off more than you can chew. Grifol, now, is simply choking on White Sox problems.
The change in manager, so far, doesn't seem to have solved anything. Grifol might not be dozing off in the corner of the dugout but he also doesn't seem to do much of anything else except check the statistical tendencies before the game and make out the lineup.
Where's the fire? Where's the sense of urgency? Where's the attention to detail? Chuck Tanner filled his White Sox teams in the early 1970s with an overwhelming sense of confidence, positivity, and enthusiasm. Ozzie Guillen was a non-stop presence everywhere he went.
Grifol, it seems, is a combination of Gene Lamont, Ricky Renteria, Terry Bevington, Jim Fregosi and Don Gutteridge, former Sox managers with zero personality and influence on the final score.
This Sox team, supposedly filled with potential and talent, desperately needs someone to teach them how to win. La Russa was supposed to be that teacher. But he made zero effort other than to make sure his uniform was buttoned and zippered.
The Sox need Grifol to teach them how to win. It's a team and an organization that craves a no-nonsense leader who would hold everyone accountable. And that includes the front office.
Is Grifol that type of manger? Well, he said he was. So far we haven't seen it.
It's time Grifol grabs this team by the neck and shakes some competitive fire into it. The Sox are 5-8 with 19 games in a row coming up against the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Philadelphia Phillies, Minnesota Twins, and Toronto Blue Jays.
We could be looking at a 12-20 White Sox team in early May. It could be even uglier if the injury pandemic that has surrounded the franchise for two years continues to heat up.
If Grifol wants his own identity, it's time he takes control is his team before it takes control of him.
It is much too early, of course, to give up on Grifol. Maybe he's just been sitting back and observing for himself to see if all the problems of a year ago were actually real.
Well, they are real. Too real. And that pothole just keeps getting bigger.