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Why White Sox put college coach Paul Janish in charge of their minor league system

Vinnie Duber Avatar
November 3, 2023
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The Chicago White Sox didn’t pluck Paul Janish from another major league front office.

Instead, Chris Getz looked to a guy who had been on the coaching staff at Rice University to helm their future.

Janish’s name might trigger “I remember that guy” memories for some. He played in parts of nine major league seasons, as a Red, Brave and Oriole. But he has no prior experience working in professional baseball. Now he’s the new director of player development — the job Getz had before he was promoted to general manager in August — on the South Side.

The way Getz described Janish on Thursday, though, that experience at the college level is an overwhelming positive of his arrival. After all, Janish will be in charge of molding young players into major leaguers, and he just spent years working with players of roughly the same age as the ones he will be working with with the White Sox.

“I think he’s going to thrive in this position. I feel very fortunate to be able to hire him from Rice University,” Getz said. “The responsibility at college now — because of the recruiting, transfer portal, NIL, administrative tasks that are in front of you in that position — I think is going to transfer well to what the farm director responsibilities are.

“I asked my past boss, Dayton Moore with the Royals, when I was contemplating going with the White Sox, ‘What does it take to be a farm director? Do you think I’m ready for it?’ And he looks at me and said, ‘There’s no one that’s fully prepared for the job.’ Just because of  the amount of pieces that go into being a farm director. So it certainly takes an open mind. It takes hard work, communication ability and just a willingness to get your hands dirty.

“What made Paul so attractive, too, is he could fit in so many different roles with our organization.”

Getz would certainly know about those responsibilities, having just wrapped a seven-year tenure as the White Sox’ farm boss. New assistant general manager Josh Barfield was the player-development chief with the Diamondbacks before joining Getz’s new-look front office in September.

Both, apparently, have had their eyes on Janish for a while.

“Josh has tried to hire Paul for years over with the Diamondbacks,” Getz said. “Paul and I have had discussions in the past over potential opportunities with the White Sox. Now that we have come together, Josh and I, we finally were able to bring Paul in to help us build a championship club.”

That will obviously be the task ahead of this front-office group, and Janish will attempt to do what Getz couldn’t under Rick Hahn: create a consistent pipeline of productive talent to boost the major league club.

Indeed, the White Sox’ system seems to be on the upswing from where it was in the last few years, when it was ranked among the worst in the sport following the promotions to the big leagues of the top talent Hahn acquired in various trades at the outset of his rebuilding project. Still, much of that talent — the players who once had the White Sox’ system ranked among the sport’s best — has failed to meet expectations at the major league level, hence Hahn’s rebuild stalling and him and Kenny Williams being relieved of their duties in August.

Though fans saw Getz’s promotion — which came without Jerry Reinsdorf interviewing any outside candidates — as a continuation of that failure, Getz has added plenty of new perspectives with his hires of Barfield, Brian Bannister and Gene Watson, and now Janish. It all strikes as a concerted effort to remake the organization and establish a new identity.

Janish’s role leading the player-development department is an important part of that.

“It’s getting back to the root of developing baseball players. You have to show up and play hard every single day. The term culture gets thrown around, and the way that the guys show up — ‘the White Sox way’ — that’s what we’re going to try to continue to implement and kind of reinvigorate within the organization,” Janish said. “Obviously at the minor league level, it can grow organically from the bottom. … That’s been a big theme, just playing winning baseball.

“Obviously, there’s a ton of variables … but relative to the minor league level, (it’s) just trying to keep everybody on the same page, making sure that coordinators and coaches and medical staff and strength-and-conditioning staff and everybody’s conveying the same message as much as we can to the players. Because at the end of the day, the most important thing is making the players as good as they can be.”

Another constant in who Getz has chosen to surround himself with in the front office is experience as former major league players. Getz is one of a small number of former big leaguers in charge of baseball operations across the sport, and he touted his perspective as a former player as an important one when he was introduced as the White Sox’ new general manager in August. It seemed to be a plus for him during his time as the team’s farm director, too.

Now that perspective has been amplified, with Barfield, Bannister and Janish all counting themselves as former major league players, as well, and it’s the No. 1 thing Getz talked about in regard to Janish on Thursday.

“He understands what it takes to be a professional baseball player, which is vital when you’re relating to both the players and staff,” Getz said. “He understands the journey that it takes as an amateur player to navigate the minor leagues and be successful at the major league level. So from a starter standpoint, coming in, he certainly had that understanding, which gave him a leg up.

“More than anything, foundationally, he understands what it takes to be a professional. As we take a step forward here and set a direction for the Chicago White Sox, he’s the right person to establish the identity that’s needed to put a quality product on the field to compete for championships.”

It will take time for this new identity to take root and to bear fruit at the big league level, even if Reinsdorf’s reasoning for promoting Getz was a desire to get the team turned around as quickly as possible. The hiring of Janish, or any new farm director, is obviously a long-term move considering the players that will be influenced by Janish’s presence haven’t even hit the big leagues yet.

As fans and us observer types focus on what Getz will do this winter to improve a major league roster that faceplanted to 101 losses, there’s a lot more going on to set up the years that follow 2024.

We’ve heard it before from Hahn, whose vision for the future never came into focus and forced a rare change atop the White Sox’ baseball department. But this is a new start and a new long-term effort at 35th and Shields.

“We have some talent on the roster but it’s not a team that has come together and produced at a consistent basis, and that’s why we’re in the position that we’re in,” Getz said when asked about his vision for the future. “There’s certainly a short-term, mid-term and long-term goal. It’s going to take a little bit of time to certainly present itself, but there is a plan in place.

“I look forward to executing it.”

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