Royals star Salvador Perez goes to bat for his mentor, White Sox manager Pedro Grifol

“He was ready to be a manager the last five years,” Perez said. “And he will be a very good manager. He [could be] great.”

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Manager Pedro Grifol in the White Sox dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Manager Pedro Grifol in the White Sox dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Why didn’t the Royals make a manager of Pedro Grifol?

They could have, but brand-new baseball-operations boss J.J. Picollo hired Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro instead of his own bench coach, Grifol, after Mike Matheny was fired at the end of the 2022 season. Change was in the air with Matheny and Picollo’s predecessor, Dayton Moore — the architect of the 2015 World Series champions — having been kicked to the curb. Picollo understandably wanted to make his own mark, and grabbing a piece of the small-market-magic Rays made sense.

Still, letting Grifol get away to the White Sox wasn’t how the Royals’ best player and finest catcher in club history, Salvador Perez, would have done it.

‘‘[Grifol] was ready to be a manager,’’ Perez said before the series finale Sunday against the Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. ‘‘I don’t think it was my business — I didn’t make that decision — but he was ready the last five years. And he will be a very good manager. He [could be] great.’’

No one has played a bigger role in Perez’s big-league success than Grifol, who was the Royals’ catching coach as Perez blew up into a five-time Gold Glove winner, a seven-time All-Star and a World Series MVP. Perez always could hit. As a young player, however, he struggled with letting poor days at the plate affect his concentration behind it. Grifol impressed upon him early and often the need to view hitting and catching essentially as two separate jobs.

World Series - New York Mets v Kansas City Royals - Game Two

Salvador Perez (left), Johnny Cueto and Pedro Grifol during the World Series in 2015.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

‘‘He would tell me, ‘All it takes is one play, one ball, maybe one pitch — you never know — [to] win the game,’ ’’ Perez said. ‘‘Maybe if I played right field or another position, I could think a little more about hitting. But as a catcher, I don’t have time. The second whatever I did hitting [is done], I’ve got to forget that and concentrate, concentrate, concentrate.

‘‘Pedro made me believe that because he’s super-smart, man, and he [understands] players. The White Sox are lucky.’’

Yadier Molina was the catcher Perez idolized, but Grifol was his mentor — and more.

‘‘He helped me as a hitter, he helped me behind home plate, mentally, everything,’’ Perez said, ‘‘and I will always say that I love him. I love him like a dad, and I miss him a lot. But I’m so happy for him because he deserves to be a manager in the big leagues.’’

Three-dot dash

What does Perez, whose team is in last place in the American League Central, think of the fourth-place Sox?

‘‘We don’t have to lie: When they were [7-21], it was bad,’’ he said. ‘‘But they’re really pretty good. The players they have, the bullpen they have, the five starting pitchers, they’re good. I feel they will click, and [when] they do, they’re going to get a lot better. They’re starting to play better now.’’ . . .

SiriusXM At Super Bowl LIII

Jim Brown during Super Bowl week in 2019.

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Bears fans like to call Walter Payton the best running back of ’em all — and ‘‘Sweetness’’ indeed belongs on the short list — but the rest of the football world generally gives the nod to Jim Brown. Why? Because it’s the right call. Brown, who died Thursday at 87, led the NFL in rushing in eight of his nine seasons, averaged 5.2 yards per carry, never missed a game and struck awe in opponents like no one else before or since. He was a fascinating and flawed man, too. . . .

Josh Kreutz, son of former Bears center Olin, is projected to start at center for the Illini in 2023. What sort of a football dad does he have?

‘‘I mean, having him has definitely helped,’’ Kreutz said. ‘‘I get a lot of information. I learned a lot about the game growing up. Just working out, learning techniques, learning film — all of it has been really helpful.’’

And how much pressure is there from the old man?

‘‘I’ve never felt that kind of thing,’’ Kreutz said. ‘‘It’s not like that.’’ . . .

If you’ve missed her until now, it’s time to check in with Izzy Scane, the off-the-charts star of top-ranked Northwestern’s run to the lacrosse final four. Scane scored seven goals — just another day at the office, really — in the Wildcats’ 16-6 quarterfinal victory against Loyola Maryland. It’s hard to imagine a more dominant player in any sport.

‘‘Izzy’s the greatest,’’ coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. ‘‘She’s a tremendous person, a tremendous athlete. Playing our game, I haven’t seen anyone who’s had the body control that she has. She really can do anything.’’

Next up: No. 5 Denver on Friday in Cary, North Carolina.

This you gotta see

Nuggets at Lakers, Game 4 (7:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN): NBA teams are 0-for-149 when trying to come all the way back from 3-0 deficits, so the Lakers need a miracle — or at least a four-star Hollywood ending.

Golden Knights at Stars, Game 3 (7 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN): Free advice for the Stars’ Roope Hintz, the leading scorer of these playoffs: Just keep scoring, dude. See? Simple.

NCAA women’s lacrosse: Northwestern vs. Denver (2 p.m. Friday, ESPNU): The Wildcats’ dreams have died in the semis of the last three NCAA tournaments. It’s time to take the next step.

The bottom line

The Cubs: When it reaches the point where you’re getting outscored in a three-game series after winning the opener 10-1, it’s safe to say something’s seriously amiss.

The Royals: If the Sox ever were going to sweep somebody, it pretty much had to be the sad-sackers from Kansas City, did it not?

The Premier League: Oh, wow, did Manchester City just win the championship yet again? Shocker. The weak Season 3 of ‘‘Ted Lasso’’ has more dramatic tension.

GarPax: Have we been harping on the Bulls’ long-ago Jimmy Butler trade a bit too much lately? Sorry, not sorry.

LeBron James: Not even Bronny can help him now.

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