White Sox fans will get to revisit the Avi Garcia Era over the next few days.
Whether that's something they particularly want to do or not is up for debate, but at the very least Garcia, who spent six seasons in the White Sox outfield, will be front of mind as his Tampa Bay Rays visit the South Side.
Garcia was non-tendered by the White Sox this offseason, bringing an end to a lengthy tenure for a guy who generated mixed reviews from the fan base. His potential was never a question, as he came to the White Sox from the Detroit Tigers in 2013 carrying comparisons to future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. But Garcia's time on the South Side was full of injuries and a general failure to match that hype.
He, of course, had one great season in 2017, when he made the All-Star team and ranked among the best hitters in the game with a .330 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage. But last season, he was injured on Opening Day and played hurt the remainder of the season, making a couple trips to what was then called the disabled list. His numbers plummeted as a result — just a .236/.281/.438 slash line in only 93 games — bringing an end to the Avi Garcia Experiment as the White Sox looked to an outfield of the future featuring young players like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and others.
Speaking from the visitors' dugout ahead of Monday's series-opener, Garcia said he wasn't happy about how things ended — not that he's harboring any hard feelings at this point.
"I was a little bit (disappointed)," Garcia said. "But you know, it is what it is. Business. So now I’m happy where I am right now. Just got to keep working and do my thing.
"I don’t know what they think. The only thing I know is I don’t like the way I came out from the White Sox. But it is what it is. It’s business. So, no hard feelings. Just trying to do my job and be happy with my team."
Certainly Garcia didn't have a bad career on the South Side, and he had plenty of supporters who believed that his 2017 success was the start of that potential finally turning into something sustainable. Injuries prevented him from being able to prove he could replicate those 2017 numbers, and heading into just his age-28 season, there were fans who thought he deserved a shot at being part of the White Sox long-term future.
Garcia might not have been pleased with the ending to his time here. But he said he remembers that time fondly.
"In baseball, sometimes things go good and sometimes it goes bad. I’m just happy," he said. "I got a lot of memories in Chicago. I went to the All-Star Game here for the first time, my kids were born here. So I got a lot of memories here. Walking the street, walking here to the ballpark, meeting with the guys. It’s just special."
With their focus on the long-term future, though, the White Sox are probably not regretting their decision. Garcia was set to get a raise to roughly $8 million through the arbitration process had the team tendered him a contract, and that money can now be put to better long-term use. Jimenez, with his new long-term deal, is entrenched in left field. And while young players like Robert and Micker Adolfo might not reach the big leagues in 2019, a path is cleared at the major league level for them to get a crack at those outfield jobs when they're ready.
Plus, the team might have simply seen enough to know that Garcia was not a fit for their long-term plans.
Regardless, he received praise upon his return to his old home ballpark.
"He gave us everything he had all the time that he was here with us," manager Rick Renteria said Monday, "respected, I thought, playing the game a certain way. Was always, I thought, a good teammate with everybody. Everybody enjoyed being around him. It’s nice to see him back. I hope he doesn’t do anything against us. Yeah, I’ve got good memories of Avi."
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