Rick Renteria

Rick Renteria eyes playoffs: 'If anybody is afraid of setting expectations, this is not a place to be'

Rick Renteria eyes playoffs: 'If anybody is afraid of setting expectations, this is not a place to be'

Rick Renteria has expectations of playing in October. And he wants everyone involved with the White Sox to feel the same way.

Those playoff expectations are realistic ones after the work Rick Hahn's front office has done this winter, joining impact veterans like Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel and Edwin Encarnacion with a burgeoning young core that broke out in impressive fashion in 2019.

Of course, the White Sox still lost 89 games last season, despite breakout campaigns from Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez. So there's plenty that has to happen before the South Side can start making October plans for the first time in more than a decade.

But the skipper is — as he's been happy to share since the waning days of the 2019 season — making no bones about what he thinks his players and White Sox fans should be ready to accomplish in 2020.

"If you just simply look at us on paper, we are a much improved club," Renteria said Wednesday. "We still have to do it and get it done. There’s no magic potion other than guys executing for me. My job is to make sure that they stay as confident as possible, put them in the best place to have success.

"My expectations haven’t changed. We want to fight for the postseason. We either want to win a division, we want to be a wild card, whatever the case might be. We want to be in a place where we are winning more ballgames and putting ourselves in a relevant position to win.

"I’ll repeat this: If anybody is afraid of setting expectations, this is not a place to be. It’s about winning, ultimately, and I think that the organization has done a great job to put us on better footing to be able to give us a chance to do that."

It might, to some, sound like the typical "hope springs eternal" message that skippers doll out in hefty helpings at this time of year, and certainly there are reasons to be skeptical about the White Sox leaping from 89 losses to playoff status in one season. The starting rotation is improved but still faces mysteries with its younger members. Some of the team's best hitters in 2019 benefited from good fortune and need to prove they can still produce at a high level if that fortune doesn't return in 2020. There are still players who have limited or no major league experience and could experience growing pains.

But with Grandal, Keuchel and Encarnacion — among other veteran additions — bringing winning experience along with their track records of production to an extremely talented core featuring Giolito, Moncada, Anderson, Jimenez, Luis Robert, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and eventually Nick Madrigal, it's not difficult to see how this team could explode to the top of the AL Central to complete their transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode.

So for Renteria to have such high hopes makes plenty of sense — even if it's not at all unexpected.

"At the end of the day, my story hasn’t changed with the players," he said. "For three years, we talked about high expectations and winning, and they have been grinding and chipping away at that mentality and trying to understand it and trying to perform.

"Now you have a compilation of younger players who have been developing and learning what it’s like to be at the major league level and now they are going to have some players, some teammates who are going to help them along the way to help us through the performances, hopefully win more ballgames and we do what we do.

"Everyone in major sports wants to win and that’s what we want to do. Our expectation is to win."

That's music to the ears of White Sox fans who have watched their team lose a combined 284 games in Renteria's first three seasons as the South Side skipper. Certainly the front office has done their part in bolstering this roster, not just this winter but as part of the long-running rebuilding effort. Now it's up to Renteria and the players to reach the postseason.

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Rick Renteria wants you to be ready for the White Sox to win in 2020: 'People, have expectations'

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria wants you to be ready for the White Sox to win in 2020: 'People, have expectations'

SAN DIEGO — Rick Renteria isn’t shy about what he wants for his White Sox.

No, he’s not out there on Twitter, demanding the front office adds Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Nicholas Castellanos and Dallas Keuchel. But every chance he gets, he talks about where he expects his team to be in 2020.

“We left the season last year, the last series of the year, talking about this year, what we were going to expect and what we wanted to do and the things that we want to accomplish,” the skipper said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. “Obviously winning more games and being a part of a relevant season is important to us, so we're going to ask a lot of these guys.

“It's time. We talked about it being time. Guys are going to have to step it up. We've made tremendous strides, made growth, but we still have to continue to add pieces to put us over the top to give us an opportunity to be relevant.”

Don’t misconstrue those words as Renteria poking his front office. Rick Hahn & Co. know very well they’ve got more work to do in the wake of giving the richest contract in team history to free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal.

But a generally silent first two days at the Winter Meetings — followed by a trade for Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara — have not lived up to the sky-high expectations of fans, who anticipated hearing the South Siders tied to the biggest names on the free-agent market.

Because the White Sox have been so quiet, it’s hard to figure out what new toys Renteria will have to play with in 2020. It’s hard to figure out if the White Sox will even be ready to leap into contender status by the time March rolls around.

That doesn’t seem to matter to Renteria, though, who was talking about the 2020 postseason while still wrapping up an 89-loss season in 2019. He’s instructing the fan base to start thinking the same way.

“People, have expectations,” he instructed. “Have them on me. Have them on our team. Have them on everyone.

“What scares me is if people don't have expectations. That scares me because then it means you're not striving to be better. We want to be better. We want our guys to improve.”

The idea that all the young White Sox who broke out in 2019 still have a good deal of growing and improving to do is what makes the future so bright on the South Side. And it’s what drew Grandal to sign with the team. It’s what Hahn says should make the White Sox a destination for all free agents.

Renteria agrees.

“There's no one, I don't think, that we've talked to, even toward the end of last year and even people that we've spoken to in terms of possibly coming here that don't see where we're at right now,” Renteria said. “I think there is an optimism and an excitement about the South Side right now that is legit. I don't think it's made up. It's not. It's real.”

As Hahn has alluded to for some time now, any skeptical fans out there likely won’t believe the White Sox have arrived as contenders until they see it, be it through the huge splashes of offseason additions or the fusion of the young core into a true force to be reckoned with. Rumors of reclamation-project outfielders and stopgap solutions in the starting rotation aren’t exactly bringing folks to Renteria’s level of excitement.

But any stretches of offseason inactivity shouldn’t make anyone forget about Yoan Moncada or Lucas Giolito or Tim Anderson or Eloy Jimenez or Luis Robert or Nick Madrigal. Or, you know, Grandal.

That’s what’s real. That’s what’s got Renteria so excited.

Playoffs? A Jim Mora style reaction to that question wouldn’t be unwarranted. But Renteria is asking you to dream bigger.

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Rick Renteria embraces the spirit of giving during the holiday season

Rick Renteria embraces the spirit of giving during the holiday season

Embracing the spirit of giving this holiday season, White Sox Manager Rick Renteria and his wife Ilene, with the help of Blue Plate Catering, will prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the children and staff at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. The group will join White Sox front office staff to serve and entertain more than 200 people currently living and working at Mercy Home’s West Loop and Walsh campuses.

The festive occasion, complete with a turkey dinner, dessert and live entertainment, will create a family-like atmosphere for the group similar to what they would experience at home during the holidays. Mercy Home residents will receive gifts, including a White Sox fleece blanket.

The event is an extension of the Renterias’ community outreach program, Club 36, which supports Mercy Home through outings and visits with residents.