GLENDALE, Ariz. — Can the White Sox compete in 2018? Coming off a 67-95 season and this only being Year 2 of the rebuild, let’s be honest, many things have to go right for that to happen.
But it’s spring training. It’s a time for optimism. And Wednesday, we learned that new White Sox reliever Joakim Soria might be the most optimistic player in the entire clubhouse.
Forget about just competing. He raised the ceiling even higher.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up winning the division,” Soria said.
The Cleveland Indians might have something to say about that, but Soria who pitched in the playoffs with the Detroit Tigers (2014) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2015) knows this is a crazy game. How things look in February are often times much different come September.
“Baseball is a different animal, and you never know if this is going to be the year," he said. "If everybody has the best year of their career, we can go on a good run.”
We’ve seen teams quickly turn their fortunes around in the recent past. The Minnesota Twins went from 59 wins in 2016 to 85 wins in 2017. Truth be told, those kind of yearly improvements are extremely rare, but the White Sox have arrived at Camelback Ranch believing that anything is possible.
“We love the excitement, not only coming out of that clubhouse but from our fans as well. I know there have been various podcasts talking about whether we’re ready to win,” Rick Hahn said with a wink to the most recent episode of the White Sox Talk Podcast. Thanks, Rick.
“We're not going to do anything to stifle that level of excitement. At the same time, we know we're one year into a rebuild. These things traditionally take longer than that. We're thrilled with the progress we've made in the last year, but we know we still have a fair amount of work to go in this process.”
Manager Rick Renteria knows it’s a rebuild, but he won’t be managing like it. He wants to win as much as anyone. He hears the confident chatter coming from his players and likes what he hears.
“I’m not going to sell them short. We’ll shoot high and we’ll see where we fall from there,” Renteria said. “I’m not going to lower the bar and be happy if we surpass that bar. I’m not that person. I want to shoot high and we’ll see where it falls.”
Should enthusiastic White Sox fans pump the breaks on their excitement for this season?
“No, don't pump the brakes. It's fine,” Hahn said. “The enthusiasm is great and again, a lot of it is coming out of the clubhouse, a lot of it is coming from these players who think that they have the ability to surprise some people. That's the mentality Ricky and his staff have helped create. They fight every game, they fight 27 outs, they are playing their tails off to win each and every night.”
It’s that kind of talk that has White Sox fans excited for what could be ahead. But those are just words. If their actions can back it up through September, then maybe Soria’s prediction could wind up being more prophetic than we think.