The White Sox ascent to winning baseball was supposed to be underway by now.
After a 2019 campaign filled with breakout performances from young core players and an offseason filled with exciting acquisitions, Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project was scheduled to vault into contention mode during the 2020 season.
Now, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic gripping every facet of American life, White Sox fans are left to wonder if the 2020 season will ever come.
“It’s a weird vibe for guys like me,” Lucas Giolito said during a Tuesday conference call. “Pretty much every guy around the league will probably tell you the same thing. It sucks. We wish we were out there playing.
“At the same time, we are in the middle of a crisis and we can’t force the issue. We have to let everything run its course, and hopefully we can get this going as soon as possible.
“I know that a ton of sports fans around the country are really not very happy about what’s going on. But at the same time, there are some more important things going on. There’s unfortunately people dying from this, and it seems like it continues to spread more and more.
“So the whole baseball thing does have to take a backseat.”
The White Sox were ready to make that jump, too, with positive vibes and playoff expectations the talk of spring training. Even while everything around us has changed, that optimism hasn’t.
“What I was witnessing around camp and what I've kind of gathered from talking to guys, I think we're just going to pick right back up where we left off,” Giolito said. “We were in a very good spot when things did come to an abrupt end there. But when things do resume, I think that we're just going to pick up where we were.
“We had a very good team collective mindset, and we're not going to let this pause to what we were doing affect what we're building toward in a negative way.
“I think when it comes time to start playing again, we'll all come together and pick it up right where we were.”
With so much unknown about the future of circumstances in the country at large, it’s impossible to guess what that future holds for Major League Baseball. Discussions between the league and the union have reportedly included a wide range of possibilities: games without fans present, games played away from home stadiums, the regular season stretching into October and the playoffs approaching Thanksgiving. They’ve also reportedly talked about the worst-case scenario of no season at all.
That would be a tough blow for every baseball fan, and White Sox fans are no exception. They’ve waited patiently through this rebuilding process for brighter days to return to the South Side. Now, on the cusp of what looks like a new winning era, everything is on hold.
Of course, the White Sox are built for the long haul, which was the main objective of Hahn’s front office during this process. This season, like every other individual campaign, was not designed to feature a brief chase at wild-card glory, only to yield to a recession back into mediocrity. The long-term deals the White Sox handed out to their young stars like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada point to visions of an extended contention window.
Even facing the prospect of losing a year of quality production from those guys and other youngsters, the amount of team control the White Sox hold with their players continues to point to an elongated period of winning potential.
That likely won’t do much to soften the emotional blow of a reduced or altogether canceled 2020 season, which had the potential to be the first taste of winning in a long time on the South Side. The White Sox haven’t finished above .500 since 2012. They haven’t made the postseason since 2008.
But it signals that even in the event of that worst-case scenario, the White Sox will remain positioned to compete, contend and captivate for years to come.
In the meantime, as Giolito said, baseball, and the White Sox leap into contention mode, has to take a backseat.