Whenever Chris Getz hears Lorde sing “Royals,” he must feel compelled to sing along at the top of his lungs.
On his first day as Chicago White Sox general manager, Getz revealed manager Pedro Grifol, his former coach with the Kansas City Royals, would be retained. Among his first front office hires, Getz is reported to be bringing in San Francisco director of pitching Brian Bannister, a former Royals teammate, and Gene Watson, the former Royals assistant general manager/scouting. Longtime Royals GM Dayton Moore has been linked to the Sox as well, according to USA Today.
So the standard has been set for the Sox, and the question must now be asked:
Could they be Royals, or at least a version of the organization that managed to win a championship without a team full of superstars back in the 2010s?
The Royalization of the Sox is underway.
Anyone with ties to the Royals might be Zillowing the southwest suburbs of Chicago right now, looking for available homes for 2024 and beyond. Southpaw, the Sox mascot, could be in danger of being replaced by Sluggerrr, his counterpart in Kansas City. Say, has anyone seen Ned Yost or Mike Matheny around Bridgeport lately?
Going outside the organization for help, of course, is not at all a bad thing. Bannister, Watson and Arizona Diamondbacks assistant GM Josh Barfield, who takes on the same role under Getz, could help breathe some life into the dusty Sox front office.
The Sox had not announced any hirings by the end of Wednesday’s 13-3 defeat at the hands of the Washington Nationals, which left them with 95 losses.
But Grifol lauded all three Tuesday when asked by Sox beat writers about the news. He called Barfield a “bright, bright, bright guy,” which is exactly what the Sox need, need, need.
Remember, everything Getz does from now on will be like treading on fresh snow. He has Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s blessing to do as he sees fit to clean up this mess, other than spending for Shohei Ohtani or investing long-term on a top-of-the-line starter.
“We’ll do what Chris thinks we ought to do to make us better,” Reinsdorf said Aug. 30. “Look, we’re not going to be in the Ohtani race, I’ll tell you that right now. And we’re not going to sign pitchers to 10-year deals. But we’re going to try to get better, and that means trades, it potentially means signing free agents, it means playing smarter baseball.
“It’s a lot of things. I don’t have a lot of time left. I don’t want to go through a long rebuild. I only expect to be here another 10 years.”
Ten years can fly by, just like 20 years and 30 years. The Sox have only had two regimes in the last 32 years — the Ron Schueler era from 1991-2000 and the Ken Williams/Rick Hahn era from 2000-23 — so all the major personnel decisions have been made by less than a handful of executives for well over a generation.
And even Schueler wasn’t a complete outsider. A special assignment scout for the Oakland A’s, he came highly recommended by a good friend of Reinsdorf’s — A’s manager Tony La Russa.
“I started with a very long list, and it was a very extensive process,” Reinsdorf said on the day of the hiring. “Ron was on the list from the very beginning. This was a very thorough search. Nobody was a close second.”
Nobody is ever a close second in a White Sox job search, as everyone knows by now.
Schueler replaced Larry Himes, who had already rebuilt the Sox farm system and turned the corner with a 94-win season in 1990, before being fired for acting unprofessionally around his own office staff. Reinsdorf said the Sox needed someone “able to fit in and get along very well with the people he was going to have to work with,” adding that he was easy to get along with.
When Schueler was given the boot (with a soft landing) after a division title in 2000, Reinsdorf anointed Williams as the new breath of fresh air, the guy who could take them from Point B to Point C. Like Schueler, Williams also inherited a good club and teamed up with manager Ozzie Guillen to make changes that led to the 2005 World Series championship.
But 18 years and one rebuild later, the Sox are back at Square One, staring at another possible rebuild with a new architect. There’s nothing wrong with Getz bringing in people he’s known and trusted to execute his plan.
That’s just how baseball works. It’s been going on in front offices since the old boys network sent telegrams back and forth.
Cubs fans grumbled when newly hired GM Dallas Green came over from the Philadelphia Phillies in 1981 and quickly turned the organization into Philly Lite. But no one was complaining when the Cubs won the NL East in 1984, the year the Cubs forever changed expectations for the franchise. New GM Theo Epstein brought his pals from the Boston Red Sox to help rebuild the Cubs in 2011, and it led to a World Series championship in five years.
Whether the Royals are an organization that deserves to be emulated is debatable, though they did enjoy success without overspending for a brief stretch in the mid-2010s. The 2014 Royals won the American League wild-card game and advanced to a World Series with a three-headed monster in the bullpen — Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera — that proved to be untouchable. They used the same basic formula to win it all in 2015.
But the players got too expensive to keep, and they’ve been rebuilding since.
There were no Hall of Fame-caliber players on those Royals teams. They won thanks to their athleticism in the field, small ball approach, and by locking down leads from the sixth inning on. They also seemed to enjoy each other’s company and had strong clubhouse leaders like Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Davis.
Yost, one of the most maligned managers of the last 30 years, finished with a .710 postseason winning percentage (22-9) with the Royals, the highest of any manager with 20 or more postseason games. The made-up term “Yosted” trended on Twitter in 2014 thanks to fans mocking his managing style.
Yost had the last laugh.
And if the Sox can replicate that kind of success, the future will be bright, bright, bright.