It's what this rebuild is all about.
When you start building from the bottom, the name of the game is acquiring young, talented players, developing them and watching as they, hopefully, start winning baseball games and, eventually, World Series titles. The White Sox, despite the hype, obviously aren't all the way there just yet, unless I somehow missed a parade.
But they're getting there. They might be really close. And throughout the roster, players once described as prospects with bright futures have stepped into those futures.
That includes Tim Anderson, who went from a .240 hitter in 2018 to a .335 hitter last year, that batting average high enough to win the big league batting title.
What's next for Anderson remains to be seen — the White Sox and their fans want to see defensive improvement to go along with his big jump at the plate — but the guy running the show is over the moon when it comes to his shortstop and the growing up Anderson's done over the last few years.
"I was watching him a little while ago. Man, he looks so good," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Friday. "This young man is — he's a man. I think that he's grown so much as a person, as a player. I'm looking forward to seeing what's next for him. I'm very, very confident in the maturity that's transpired over the last few years. He's worked extremely hard. I think, and I still believe, that this kid's an All-Star quality type shortstop.
"When I see him working, I see some things that he does, and every day I'm impressed. I expect a lot out of Timmy. More importantly, Timmy expects a lot out of himself. I know he wants perfection, and he's continuing to grow toward that. But this kid's pretty good, and I will continue to say that for as long as I'm here.
"Timmy's a pretty good Major League Baseball player, and I think he's going to be around for a while."
Anderson sees that growth, too, when he looks around the field, and like plenty of fans and observers, he sees this group of White Sox capable of finally making that jump out of rebuilding mode and into contending mode this year.
"I think we all have matured," he said. "As the years pass by, we have all matured and kind of grown into better players. We all had a great season last year. I think it’s just exciting to see us continue to grow and continue to come together as a team and grow as men.
"I think it’s very cool and we have a chance to basically tighten this bond up for the next couple of years to hopefully do something that’s real special."
That jump was supposed to happen this season. With the young core emerging in a big way in 2019 and Rick Hahn's front office going to work over the offseason, bringing in veterans with winning experience, the rebuild was supposed to start bearing winning fruit back in March.
Then the pandemic brought baseball to a screeching halt.
The game is back, for now at least, with the league-branded "Summer Camp" starting Friday morning on the South Side. Finally, the White Sox were back together, again readying for a season of big expectations.
A lot has changed since March, though, both in baseball and in the world, in general. For the White Sox, the 162-game season they were built for and revved up for in March has been squeezed down to a 60-game schedule in a two-month sprint to the postseason.
The next stage of growth for these White Sox — whose most recent regular-season action was the end of an 89-loss season almost 10 months ago — is learning how to win. They thought they'd have six months to figure it out. Instead, they have two.
"'Learning how to win,' I guess that's a really good way of putting it," Renteria said. "Our guys, they've been growing up together. I've been very fortunate to be here to see them growing up, and they've had an opportunity over the last few years now to experience playing at the major league level, going through some ups and downs, learning what they're capable of doing.
"At the end of the day, their talent has to meet the moment and be prepared for it and allow themselves to trust what they're capable of doing."
Should the state of the pandemic allow the 2020 season to get off the ground — the initial testing results Major League Baseball announced Friday were encouraging, with a positive-test rate of only 1.2 percent — we'll find out exactly what they're capable of doing.
But as mentioned, that growth is still happening all over the roster. Anderson, entering his fifth big league season, has grown up. Even Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada have shed the nasty results from their 2018 seasons to arrive at a much better place. But Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech only have a handful of major league starts under their belts. Eloy Jimenez is entering just his second season. Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal have yet to see a major league pitch. And there's more behind them, with last month's first-round draft pick Garrett Crochet already being described as a potential quick mover to the major leagues.
That's part of the plan, of course, for the window to stay propped open for years while the waves of talent continue to reach the South Side and develop into high-end major league players. And so whether the shortened 2020 season features the White Sox finally reaching the playoffs or not, Hahn sees the value in that big-picture goal as guys keep growing.
"We've got a limited sample here. Let's make the most of it from a development standpoint," he said Friday. "Whether that is young guys getting their major league experience under their belt and dealing with whatever adjustments have to happen throughout the league, or teaching some of the guys who have been around here a little bit longer what it takes to win and playing in an intense environment, given the magnitude of each and every game and, ideally, a pennant race down the stretch that will be compelling. So there's going to be a lot of long-term benefits from getting these guys back out here and playing."
