After yesterday’s reports that Pedro Grifol will be announced as the next manager of the Chicago White Sox, fans immediately scoured the internet for any information about the former Royals bench coach. One of the most prominent and informative sources available was an interview of Grifol, himself, conducted by journalist Alex Feuz.
Feuz is confident based on his knowledge of Grifol that his time in Chicago will be successful. We interviewed Feuz to learn more about his impressions of Grifol and how his time with the Royals will influence the way the White Sox are managed going forward.
The full transcript of the interview is included below.
Note: The interview has been edited for grammar and clarity.
Nik Gaur: So right off the bat, you think that the hire [of Pedro Grifol] will be great for the White Sox, and you seem really excited about it. We’ll get deeper into it, but for starters, why do you think it’s such a good move?
Alex Feuz: Well obviously, I think you can look at Pedro’s body of work. I mean, he’s been on a Major League coaching staff with the Royals for 10 years now, and he’s worked in several different roles.
Just speaking with players in the Royals organization that have played for Pedro, I have never heard a negative thing about him. Players love him, players respect him. And just overall, it’s something that I think is the main reason why he finally got the opportunity to be a manager.
He is analytically savvy, but he’s not fully reliant on them because he does have experience in different leagues that just didn’t have the [analytical] resources.
Editor’s note: Grifol managed the Lara Cardenales in Venezuela from 2011-2014, as well as the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Republic from 2018-2019.
Alex Feuz (continued): [In these leagues], they didn’t have all the analytics, software, and data systems that Major League Baseball obviously has. So I think that his savviness is also just different. Grifol does not leave a stone unturned, and he knows every single rule. The players never felt like they went into a game unprepared.
NG: A lot of White Sox fans who want to be excited about the hire are a little apprehensive, because they say, “well, if he’s so great, why didn’t the Royals hire him as manager at some point in the last ten years?” So from a more Royals-centric perspective, what would you say in response to that?
AF: You know, I’ve been reading that a lot. And I didn’t really know the answer until recently … until frankly, the Royals went with [their new manager] Matt Quatraro from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Ned Yost was a beloved — not at first — but a beloved manager at the end of his time because he went to back-to-back World Series and he won [in 2015]. That’s great, but you never hear of great managers and beloved managers who don’t win. Winning the championship is what makes them beloved, at the end of the day. So the Royals then go their different way… eventually bringing in Mike Matheny, and that was more of a Dayton Moore hire, I believe. He wanted a different voice from outside the organization, they have had past relationships, and that was that.
[Grifol] also interviewed for other managerial openings during different times, but the timing has never been right. I believe he interviewed with the Detroit Tigers a few years ago, and then they went with A.J. Hinch. So they went with a bigger name, and they wanted that “experienced manager.” But you look at it statistically, and that maybe hasn’t worked out just yet, just bringing in a big name.
Look at the Chicago White Sox and their past decision with hiring a big-name manager. Ultimately, it’s really come at the perfect time for this to work out. Pedro interviewed for the Royals job in this case, but once again didn’t get it, so the White Sox obviously opened up at the right time for him. So it really just comes down to the perfect timing and a perfect fit in the sense that Pedro kind of checked off all the boxes of what the White Sox were looking for.
NG: You touched on this, but would you mind elaborating a little further — I understand why he wasn’t really that big of a contender for the Royals’ manager position in the past, and you mentioned that he also interviewed with other teams. But this time around, this hiring cycle, do you think he was seriously in consideration for the Royals’ job or did they just really want an outside voice again?
AF: I don’t know. I think Matt Quatraro was “the guy” that the Royals wanted from the start. Just like Bruce Bochy was the Rangers’ “guy” from when that position opened. So let’s say Matt Quatraro got the Miami Marlins job, or the White Sox job. Maybe in that sense, Pedro would have been the right fit in Kansas City. But again, it comes down to timing.
Quartaro gets the Royals job over Grifol because of all the other events in the last month and a half: Dayton Moore gets let go from his role, J.J. Picollo gets a promotion, Mike Matheny and Cal Eldred are both let go. So for the Royals — [Royals owner John Sherman] said at a press conference, I’m not breaking news here — but he basically said they want new voices. The fanbase reacted positively to that. I think [hiring Grifol as manager] would have gone against what was said about the Royals wanting a fresh vision and getting more analytical in a sense. So I think the timing of it just didn’t work out.
I think Pedro would have been very successful in Kansas City, but the optics of hiring someone from within the organization, when really no changes have been made per se at the top other than some people leaving… they needed a new vision, right? I think they just got so pigeonholed because they needed a new voice if they wanted to keep their word. And when you bring in a new manager, it also brings in a whole new coaching staff, so you get freshness in there, and I think the Royals are just trying to hit the reset button right now.
NG: Another thing you’ve mentioned about Pedro is that you feel there is an interesting blend of being analytical but also being really savvy. I think one thing White Sox fans are interested in is, I mean really coming at it from the angle that the team has never really had a manager — at least not in recent decades — that is considerably forward-thinking, per se.
