Paul Sullivan: Bromance between White Sox manager Pedro Grifol and Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is one for the books

CHICAGO — Chicago White Sox manager Pedro Grifol believes he has the support of Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in spite of the worst start in franchise history.

Does he feel fortunate?

“I feel fortunate that I work for an owner like Jerry,” Grifol said Wednesday before the game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “I just think that he’s been in this game for 44-45 years, and he’s a baseball guy. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work for him and wear this uniform with them. So I’m grateful to be here.”

Forget about managing. With quotes like that, Grifol might have a future in upper management. This is a bromance like no other in the long and storied history of Chicago baseball owners and managers.

The Sox were a season-low 26 games under .500 on Wednesday with a 15-41 record, having lost seven straight and 11 of their last 12. Grifol has a .349 winning percentage (76-142) in his two seasons in Chicago, the lowest of any manager in Sox history. When he ripped his players for playing “flat” on Sunday, they responded by saying it was his opinion, not theirs.

The next day he responded to the players’ reaction by saying he double downed on his comments.

“This is not divided by any means,” Grifol said. “This is not them against Pedro (or) Pedro against them. It’s just a situation.”

Yep, it’s one big, happy family.

If last season was a “nightmare,” as Reinsdorf admitted in a rare interview he probably regretted, it’s difficult to think of a proper euphemism for this team. Whatever it is, it’s definitely not printable.

The Sox were 22 1/2 games out of first in the American League Central, but listening to Grifol, you would think they were just one little winning streak away from contending. Someone asked if he saw a noticeable difference between the Sox and the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.

“Those guys are a good team, all the way around,” he said. “Noticeable difference? I mean, I don’t know. I don’t focus on that stuff. I focus on trying to prepare to beat them. As far as evaluating their team against ours, I’m not focusing on that.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

I asked Grifol if Reinsdorf gave him any indication that he’s upset about the team’s play.

“No, we don’t talk about that stuff,” he replied.

You don’t talk about the team?

“We talk about the team,” he said. “I don’t get into the personal stuff with him. And even if I did, I wouldn’t share it here.”

I’m not sure what was “personal” about the team’s play. Anyway, Grifol was glad to share nuggets of those conversations with the Chicago Sun-Times, telling them “nobody wants to win more than he does” and Reinsdorf is “100 percent committed to winning.”

Somewhere Tom Thibodeau is laughing.

Sometimes you feel for a manager on a bad team who has been dealt a bad hand by his front office and an owner who refuses to spend. But Grifol makes it impossible to feel sorry for him with his serial bootlicking and insistence that things really aren’t as bad as they seem.

Andrew Benintendi and Andrew Vaughn are both off to horrible starts, as even they would probably admit. Benintendi’s minus-1.6 fWAR is the worst in the majors. Vaughn’s minus-0.9 is third-worst.

“I see improvement in these guys’ games and approach and the way they’re going about it pregame,” Grifol said.

According to Baseball Reference, Benintendi’s .491 OPS is the worst among qualified players since 1968. The San Francisco Giants’ Hal Lanier posted a .461 OPS in ’68.

Vaughn is hitting .197 with a .567 OPS, sixth-worst in the majors. Instead of working things out in the minors, he was hitting cleanup Wednesday.

“You can’t overreact on a couple months of baseball,” Grifol said.

The season is one-third over, and Grifol refuses to make any changes because he doesn’t want to overreact. Apparently he’s an admirer of Artūras Karnišovas’ philosophy of doubling down on whatever is not working, then tripling down when that doesn’t work.

Catcher Martín Maldonado, meanwhile, makes Benintendi and Vaughn look like Josh Gibson and Babe Ruth. Maldonado came into Wednesday hitting .083 with a .266 OPS but fortunately didn’t have enough at-bats to qualify for low man on the Sox totem pole. Yet he’s not a candidate to sit because he works so well with the pitchers, Grifol constantly reminds fans through the media. That Sox pitching staff, by the way, has a 4.75 ERA, second-worst in the majors.

But wait. There’s more.

The Sox lost starter Mike Clevinger to the 15-day injured list Tuesday with right elbow inflammation. Grifiol said “a lot of (the problem) is he didn’t have a spring training. He was quick to get here because we needed him and it was just building up his work capacity.”

Clevinger signed on April 4 and made two starts at Triple-A Charlotte before being called up to start on May 6. The Sox were 8-26 and 14 games out of first by then. But they “needed him” to come up without properly building his arm strength and then are surprised that he’s injured already?

The clock should be ticking on Grifol, but there is no clock in this strange scenario in which a manager can lose day after day, week after week without being held accountable.

No wonder he’s so grateful to wear the White Sox uniform.