But while the growth continues, there's good reason to finally be excited about the present. Anderson sees what's possible, even in this most unusual of seasons, as he looks to keep evolving while the White Sox start winning.
He's not thrilled with his defense, either — he made a combined 88 errors in his first four major league campaigns — and he's looking to put in the same kind of work that turned his offensive fortunes around last year.
"Nothing came natural. I worked to get to where I’m at. But I’m going to continue to work," he said. "That’s a part of my game that’s definitely lacking. It ain’t too far behind, though. I’m getting to where I need to be.
"I’ll continue to work, I’ll continue to get better. I’m going to continue to learn the game. Each and every day, come to the ballpark ready. As I mature and as I grow, it’s going to continue to get better. You’ll see. You have seen it. All aspects of my game.
"As long as I continue to get better, continue to grow and continue to learn and work hard, that will come along as well."
And he won't say no to another batting title, either. Not that it's Priority No. 1, though.
"Hopefully I can get a ring out of it," he said, "and if the batting title comes again, then cool.
"We’ll see what happens at the end of the 60. Hopefully it’s not just 60."
Really, the only thing we know for certain about the 2020 baseball season is that we have no idea what's going to happen during the 2020 baseball season.
This is a season unlike any other, played under the most unusual, and in some cases dangerous, of circumstances. The sport's typical 162-game marathon has been squeezed down to a 60-game sprint. Players have been sitting around for months and will only get three weeks' worth of "Summer Camp" to get back into game shape. And all along, the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic worsening or penetrating the walls of major league stadiums casts doubt that the season will even able to be finished.
But should the show find itself able to go on, there's an opportunity for some exciting stuff. Or, as Tim Anderson put it:
"Something dope definitely can happen in 60 games."
I'm honestly not trying to serve as hype man for Major League Baseball's 60-game season, one that has some fans irked they're missing out on more than 60 percent of a normal schedule and that the league is using illegitimate means to determine a champion. But there's a good argument to be made that the two-month sprint to the postseason could provide a fascinating contrast to what can at times be described as a six-month slog.
That's what we've come to understand baseball as being, of course, a seven-month marathon for whichever team ends up the World Series winner. But this year, that understanding has been chucked out the window. There's no opportunity for teams to rebound from slow starts, like the eventual-champion Washington Nationals did last season, when they were in fourth place after 60 games. Those fast April starts that peter out by May — the 2019 Seattle Mariners were a first-place team after 30 games and finished the season with 94 losses — could this year earn a team a trip to the playoffs. Every game in a 60-game schedule carries an insane amount of weight, counting as much as two or three games in a normal season. A three- or four-game losing streak could send a team tumbling down the standings. A three-game sweep of a division rival could shake up the playoff picture.
Nobody's saying these circumstances are good ones. But a 60-game sprint to the finish line could be absolutely thrilling.
"It’s possible for anything to happen," Anderson said of this hopefully one-of-a-kind year in baseball. "I just think it’s the right time for us to try to jump on it and take off running. There’s no time for trying to get a feel for it. We have to jump in and take off running to try to beat them to that spot. Anything is possible in 60 games."
Anything? How about the White Sox getting to the playoffs? How about the White Sox going all the way?
To be fair, this was the conversation back in spring training, when everyone at Camelback Ranch was talking about bringing an end to the franchise's more than decade-long postseason drought. The emergence of the young core last year teamed with the offseason's veteran additions had the White Sox looking capable of doing it before the idea of a 162-game season was dashed by the pandemic.
And those opinions haven't changed, at least not on the corner of 35th and Shields.
"Anything is possible in 60 games," Anderson said, asked specifically if the White Sox could be a playoff team. "You’ve seen the lineup from top to bottom, you know the names. It’s there. All we’ve got to do is go out and continue to play hard every day and pick one another up and take off running when it’s time to go. I think we’ll be just fine then.
"Yeah, it’s possible. Definitely. We’re definitely not playing (only) for fun."
We'll see what kind of effect the condensed schedule has on the product. With an eye toward making the game more appealing to fans, as well as the health and safety of players this year, other changes have swept into the game. The designated hitter has come to the National League. Extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. And those changes could be sticking around.
Is there room in that same discussion for shortening the schedule to create some more excitement?
Like that idea or not, we're getting a test drive of it this season. It's time to see just how dope it will be.
"We’ll see what happens at the end of the 60," Anderson said, keeping his mind on October. "Hopefully it’s not just 60."