'This one is real': How Grifol booked White Sox gig
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Shortly after Pedro Grifol’s first interview for the White Sox managerial opening with general manager Rick Hahn and assistant GMs Chris Getz and Jeremy Haber, he shared an encouraging message with his wife, Ali.
This one is real.
“Most of the time, you walk out of there and you are like, ‘I did OK,’” Grifol told MLB.com during a recent interview. “I thought I did well. I was prepared. This one, I was like, ‘I think this one is real.’”
A second job interview involving executive vice president Ken Williams and two with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf later, Grifol was named the 42nd different manager in White Sox history on Nov. 3, 2022. Grifol, who turned 53 later that month, begins Spring Training on Wednesday with White Sox pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch.
According to Hahn’s comments at the introductory press conference, Grifol actually had a hold on this job after that first extended conversation. Grifol felt a strong connection very early in the meeting, but he also had a good feeling beforehand when he was told via text that the dress code for the interview was casual attire.
“Right there, it kind of broke the ice a little bit. It’s not a formal suit and tie type of thing,” Grifol said. “Once we started talking, probably 10 minutes into it, I was like, ‘You know, I’m really comfortable with these guys. These guys are pretty cool.’ Just sitting there, just talking baseball.
“Obviously, there were some questions involved, but it was more just talking about the club and talking about my ideas, coaching staff. And it was pretty cool.”
The White Sox were one of three managerial positions Grifol interviewed for, a juggling process that he called “probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in the game.” He returned home to Miami late in the night on the same day as the first White Sox interview, only to have the Marlins on the agenda at 10 a.m. the following day.
Miami’s philosophy, per Grifol, was to go through the interview and then go quiet for a while. The White Sox kept in contact with him the whole time, and the Royals started their process one week later. As Grifol prepared, he didn’t have time to think about other White Sox candidates such as Houston bench coach Joe Espada or Ozzie Guillen, who won a World Series title as Chicago’s skipper in 2005.
“I’m not a social media guy. I had already taken all that off of my phone,” Grifol said. “Unless somebody called me to tell me something -- ‘Hey, you are in the mix,’ or ‘this guy is out’ -- I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t really have time to focus on anybody else.”
Grifol worked for Kansas City from 2013-22, serving as bench coach over the past three seasons under Mike Matheny. So why didn’t that experience lead to the No. 1 job with the Royals? Grifol believed the organization wanted change and somebody from the outside.
“However, when they came to me and told me that they had interest in me being one of the candidates, I did tell them, ‘I know I’ve been here for 10 years, but I want to go through the same process everybody else goes through,’” Grifol said. “I did go through the whole interview.
“It was a grueling interview, just like everybody went through. I didn’t have that feel that you normally get like, ‘OK, this could happen.’ … I didn’t feel comfortable that I was going to get that job.”
There is general happiness around baseball for Grifol, and through offseason conversations and extensive planning, he has already made a positive imprint on his White Sox charges. Dylan Cease, the 2022 American League Cy Young Award runner-up, picked up an instant good vibe through a 20- to 30-minute conversation right after Grifol was hired.
“He introduced himself and kind of let me know how he likes to do things and how he likes to build relationships,” Cease said. “And communication is huge with him, which is really important for his job.
“I even had a guy come up to where I train, and he spoke extremely highly of him. He basically said, ‘I was hoping we were going to hire him as a manager. We all love that guy.’ He comes with a lot of positives being said about him. I look forward to building that relationship with him.”