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If you scan White Sox Twitter these days — with the South Siders hurtling toward 100 losses at the end of a miserably disappointing season — you’ll see one joke come up again and again.
The White Sox, so the frustrated fan base cracks, are trying to model themselves after another organization, the AL Central bottom-feeding Royals.
Yuk, yuk, yuk.
This bit comes from obvious sources, with Pedro Grifol at the helm as the manager after years spent as a Royals coach and Chris Getz the new general manager after seven years as part of the White Sox’ front office, which was preceded by two years as part of the Royals’ front office and four of his seven-year playing career taking place in Kansas City.
This week, Getz reportedly added a trio of folks to his front office from other organizations: Josh Barfield, who runs the Diamondbacks’ minor league system; Brian Bannister, the Giants’ director of pitching; and Gene Watson, who’s in charge of major league scouting for the — you guessed it — Royals.
And Watson isn’t the only one there with Royals ties, either, as Bannister spent four years pitching for the Royals, including in 2010, when he was teammates with Getz.
Throw in a trade-deadline rumor that the White Sox were interested in Royals icon Salvador Pérez — who just so happened to be Grifol’s star catching pupil — and a report from last month that former Royals general manager Dayton Moore could be joining Getz’s front office, and the fodder seems too good to leave alone, right?
Every joke, though, has some truth to it.
Now, all of these Royals connections aren’t indicative of the main theme that fans are latching onto, that Getz is trying to turn the South Side into Kansas City North. The Royals, of course, are one of baseball’s most consistent losers. They’ve posted just five above-.500 seasons this century and are currently one of only three teams in the big leagues with a worse record than the White Sox, 51-102 when they woke up Thursday.
The White Sox, obviously, do not want to be that. Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams lost their jobs for losing too much, and Getz is not about to start his new era by aiming for the basement. That such a thing needs to be said is ridiculous in its own right but speaks to both how bad the White Sox have been this season and how hopeless they’ve made a large chunk of their fan base.
Getz had this to say when asked how he would differ from the men who came before him in the White Sox’ front office:
“Just like any leader of an organization, you’re shaped by your experiences. I’m a recent player, was an executive in another organization, and obviously I’ve got my experiences here. You learn through those experiences, and that’s going to shape me in the leadership style I’m going to have.”
While the initial reaction to Getz was that he would be more of the same thing that got the White Sox into this mess, that has morphed into his differences being the wrong kind of differences.
Differences that come from Kansas City.
That new spin on Getz, though, probably has less to do with Getz and more to do with Grifol, who has caught the ire of many frustrated White Sox fans this season, to the point where nearly everything he says on a daily basis is met with endless social-media criticism, complaining and calls for his job.
In some way, that’s the nature of the industry, and managers and head coaches are always Public Enemy No. 1 when a pro sports team is as disappointing as these White Sox have been.
There’s no doubt, though, that Grifol and his coaching staff have dramatically failed to do what they were hired to do: to get this White Sox core playing up to their potential. Simultaneously, the type of team Grifol promised when he “won the press conference” back in November never materialized, and instead of a prepared, energetic and fundamentally sound group of ass-kickers, this lot has looked like an even worse version of the mistake-filled bunch that finished .500 a year ago.
A record nearly 40 games worse than even is all the proof you need.
And so White Sox fans already sick of the guy who came over from the Royals have seen their frustration compounded by a front office that also has “Royals” plastered all over its resume.
Indeed, it will be an uphill battle for Getz, his front office and especially Grifol to prove they’re not going to deliver the same results that fans in Kansas City have been used to seeing for the better part of the last 30 years.
What’s important to remember, though, is that the high points of the last three decades in Kansas City were really, really high. And if that’s the type of thing that can be reproduced on the South Side, maybe moving away from “White Sox DNA” only to replace it with a hefty helping of Royals DNA won’t be as bad as it sounds.
The Royals won the AL pennant in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, they won the World Series. That level of success has been unheard of on the South Side since the World Series team of 2005, nearly 20 years ago. Since, the White Sox have made the playoffs just three times and won just three playoff games.
The Royals went to the World Series in back-to-back seasons. The White Sox have only one instance of making the postseason in their 123-year franchise history.
If Getz & Co. could replicate the results that happened in Kansas City — he was part of that front office in 2015 — that would be a huge win.
“He was a part of a good front office in Kansas City that built it from the ground up, and he saw the teams that were built over there and how they were built, based on pitching, defense, athletes,” Grifol recently said of Getz. “He’s got a good vision, and I know that he’s not going to hesitate to carry out that vision in any way, shape or form.”
While Getz probably has no intention of just building a Royals replica, he does want to put together a team that plays the game a certain way, something Grifol has brought up plenty since Getz was promoted. The type of player who plays the game that way doesn’t have to be “Royalsy,” but the example Grifol used? Well …
“I remember (Getz) as a player. He played that style of baseball. He was a smart player that ran the bases well and was as consistent as consistent could be,” he said last week. “That’s the kind of baseball he wants to see, and that’s the kind of baseball I want to see.
“When I was in Kansas City, that’s how we won championships: consistent baseball played every day and doing whatever it takes to win a baseball game. That’s where we’re trending.”
Of course, as Hahn reminded throughout a rebuilding project that failed to properly get off the ground, the goal is sustained success, contention on a yearly basis and not merely producing one good team only to fall back into mediocrity. That’s what happened to the White Sox in 2005, as they missed the playoffs the following season. That, too, is what’s happened to the Royals. Since winning the World Series in 2015, they’ve finished below .500 in eight straight seasons and never finished above third place in the AL Central.
Getz, then, will not be patterning his road map exactly off what got the Royals to a championship nearly a decade ago only to then collapse back to the bottom of baseball.
But do not forget that the Royals won a championship and back-to-back pennants. That would be a dream come true for a team on pace to lose 100 games.
So joke all you’d like about the White Sox attempting to become the new Royals.
If that strategy — and again, that’s not a real strategy, just a joke people are making — includes a championship, White Sox fans should take that 10 times out of 10.
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