Sitting in gridlock on the Kennedy Expressway late Friday evening due to the caravan-created visitors tsunami, I had plenty of time to consider annus horribilis, the worst 12 months in Chicago White Sox historical past.
My first thought was about Sox followers leaving Guaranteed Rate Field and discovering themselves caught on a freeway with exits blocked. How lots of the introduced crowd of 18,001 have been making an attempt to make their method again residence and blaming themselves for going to observe a horrible Sox crew play out the string in a 10-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins?
My subsequent thought was one in all sympathy for the Sox gamers, coaches, executives and fellow media members who quickly can be exiting the ballpark and coping with the identical visitors nightmare because the followers. Would anybody name in sick Saturday to keep away from a repeat after Friday evening’s sport in opposition to the Twins?
But as I crawled previous one other blocked-off exit on my method north, it lastly dawned on me that the postgame gridlock was one other good metaphor for the Sox season.
The Sox have been caught in place, going nowhere, like all of us commuters after venturing out on a late summer season Friday evening in Chicago. The largest distinction was Google Maps and Waze indicated it will be an extended, time-consuming slog earlier than we reached our closing locations, whereas Sox supervisor Pedro Grifol imagined a fast, one-year turnaround earlier than the Sox reached theirs.
At least all of us knew we have been caught in place, due to fashionable expertise. The Sox stay in denial.
The disconnect between the Sox’s messaging and actuality has reached a disaster stage. In one breath on Friday, Grifol stated each prospect ought to come to spring coaching ready to win a spot. In the subsequent, he stated the Sox ought to contend in 2024.
“Why wouldn’t we be able to?” he requested me, finally launching right into a soliloquy about the necessity to cease speaking and begin successful.
Anyone watching this crew is aware of many adjustments have to be made for the Sox to consider contending, regardless of their mediocre division. Even if normal supervisor Chris Getz pulls a Jed Hoyer-like selloff and dumps the core for a semi-rebuild, convincing Sox followers Getz and Grifol are the best ones to co-manage the do-over would stay a significant problem.
Getz stated Grifol’s first season was made tougher by his having to put on “a lot of hats” whereas studying the group. In confirming Grifol’s return throughout his introductory information convention to exchange Rick Hahn, Getz stated subsequent 12 months can be simpler for the supervisor due to the experiences of 2023.
“And first and foremost, having me now in this position and having constant conversations throughout the days and as the season progresses,” Getz added. “I’m going to be able to help him navigate a major-league season.”
That navigation lesson presumably has already begun, although the Sox are 3-11 since Getz formally was introduced as GM on Aug. 31 and trending towards 100 losses.
Getz has by no means needed to handle gamers as a farm director, however he can inform Grifol who to play, what lineup to place out and whether or not to place struggling starter Michael Kopech within the bullpen. Getz has by no means needed to converse to the media twice a day to supply the best messaging, however he can inform Grifol what message he desires despatched out, just like the one about prospects getting spring coaching invitations and truly competing for roster spots come February.
They’re a tag crew, a minimum of for now, like the previous Chicago Bulls govt tandem of Gar Forman and John Paxson who have been lumped collectively by followers as GarPax. Whether GriGetz can overcome the skepticism of beaten-down Sox followers is a query that gained’t be answered till the 2024 season will get underway.
Grifol can assist his personal trigger by speaking realistically about his gamers and the crew’s total efficiency. His sugarcoating can come off as insulting to educated followers who can see what’s incorrect.
After former supervisor Terry Bevington was re-signed following the 1996 season, regardless of being unpopular with followers and the media, the Sox despatched him to media coaching to create a “kinder, gentler” supervisor. An outdoors public relations particular person made Bevington watch tapes of his postgame interviews, and he admitted to coming off as “grouchy” at occasions.
Marketing director Rob Gallas advised Tribune reporter Mike Kiley that Bevington was “evolving” and the Sox have been “working on his presence and demeanor.”
“Part of coaching and managing is to be a performer,” Gallas stated. “Terry has shown an eagerness to learn.”
The Tribune dubbed him “the lemon-scented Bev” in ’97, however the picture makeover didn’t take. Bevington sparred with the media and his personal gamers and was fired after the season.
Grifol is not any Bevington, however his popularity may use an identical increase. The supervisor is the primary spokesman for the group and can assist create a optimistic narrative with out pretending every part is ok. What could be carried out to repair Kopech’s struggles or Tim Anderson’s defensive lapses? Why has the crew regressed even additional in September?
Speaking extra actually in regards to the Sox’s issues can be a great way for Grifol to indicate he’s not simply spouting the corporate line. Getz ought to take part if he hopes to sway fence-sitting Sox followers who take a look at him as Hahn Lite or Ken Williams 2.0.
“This is a lousy, horrible year,” Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf stated final month, “And the fans have a right to be upset. But hopefully they will give us some time. I think we’ll make it better.”
The factor about gridlock is it will definitely ends and also you get the place it’s essential be.
How rapidly the Sox finish this self-created gridlock relies on the offseason choices of Getz.