White Sox

With eyes on offseason and 2020, White Sox advancing to 'next stage' of rebuild

With eyes on offseason and 2020, White Sox advancing to 'next stage' of rebuild

This weekend featured the end of yet another losing season on the South Side, yet another year without October baseball.

If things go according to plan, however, that’s all about to change.

Rick Hahn held his end-of-season press conference Friday, talking about how the White Sox are entering the next stage of their rebuilding process.

“I think we're entering the next stage, and I think that's going to involve continued growth and a path toward heightened competitiveness and far more compelling baseball out there,” he said. “How quickly we get to the most important stage, that being winning, I think it's premature to say right now. I think we have to wait to see what the rest of this roster looks like and then over the course of the early part of the season, see how the young players continue to grow before we can start saying, ‘This team's ready to win a championship.’

“But we're moving to that next stage. It's time now to start having that progress toward a winning team on an annual basis out there, a championship-caliber team ultimately.”

That should be music to White Sox fans’ ears, certainly the ones who have been frustrated with all the losses that have piled up over the last three seasons at the big league level. After losing a combined 195 games in 2017 and 2018, they won’t lose any fewer than 88 games in 2019.

But there’s been plenty that occurred this season to prove that Hahn isn’t selling a fantasy, only pitching a vision with nothing concrete to back it up. The 2019 season proved that the White Sox have a legitimate core in the works, a group of young players who played at All-Star levels that will be here for the long haul.

Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito transformed themselves after disappointing 2018 campaigns into the team’s best all-around hitter, a batting champion and the ace of the staff, respectively. Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease made their major league arrivals. James McCann was a heck of a free-agent find. And Jose Abreu, who figures to be back despite his pending free agency, has been Jose Abreu.

Add minor league stars Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal to that group, the healthy return of Michael Kopech and the fruits of what is expected to be a busy offseason, and the 2020 White Sox could very well have all the ingredients necessary to make the long-awaited transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode.

Two losses this weekend would make for the third straight 90-loss campaign on the South Side, and no one has enjoyed that aspect of this process. Plenty of fans will be unconvinced those fortunes will change until they do, which is understandable.

So what does the “next stage” look like? When will fans know that things are different?

It starts this winter, with Hahn laying out pretty specific plans for what the team will try to do. On the to-do list is a right fielder, a designated hitter and a starting pitcher or two. After last offseason’s aggressive (if ultimately failed) pursuit of Manny Machado, it would not be a surprise to see the White Sox again mentioned as interested in some of the top players on the market. They still have an enormous amount of financial flexibility, another goal of this process.

If the team makes those additions, combining them with the eventual arrivals of Robert, Kopech and Madrigal means four new starters in the everyday lineup and two new starters in the rotation. That’s a pretty hefty amount of adds to a core that already contains Moncada, Anderson, Jimenez, Abreu, McCann, Giolito and Cease.

But, obviously, the defining trait of the “next stage” will be winning — or at the very least more of it. Hahn was hesitant to make any sort of declaration of expectations for 2020 before constructing the roster, probably a wise move. But given the ingredients expected to be in place, it’s no great stretch to suggest that playoff contention could come as soon as next year.

Certainly the players and the manager are ready to put these days behind them, ready to say that the days of losing are over.

“I’m expecting that this is it,” Rick Renteria said earlier this month. “We are trying to win. I think we talk about it, we are going through it. I know there’s still refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you. We are finishing this season, we are talking about coming into next season ready to battle, period, exclamation point. That’s what we are looking to do.”

That’s as strong a statement as you’ll hear about the expectations for this team heading into next season. Or maybe it’s this one from the skipper, asked Friday what he wanted to be talking about at this time next year.

“What I'd like to be talking about,” he said, “how we're fighting for a position in the postseason.”

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Governor J.B. Pritzker hopeful White Sox, Cubs will be hosting games come July

Governor J.B. Pritzker hopeful White Sox, Cubs will be hosting games come July

Don't expect to be able to buy a ticket for a Fourth of July game at Guaranteed Rate Field or Wrigley Field. But the leader of our state is hopeful that baseball will return to the Land of Lincoln by July.

"I'm anxious, starting with baseball, to get baseball up and running again," Governor J.B. Pritzker said during his daily press conference Wednesday, "and I'm hopeful we will be able to do that going into July."

That's music to the ears of baseball fans who were fearful that even with a deal between Major League Baseball and the players' union to begin a shortened 2020 season during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the state might have had measures in place that could have prevented the White Sox and Cubs from playing home games in their ballparks.

The idea of games in early July matches the league's proposed format for a 2020 season that includes a second round of spring training beginning in the middle of next month, with Opening Day following in the first few days of July.

