The new White Sox manager wants to create a new culture in 2023

Right-hander Lucas Giolito talked about it often last season: the White Sox needed to have fun again. They had to bring joy back to the clubhouse and the dugout.

It’s just one layer of clubhouse culture, but it’s something that players emphasize more than outsiders realize.

New manager Pedro Grifol, bringing a new voice and leadership after two seasons of Tony La Russa, will change him just by being who he is. It’s his job to create a strong culture for his players, and those players will appreciate a change after an 81-81 season led by La Russa fell flat.

“They have to understand what culture is first,” Grifol said. “Someone recently described it to me perfectly. He said culture is what it looks like, what it acts and what it looks like, right?

“What it does is make you look forward to getting to the clubhouse and playing. What it looks like is when you look down on us [in the stands], you want people to say, ‘These guys are together, these guys are fighting together, they’re playing to win every night.’ And, obviously, what it looks like is that these guys are professionals. They respect the game, they respect the fans, they respect what they do and they really respect our team.

Even when the Sox were rebuilding and losing under Rick Renteria, a culture was in place and a sense of unity was evident. When they won in 2020 under Ren-teria, they were particularly full of life – a vivid example of their motto ‘Changing the game’.

Some of that was lost in 2021, even when they won the division. Much was lost when they flopped to 22. Injuries, hit drops and poor base defense and running will do that. A lack of energy can also contribute.

“They’re an extremely talented ball club,” said Grifol, who knew the Sox well having coached against them six series a year with the Royals. “It was a really difficult club to prepare because if the energy was high they could beat anyone in the game. And if the energy was not [there], we were able to have some success against them. So my job and my staff’s job is to make sure the energy is high every night and we’re ready to win a baseball game.

The Sox lost a leader when shortstop Tim Anderson, the team’s energizer and batting champion, was limited to 79 games due to injury. He stuck around the team but wasn’t engaged in his usual spirited way.

Third baseman Yoan Moncada (104 games in 2022), receiver Yasmani Grandal (99), and outfielders Luis Robert (98) and Eloy Jimenez (84) also suffered badly.

“There were a lot of injuries, so we very rarely played against a full Chicago White Sox team,” Grifol said. “They go 81-81 and sometimes they don’t play with the energy that they are capable of playing with, you look at them almost like, ‘Damn, you’re really talented. Because you had injuries, the energy was intermittent and you still won 81 games.”

La Russa promoted a culture of family, as Renteria did before him, but did not require players to always run out of ground balls, which became a bad look. Grifol says he will be big on accountability.

“You collaborate with everyone, you empower people to do their job, and if you do, it’s easy conversation when they don’t,” he said. “If you don’t empower people to be part of the process [and] you don’t communicate with people, you can’t hold anyone accountable.

“When we hit the field in spring training, the level of intensity of our training, the level of intensity of our cage work, the details, the margins of attack are going to be extremely critical in developing the culture. and the chemistry of this club. I think these players are hungry for it. I think they want it, and once we get started they’ll see how prepared they’ll be to . . . kick somebody’s ass a.

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