White Sox and Royals Take Different Approaches With Managerial Announcements…Will It Pay Off?

This week, the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox announced and introduced their managerial hires, with official press conferences happening for both of them on Thursday.

In many ways, the moves were the right for each organization.

The Royals need a change in their process, especially when incorporating analytics and continuing player development at the Major League level. It makes sense why GM JJ Picollo hired Matt Quatraro, who formerly coached in organizations like the Guardians and Rays which promote and foster those two essential aspects.

As for the White Sox, they actually tabbed their manager from the Royals organization, as they hired Kansas City bench coach Pedro Grifol to replace Tony La Russa. While the Royals did not go internally with Grifol, he was widely respected around the league and was a finalist for managerial jobs in Detroit and San Francisco in previous seasons.

What was interesting about the hires of Quatraro and Grifol was not simply the hires themselves.

Rather, it was how the Royals and White Sox approached the announcements of their respective new managers, and what kind of impact it could happen on the future of both teams in the division.


Royal Promote “Process”, “Analytics”, and “Pitching” With Quatraro

The Royals had the first shot at making their managerial announcement, as owner John Sherman, Picollo, and Quatraro held their press conference with the media to announce Quatraro’s hire and field questions around 10 a.m.

The one thing that immediately stuck out about Quatraro was his mild-mannered nature, as well as his ability to build relationships throughout the organizations that he worked with. After three seasons of a “tense” clubhouse under Mike Matheny (which especially came to a peak last year), it seems like Quatraro is going to be a fresh change of pace, especially for this young Royals roster.

Three things also highlighted Quatraro’s presser: being process-oriented; a focus on being data-driven in multiple ways; and a focus on winning with pitching, especially as a small market team.

The “Process” is not something new for Royals fans, especially considering former general manager/president of baseball operations promoted that during his initial rebuild in Kansas City (which eventually did lead to two pennants and a World Series title). However, regarding managerial hires in Kansas City, it seemed like Matheny and even his predecessor Ned Yost focused more on “immediate” results, even if it came at the expense of long-term player development.

It seemed to be a much different story for Quatraro in his press conference on Thursday:

One of the things that also seemed to be lacking during Matheny’s three-year tenure in Kansas City was a true understanding of analytics from a dugout perspective, and how to properly utilize it. There seems to be no question that the Royals have access to the kind of data that is present in nearly every other MLB organization. That said, it seems that Matheny and his staff (especially pitching coach Cal Eldred) were hesitant to implement it, for whatever reason.

Quatraro on the other hand mentioned being data-driven and utilizing analytics effectively as a manager and coaching staff. Furthermore, he also emphasized about knowing “where the game is going”, so the Royals as a coaching staff can utilize data to help them keep an edge over their opponents in the long term.

Lastly, Quatraro emphasized a specific key to winning for small-market teams, based on his experience in Cleveland and Tampa. Safe to say, it’s something that Royals fans will be paying attention to quite closely, especially after their struggles in this department during the Moore era.

It also appears that Quatraro will work with Picollo and the Royals front office to identify and hire a pitching coach and other staff members. Considering Quatraro’s ties to Cleveland and Tampa, Royals fans can be hopeful that the Royals can bring in someone who can change the culture of pitching development not only at the Major League level but perhaps the Minor League level as well.

Many Royals fans have long wanted the Royals, one of the smallest market and revenue generators in MLB, to incorporate practices and structures embodied by Tampa Bay and Cleveland, who have thrived for years, despite being in a similar status as Kansas City.

Quatraro seemed to promote all those kinds of things that Royals fans have wanted, and his background makes it seem like it could be a reality and not just lip service.


Grifol: “Mayor” of the South Side?

For the record, I did not think the Royals should’ve hired Grifol, even though I initially thought he would be an early favorite for the position.

The Royals needed that fresh perspective that would help truly “develop” the Royals organization both at the Major and Minor League level. I believe that Picollo needs to show that he won’t be Dayton Moore 2.0. Hiring Quatraro is another step in that direction.

Even though he is going to a division rival in Chicago, I am happy that Grifol got his managerial opportunity, and I hope that he is able to succeed, even though I ultimately hope they fall short of the Royals in the Central division in the grand scheme of things.

I shared most of my thoughts about the hire with “Sox on 35th”, a White Sox-affiliated blog about Grifol, which can be found in the Tweet below:

While Quatraro’s press conference was a little subdued, if not sentimental, Grifol’s introduction, both in a press conference and general-end was the exact opposite.

It almost was like Grifol had just been elected the “mayor” of the South Side of Chicago, not just hired to manage a professional sports team.

Grifol impressed in his press conference by speaking in both English and Spanish, a great sign that he will connect with this White Sox roster, which is comprised of many Latin American players.