RELATED: MLB dips into NFL playbook with proposal – here’s why it probably won’t work

Pritzker did mention the caveat that Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the City of Chicago are able to enact "more stringent" measures when it comes to sporting events. But with fans not expected to be allowed to attend games, at least at the season's outset, the mass gatherings that make for a higher risk of spreading the coronavirus would be limited to the players and staff, who the league plans on testing frequently.

"The state is the one that sets the parameters for any play that might exist in the state, and then the City of Chicago has the ability to be more stringent than the state," Pritzker said Wednesday. "I am as anxious as I think many people are to get our sports up and running again. The problem is we can't put spectators in the stands today. There's just no way to do that safely, according to the doctors.

"What the leagues have asked (for) is not for that. What they've asked (for) is the ability to run games, whether we're talking about hockey or baseball or football. At this moment, they're asking for the ability to run games, televised with no spectators. Even that, as you can imagine, two teams with all of the surrounding people who work for the team involved, it's a lot of people. So we've worked with them. They've actually come up with reasonably good plans, each one of the leagues."

With governors across the country indicating that pro sports will be welcomed back to their states in the months ahead, it doesn't appear that preventative measures imposed by governments will be among the bigger threats to getting a season off the ground. Instead, the continued squabbling between the league and the union now seems to present the highest hurdle to clear on the path to a 2020 campaign.

The league made an economic proposal to the union Tuesday, one that left the union "extremely disappointed." And along with their financial complaints, the union added they were far apart from the league on the proposed health-and-safety measures, too.

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Royals' Brad Keller to White Sox fans: 'Give up' posting Tim Anderson bat flip

Royals' Brad Keller to White Sox fans: 'Give up' posting Tim Anderson bat flip

Tim Anderson's bat flip against the Kansas City Royals was undoubtedly one of the biggest moments of the White Sox season.

The guy who gave up the homer doesn't seem to agree.

As we found out in the aftermath, there was a lot more behind the bat flip than just celebrating a fourth-inning home run in April.

Royals pitcher Brad Keller plunked Anderson in retaliation, cranking up baseball's never-ending debate between old-school and new-school styles.

Anderson was ejected and suspended for what he called Keller after getting hit, turning the conversation to race and the dwindling number of black major leaguers.

The tragedies of Anderson's life played their own role in the ensuing discussions, too, with his quest to inject more fun into a game he called "boring" mirroring his mission to have more fun in his own life after his best friend was killed.

But Keller, who called the way Anderson celebrated "over the top" and described his in-game fury toward the bat flip, thinks the White Sox and their fans should stop celebrating a moment from a game the South Siders lost.

"I get tagged in like everything Tim Anderson or White Sox. White Sox fans have a fascination with tagging my name," Keller said during an appearance on The Charity Stripe podcast. "When it comes to (the originally scheduled date for) Opening Day this year, and obviously we didn't play, the White Sox tweeted out a thing that was, 'Since we're not playing the Royals, let's review our top five games against the Royals.' And the No. 1 game was the Tim Anderson game. And they lost.

"Everyone was like, 'How does it feel to be the No. 1 game?' And I'm like, 'Dude, we won the game. I don't get what you're talking about here. This isn't about me. We won the game.'"

RELATED: After saying he feels like 'today's Jackie Robinson' in SI interview, Tim Anderson says baseball needs change 'because the game is boring'

White Sox fans might be getting sick of hearing from Keller, who has quickly — and somewhat happily, it seems — attained villain status in Chicago. But he's sick of hearing from them, too, and has a request for White Sox Twitter.

"I get tagged in everything. Apparently (Anderson) did like a Q&A, and someone asked him how bad he wanted to hit a home run off me. And he wrote 'so bad.' And everyone tagged me and was like, 'He owns you!' And I was like, 'Oh my god, give it a rest.'

"And the thing is, they haven't given up on it. They keep posting the same video over and over and over. It happened a year ago. It didn't even happen at the end of the season, it happened at the beginning of the season. So much shit happened during the middle of the season, I don't get why you keep bringing up one moment over and over and over. Give up."

Keep in mind, of course, that harassing people online is a bad thing to do. Don't do it.

Keller explained that he was surprised he didn't get more verbal abuse at Guaranteed Rate Field after all the bad stuff he heard on social media. The reason? People rarely say the horrible things they say from behind a screen to someone's face. This is all a good reminder that those types of things shouldn't be directed at someone in any venue.

Keller, for what it's worth, should also know it's not right to intentionally throw a projectile at someone to punish them for celebrating.

But this rivalry isn't likely to die anytime soon. Anderson had his own response after seeing Keller's thoughts Tuesday:

Keller's not likely to get his wish to stop seeing Anderson's bat flip on social media. As explained, it was a big moment of the 2019 season for a host of reasons. Him serving up a home run was just part of the story.

Here's hoping that the online behavior remains respectful, the rivalry stays heated on the field (without anyone getting hurt) and that Anderson keeps being Anderson and continues to bring more highlight-reel fun to the South Side.

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