In fact, the last few managers have all gone out of their way to say that they don’t like modern analytics, but Pedro seems different. So I was hoping you could opine on how much you think he’ll integrate analytics, or what his approach will be.
AF: I’ve had many conversations with [Grifol] one-on-one, privately, on the podcast, wherever — and I enjoy every time I get the chance to talk to him, because every time I do, I learn something different. I’ll approach it with questions just for me to learn. I’ll never forget this one thing he told me — I asked him why players go for the home run so much. He basically said that you want to hit for average, in a sense, because when you hit for average, the home runs come after. It’s like the mental reward of hitting for average because if you do that, the home runs will come. But obviously, like he said in the interview, the three-run home runs are the ones that win you the games. But he’s realizing that if his top home run hitters are slumping, that maybe is not the best way to win a game.
[Grifol’s] focus in general is, “how can we win tonight?” I think that’s what his mentality is going to be. It’s really focusing on how he can take each individual on the White Sox and try to win every single night. He’s open and he’s a good communicator. He also knows that M.J. Melendez is not going to be Salvador Perez. So how can he make M.J. Melendez the best M.J. Melendez, and how can he make Salvador Perez the best Salvador Perez?
NG: That is actually a good segue into the next question. We know that the Royals have a lot of really intriguing young talent, including Melendez. I’d be curious to know what Pedro has done for them — I know he did some work with Salvador Perez when he was younger, but do you know if he has played an instrumental role in any particular prospect’s journey?
AF: It’s the catchers because he was a catching coach for some time in Kansas City. He works with them, and with the hitters in general.
One of his best friends, Mike Tosar [Kansas City’s special assignment hitting coach], got brought up to the big league coaching staff halfway through the year. Mike Tosar and Pedro Grifol have known each other for years, since they were kids even. So that relationship working with Tosar includes working with the young hitters because Tosar works with more of the players who live in the Miami area. M.J. Melendez goes over to Tosar’s house in the offseason to hit and works with him. [Grifol and Tosar] worked well together as a team in Kansas City, so rather than pinpoint one successful player on Pedro, it’s more that players love working with him, and he worked with every single one on that roster.
NG: I also want to know how you would describe Pedro’s personality and demeanor. That’s another thing that White Sox fans are very curious about, because there’s this idea that teams sometimes take on the personality, vibe, or competitive nature of their manager.
White Sox fans were very disappointed with that when it came to the previous manager, where they felt like the team was playing uninspired baseball without much energy. So I’m interested to know how you feel about what the vibe will be from Pedro on a daily basis in the clubhouse and in the dugout.
AF: Just something I heard — on the last day of the season, he spent so many hours doing game prep on the Royals/Guardians game. That’s how Pedro is. Up until the season ends, he is working tirelessly, really every single night, for the players to feel prepared. That’s what’s amazing to me, because the Royals were out of [the playoff picture] for much of the season. They were like 30 games below .500 at the end of the season, yet that was still a game that Pedro wanted to win.
It just goes back to how he would spend hours preparing for every day, even the last one of the season. He has this serious demeanor of wanting to win, but it’s also a 162-game season. So he’s always open to hearing what the players want to say. It’s about having a fun atmosphere, but a serious one at the same time.
NG: Many initial reactions from White Sox fans have been negative, not just due to the fact that Grifol was not promoted by the Royals for their opening, but also because from a simplistic lens, the Royals have not been a very good team lately, so why is their bench coach in such high demand?
What would your message be to help ease the concerns of White Sox fans who think that the hiring decision is not good solely due to the Royals’ on-field performance?
AF: Overall, the last few years have not gone the right way for the Royals. But I’ll never forget what Ned Yost told me, which is that at the end of the day, you can have the best manager in baseball, but you have to have talent.
The White Sox have great talent. The Royals were in rebuilding mode the last few years, which is no fault of Pedro Grifol. He’s not out there scouting or developing talent in the minor leagues. He was also on the coaching staff that won the World Series [in 2015] and made it to back-to-back World Series. He learned from one of the best managers in Royals history in Ned Yost.
So just going off of that, there’s obviously a recency bias, but there also should be. That’s the society we live in these days. In general, Pedro has a knack for being a great baseball mind and a great baseball soul. I think he’ll bring that to Chicago.
NG: Is there anything else about Pedro Grifol that you haven’t mentioned that you think is worth sharing?
AF: I think he wants to win, right? And to my knowledge, he loves Chicago. I think Chicago is one of his favorite places or one of his favorite cities to travel to. He has a lot of friends in the area. So it’s just about bringing winning baseball back to Chicago, I think that’s his number one goal.
I think he believes that this is a team that can win next year, 100%. That’s the type of person he is, and that’s the mindset that he’ll bring to Chicago. There isn’t gonna be some buffer year with a new manager and coaching staff. All that goes out the window once spring training starts — that team is going to go out there and win next year.
We at Sox On 35th would all like to thank Alex Feuz for taking the time to speak with us and provide more information on the next White Sox manager. You can follow Alex on Twitter @AlexFeuz and access his original interview with Pedro Grifol here.
Be sure to follow us on social media @SoxOn35th for more updates!
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