He also emphasized that he is a big supporter of former AL MVP Jose Abreu, who will be a pending free agent this offseason. While it is yet to be determined if White Sox GM Rick Hahn wants Abreu to finish off his career on the South Side, it appears at least that Grifol would welcome his bat and presence in the Chicago lineup in 2023 and beyond.

Shortly after his interview, the White Sox also released a clip that showcased Grifol talking to White Sox slugger Eloy Jimenez via FaceTime, all in Spanish. It seemed like they had a warm relationship, and were ready to get started.

And later that evening, Grifol was on hand for a Chicago Blackhawks NHL game at the United Center, all decked out in a Blackhawks No. 5 red jersey.

One would think that would be enough, especially for a first-time MLB manager coming from a small-market baseball club.

Instead, Grifol continued to be on the promotional path, starting with him visiting a lunch spot on the South Side of Chicago and covering the tabs of all the patrons in attendance (including giving some grief to a patron wearing a Toronto Blue Jays hat).

Grifol also had his family in attendance, as they helped the new White Sox manager meet and greet the South Side crowd.

And if that wasn’t enough, Grifol and his family went to a local elementary school in the South Side of Chicago, where they not only hyped up young White Sox fans but also participated in a 3rd-grade class’ reading activity.

I get that Chicago is a bigger city than Kansas City. Furthermore, the White Sox have to do a lot to win over fans in the city, especially considering how big the Cubs are on not just a local level, but a national one as well.

But while Grifol still has to prove himself on the field as a manager, he at least has won over the South Side faithful, by not just being the opposite of La Russa, but being a guy who truly embraces the working-class and heavily Latino fanbase on the South Side of Chicago.

I am not sure the White Sox could’ve found a more perfect fit, at least as of now.


Could These Hirings Re-Spark Things Between the White Sox and Royals?

Honestly, as a Royals fan, if you had to see one candidate “won” the press conference battle, I would say that Grifol and the White Sox did by a considerable margin over Quatraro and the Royals. The White Sox incorporated a full-court press by getting Grifol’s face, voice, and personality all over the place, both in person and digitally. And Grifol didn’t just cooperate, but he seemed to embrace it.

In all honesty, I didn’t know Grifol had the capability to be so charismatic. It makes me disappointed that Moore didn’t see that initially, as he would’ve been the perfect candidate to continue to build on the legacy of Yost after he retired in 2019.

Unfortunately, what’s done is done, and the Royals needed to go a different path, even if it is hard to see Grifol and the Sox win the “media” war as of now (and they aren’t pulling any punches either when it comes to calling out the competition).

Of course, the White Sox are in a different boat from the Royals.

The White Sox are built to compete, with a mixture of veteran talent, and rising stars that are near their peak. They are looking to rebound quickly after a disappointing 81-81 year in La Russa’s final season. Grifol will be expected to not only win but win right away.

It’s not a surprise that Charlie Montoyo, the former Blue Jays manager, was hired to be the White Sox bench coach. If things go south in 2023 or 2024, don’t be surprised to see Montoyo slide in immediately.

As for the Royals, Picollo and even Sherman know there may need to be a year or two of “rebuilding”. But Picollo is trying to build a long-term winner in the mold of Tampa Bay or Houston (clubs built on player development and analytics). Royals fans are willing to be patient with a couple of subpar years if it means that the Royals will have a more consistent winner in the long term.

Kansas City will need to fight off Grifol and the White Sox from poaching coaching talent in the Royals organization. Already, it appears that the Royals will be losing assistant hitting coach Mike Tosar, who appears on his way to be the hitting coach on the South Side (Grifol and Tosar were former teammates).

That is a huge loss to the Royals organization, especially for Salvador Perez, who particularly has thrived under Tosar’s personal tutelage.

Thankfully, the Royals will still have Alec Zumwalt and Keoni Derenne to hold things down on the hitting side of things. Plus, Quatraro also has a background in hitting instruction, so it’s possible he could tap someone from Tampa or Cleveland to replace Tosar, if necessary.

The White Sox most likely will be making more coaching moves in the coming weeks, and it will be interesting to see how Picollo and Sherman fend off Chicago from poaching more coaches within the Royals organization. Will the Royals give up coaching talent willingly? Or will Sherman pony up to keep their coaching and instructional talent from migrating toward the South Side?

I have always thought that the Royals and White Sox could have the potential to be a fun rivalry in the AL Central due to their contrasting organizations and geography (much like the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry).

Perhaps Grifol and Quatraro could help foster that Royals-White Sox rivalry in the coming seasons, with both organizations perhaps fighting for the AL Central crown in the next three to five years…

And let’s hope it’s the Royals coming out on top of that one, much to the chagrin of the White Sox faithful.

Photo Credit: TAMMY LJUNGBLAD | KANSAS CITY STAR 

One thought on “White Sox and Royals Take Different Approaches With Managerial Announcements…Will It Pay Off?

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