Two of the most disappointing teams in baseball match up this weekend on the South Side in the final series before the All-Star break.
The St. Louis Cardinals were favored to win the National League Central but came into Friday’s game against the Chicago White Sox 15 games under .500 and in last place. The Sox were supposed to contend in the American League Central despite a .500 season in 2022, but they were also a season-worst 15 games under after being swept by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Sox took the opener 8-7, rallying from 5-0 and 7-6 deficits. Luis Robert Jr.’s 26th home run tied it in the two-run seventh.
Nothing has been easy for the Sox the first three months, and with almost three months left, it figures to be a long, hard grind for players and managers alike.
Sox manager Pedro Grifol, a baseball lifer in his first year running a major-league team, has tried to maintain a positive outlook while watching his team flounder. It hasn’t won him fans, but the players appreciate that he hasn’t given up on them.
“He keeps a good mindset and he’s very supportive of us all,” Lucas Giolito said. “Us performing this poorly is not his fault. He’s playing with the hand that was dealt to him. He’s doing his absolute best to keep us focused. But at the end of the day it’s on the players. We haven’t performed.
“We still have a little bit of time to turn it around. We have to get really, really hot. But it’s very possible. We’ll see.”
It’s possible if the Sox play well this weekend and go on a roll during a nine-game trip after the All-Star break. But it seems unlikely based on their inability to do so all year.
Their longest winning streak is five games in early June: a sweep of the Detroit Tigers at home and two wins against the New York Yankees in the Bronx. They also start the second half against the Atlanta Braves, the best team in baseball, before playing the New York Mets and Minnesota Twins.
Grifol, 53, couldn’t have asked for a more difficult start to his Sox career.
His biggest star, Tim Anderson, has had the worst year of his career, and veteran Lance Lynn has the second-worst ERA (6.03) among qualified starters. Closer Liam Hendriks missed the first two months because of his battle with cancer and was injured shortly after his return in late May. The offense hasn’t clicked, and other than Luis Robert Jr., no position player has stood out.
How has Grifol handled the adversity?
“It’s been a challenge,” he said. “Faith has got me through it, and it is going to continue to get me through it. I don’t impose (my beliefs) on anyone because I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. But I have it and it certainly helps me.
“We’ve still got a ton of games left. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Grifol said the fact the Sox have been in most games is why he still believes in this team.
“We lost three games to Toronto these past few days, and we led in two out of the three and the other we played 10 innings of scoreless baseball and easily could’ve won,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out ways to win those games. The good thing is we’re in ‘em.”
That’s probably not what Sox fans want to hear. Some would prefer a more fiery manager, closer in demeanor to Ozzie Guillén than Robin Ventura, though without Tony La Russa’s baggage.
Grifol’s calmness and positive approach were two reasons general manager Rick Hahn said he was the perfect choice for the job. But he has yet to make an impact, and until the Sox start winning he will be under the spotlight.
Managing in the majors isn’t easy, especially in a town as passionate for baseball as Chicago. David Ross was one of the most popular Cubs players on the 2016 World Series champions, and now many of those same fans want him fired as Cubs manager. This is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of town.
Grifol will have a few days to unwind after Sunday’s finale against the Cardinals and expects to take his mind completely off his job.
“I had a grandbaby about 20 days ago,” he said. “I’m not going to be watching too much baseball. I’ll be a granddad and just hold the baby for four days straight until we go to Atlanta. I’ll change diapers, I’ll feed him, do whatever I have to do. And I’ll enjoy doing it.”
Source: Berkshire mont