For fans heavily invested in the White Sox rebuild, an August winning streak is maybe not what they were hoping to see.
Mired in a last-place season and 16 games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians in the American League Central standings, the worse the White Sox finish this season, the better their draft pick next summer, which could mean another prized addition to the ongoing rebuild.
But, hey, the White Sox are still allowed to have a little late-summer fun, right?
After sweeping the AL-best Houston Astros and taking the first game of this weekend’s series with the visiting Kansas City Royals, the South Siders have their second-longest winning streak of the season, a stretch bettered only by late April’s six-game streak. You know, back in the days before the trade deadline when the roster looked much, much different.
And while rebuild fans might be getting a little anxious over the potential consequences — the White Sox might be the AL’s worst team, but they still have a better winning percentage than the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies — they should realize that some success now could mean even more success later.
“We’re kind of giving a small sample of, hopefully, the future,” shortstop Tim Anderson said before Saturday’s game. “We’re definitely doing our best and playing hard. Guys are hustling. We’re doing all the small things and what Ricky’s asked of us and just playing real hard.”
“The game has its ups and downs, but any time you can get a stretch like this it just gives your team confidence,” outfielder Adam Engel said. “And you can always build on confidence, especially when you start winning some games, some guys start stepping up and having success. It just helps team chemistry, and hopefully it trends in the right direction.”
The burst of success speaks to the team’s embrace of manager Rick Renteria’s message.
He’s spent the season preaching a certain kind of approach, one that has players showing up to Guaranteed Rate Field every day with sights on the present, something that’s potentially difficult to do considering the franchise’s announced rebuild. The White Sox window of contention has yet to open, with many of the organization’s highest-ranked prospects still developing down in the minor leagues.
We all know that Ricky’s boys don’t quit. And it appears they’ve taken that approach into the latest stages of this last-place season.
“He just wants us to do our best and bring out the best in us, and he’s definitely been doing that and preaching that to us,” Anderson said. “I feel like we’ve been doing what he’s been wanting us to do and just go out and play the game hard. And whatever happens happens. Just really having fun with it and playing hard.”
“We just try and come to the yard every day and focus on what we need to focus on to get better. And I think we’ve been doing that,” Engel said. “We’ve been playing good baseball, and these last four games things have kind of clicked. We’re getting some wins to show for it.”
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No one is under the impression that this is the beginning of some kind of resurgence, one that would miraculously spring the White Sox from last place to playoff contention with just 49 games remaining on the schedule.
But there are positive developments to be made from finally experiencing some winning. The four-game winning streak comes immediately on the heels of a stretch during which the White Sox lost 17 of 20. It’s something that might end up being an important part of this rebuilding process.
“They have an energy about them, a desire to want to be the best. It’s very exciting for them to do what they’re doing and have some positive results, absolutely,” Renteria said. “I think that the way they go about playing the game and preparing, does it help them build on the belief that there’s reason and there’s a process to things moving forward in a particular direction? Yes.
“I think they’re buying into it, I think they’ve been buying in since Day 1. We still have a month and a half left in the regular season, and these guys are trying to take advantage of every moment of it. And they’re still trying to continue to take information in, learn from every experience they have. And they’re still trying to learn how to play together as a team, and I think they’re coming together as a team.”
Anderson talked about the desire to finish strong. And since next year and the years that follow are looking to be the ones that could be a little more important for this team and this franchise, providing some positive momentum could wind up being a big deal.
That’s especially true for guys like Anderson, who’s expected to be a big part of the future, and guys like Engel, fighting to become a big part of the future.
“You can feel the chemistry. We’re going out and playing and having fun and building that brotherhood like it’s supposed to be,” Anderson said. “We’ve got such a great group of guys in the locker room, so we’re just having fun and putting everything on the table and seeing what happens.”