Fifteen years ago, the White Sox won the World Series.
For very good reason, those memories are still strong on the South Side. Need some recent proof? Ozzie Guillén and A.J. Pierzynski’s names have been talked about during the team’s ongoing managerial search.
But White Sox fans want to know when they can celebrate again. When’s the next parade? Paul Konerko handing Jerry Reinsdorf the baseball from the final out of the World Series was a great moment. When does José Abreu get his chance to do the same thing?
Fans never stopped believin’. The good news is they’ve now got a team to believe in.
In 2005, the White Sox swept the Houston Astros in the World Series to bring an end to an 88-year championship drought. And while no one will ever confuse a nearly nine-decade wait with the itchiness of a decade and a half, the dozen playoff-less seasons the White Sox went through prior to their brief postseason trip this fall often brought out a similar kind of frustration.
Well, the rebuilding portion of Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project is over. The White Sox are rebuilt, looking for a skipper to take them from contenders to champions. The long awaited future is assembled. The big offseason acquisitions that come along with a vault into contention mode are now expected.
And speaking of expectations, they’re clearly defined: win the World Series.
White Sox fans can easily understand how big a deal that is by looking back at how good 2005 felt and still feels. That team might have surprised in more ways than one en route to an 11-1 postseason march that ended in a world championship. But with winning came bigger expectations. That team, those players and that manager never got there again.
In fact, after winning the World Series, Guillén led just one more White Sox team to the postseason. In the 14 years that followed the World Series win, the White Sox made only one postseason appearance. “Mired in mediocrity” was the phrase Hahn famously used upon launching this full-scale rebuilding project. A failure to meet those post-World Series expectations took the team to that point.
But like I said, there’s good news.
The White Sox are on the precipice of big things, it would seem. Hahn declared the team’s contention window open in his end-of-season press conference. That was the same day the team parted ways with Rick Renteria, launching the search for a manager who has been there, done that and can get there and do it again.
And that’s precisely where the White Sox want to be: There. Again.
They’ll enter the 2021 season with the intention and the ability to do that. Abreu, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, Luis Robert, Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, Michael Kopech, Nick Madrigal. The team that made so much noise during the 2020 regular season ended things on a sour note. But that’s still a roster that will have realistic expectations of winning the AL Central crown — which it came a game away from doing this season — and doing even bigger things.
Kenny Williams, who built that 2005 team, showed how serious he was about bringing a championship to the South Side the offseason prior, with bold moves that ended up creating a perfect mixture. Hahn has been similarly bold, if over a much longer period of time, with the rebuild-launching trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. The team spent big on Robert’s international free agency. It jumped at the chance to add Grandal and Keuchel on free-agent deals last winter. Fans are expecting Hahn’s front office to be bold again this winter, with another group of big-name free agents on the market.
But nothing has been bolder than rebuilding in the first place, a strategy that stood in stark contrast to how the 2005 team was built and how Williams and Hahn built the rosters that followed.
They’re obviously not there yet. There’s a big difference between merely reaching October and getting to the end of the month. No one gets a trophy for winning the offseason, as Hahn is quick to remind. No one gets a trophy for building a roster that is capable of winning a championship, either.
But this is the moment that South Side fans have been waiting for since the White Sox went from champs to defending champs ahead of the 2006 campaign. The team is positioned to embark on a new winning era. Hahn has set up Abreu, Anderson, Giolito, Jiménez and Robert to one day have the same cache on the South Side as Konerko, Pierzynski, Mark Buehrle, Jermaine Dye and Scott Podsednik.
Of course, those players need to make it happen. Meanwhile, the advice for fans is simple:
Don’t stop believin’.