Skip to Content

Losing Has Revealed The Rot At The Heart Of The White Sox

Pedro Grifol scuffles with Guardians coaches
Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Keeping with the recent slew of stories about embarrassing baseball franchises, the White Sox debacle has gotten progressively worse since Tim Anderson got rocked by José Ramírez. Impressive feat! Unfortunately for Anderson, the new story still revolves around him on the losing end of a physical altercation, though at least public opinion has generally been kinder to him.

This report notably came after relief pitcher Keynan Middleton, who was traded to the Yankees at the deadline, said that the White Sox had a "no rules" culture, a message seconded by the also recently traded Lance Lynn. According to Middleton, the lack of rules led to rookies sleeping in the bullpen during games, and players missing meetings and fielding practices without consequence.

"It's hard to police people when there are no rules," Middleton said. "If guys are doing things that you think are wrong, who is it wrong to? You or them? It's anyone's judgment at that point."

In that context, it's probably not surprising that Grandal was reportedly able to leave the team early before the All-Star break and suffer no consequences for it. It's also not surprising that Anderson would take issue—for all of Anderson's flaws and struggles this season, you can never say that he lacks the desire to win. But considering that just over a year ago, Grandal had gotten in Josh Donaldson's face in support of Anderson, it is surprising that the clubhouse environment has deteriorated so rapidly, seemingly worse under Pedro Grifol's tenure than Tony La Russa's.

But while Grifol is doubtlessly incapable of fixing the team's issues, Middleton mentions that the clubhouse had similar issues last year, when La Russa was still manager. Considering La Russa's style, it's hard to imagine him making any real changes from how he ran the team in 2021. And the last thing that someone would've pointed to as a problem with the 2021 Chicago White Sox would be a culture issue.

The simplest explanation for why things suddenly feel so bad on this team is that winning covers up a lot, including a rot that has been around since the Drake LaRoche era of White Sox baseball. It's not hard to imagine how a culture with reportedly no rules would be particularly vibes- or player-contingent; that everyone would buy in so long as the team was winning, but immediately fall apart as soon as the club started losing, or leaders started to leave.

Middleton points to the "big dogs" like Lynn and Kendall Graveman missing spring training because of the World Baseball Classic as one reason why the White Sox hadn't found their identity (Graveman was also recently traded). Veteran presence José Abreu, who is hitting poorly this season but was nonetheless the heart of the team in years prior, is now with the Houston Astros. That's a bit of a damning sentence within itself; it's always dire when the descriptor "veteran presence" in a player scouting report starts to feel like an integral asset rather than a euphemistic cover-up for deteriorating performance.

Let's not get too confused, though. No amount of veteran presence will fix the White Sox's core issues. Even if Grandal and Anderson make up, or the White Sox return to their winning ways, the problem will only be postponed for another day. To fix the issues seems a Herculean task for Grifol, who had never been a big-league manager before taking this job and is now presiding over a team in transition. From the fan perspective, the path forward is as temperate as you would expect: burn it all down. Considering that the attendance downturns are already taken care of, public humiliation is the next-best incentive. The White Sox are already terrible this year—it doesn't exactly hurt for them to go about it in the most embarrassing fashion possible.

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter