White Sox

Magic, buzz and something crazy: It's time for the White Sox to win

Magic, buzz and something crazy: It's time for the White Sox to win

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox are rebuilt.

No, the rebuild isn’t officially over. You’ll have to wait for after the parade for that. And it’s true that there are plenty of question marks on this roster.

But for the first time in a long time, the White Sox are preparing for a season with expectations. Big ones. The manager set them early, saying he’d be disappointed if his squad didn’t reach the postseason. There hasn’t been October baseball on the South Side in more than a decade. But that’s not stopping anyone in silver and black from realizing that things are different now.

“It’s definitely a little different,” shortstop Tim Anderson said. “It’s more relaxed and we know what we want. We know what we want this spring training versus last spring training. We kind of knew what we wanted, but now we know what we want and we see it. We just have to put the work in and go get it.

“I get a winning vibe, all positive and winning vibes. Everybody knows what we are here to do. We are here to win a championship, and we are here to take it all.”

Everyone at Camelback Ranch is talking about expectations. And whether they’ve voiced their intent to just play better baseball, make the playoffs or win the World Series, there’s one common conclusion: It’s time to win.

The losing has not been fun during the last three rebuilding seasons. The White Sox lost a combined 284 games in 2017, 2018 and 2019, with contending often taking a backseat to development.

But a host of breakout campaigns from young, core players in 2019 laid the groundwork for Rick Hahn’s front office to make a slew of veteran additions this winter, inlcuding All-Stars like Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion and Gio Gonzalez.

It all adds up to realistic postseason expectations on the South Side and a feeling that those losing days are firmly in the rearview mirror.

“I think it's just about time for us to start winning,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “It's just that time for us to start winning games and start to be relevant.

“The team that the front office put together, we're going to be able to do it. We have to be united. We need to be strong in good times and bad times if we want to be successful this season. With the guys that we have right now, that's something that's doable. That's our goal.

“I think expectations are high because we all know that this is the time for us to win.”

Abreu would certainly love to experience that. He hasn’t been part of a winning team in his major league career and has spent six sub-.500 seasons on the South Side. But his love for the organization kept him in a White Sox uniform as he briefly hit free agency this winter. He’ll be wearing those colors for at least another three years thanks to a new deal. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if he never wears another.

But you don’t have to have sweltered through the dog days to express your excitement for 2020. Something had to lure all those free agents this winter. Grandal, Keuchel, Encarnacion and Gonzalez all liked what they saw. Now they’re a big part of why there is such electricity running through White Sox camp.

“It seems like they want to do magic this year and for years to come now,” he said. “I look at it now as, let's keep competing as much as we can and see it from there. The buzz is in the locker room. We are excited. We do want to play, and I think this is the year we're going to push for it.

“They went out and got some guys that wanted to make something happen this year, and I think we have the team to do it. If you’re someone in Chicago watching the White Sox, this is a team to watch, and we’re excited to see that we can put it together.”

It truly seems like Hahn’s front office went out and got everything that was missing from this roster, which featured as impressive a collection of young talent as you’ll find but lacked experience; especially winning experience. Even 33-year-old team leader Abreu has never played in the postseason.

Enter the newcomers. Grandal and Encarnacion have appeared in each of the last five postseasons. Keuchel’s been to the playoffs in four of the last five years. Gonzalez played in three of the last four postseasons. New reliever Steve Cishek went to the National League Wild Card game with the Cubs in 2018.

They have no plans of stopping those postseason streaks.

“Once you get a little taste of the playoffs, that's why you play, is to get that feeling,” Keuchel said. “As much as you want to replicate it in the regular season, for guys who have no playoff experience, I think the regular season is that feeling. But there's another feeling to it that pushes you and wants you to be a better player.

“I told Rick Hahn this, I said four out of the last five years I've made the playoffs, and I don't expect any of these three years (during his contract with the White Sox) to be any different.”

A lot of things will have to go right for the White Sox to make a rapid ascent to the top of the baseball mountain. And there are question marks. What will the team get from Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez a year after some ugly results? Will Michael Kopech be the pitcher who was promised prior to his Tommy John surgery? What will Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal do in their first tastes of the major leagues? Will Anderson and Yoan Moncada stay productive if their good luck diminishes? Will Nomar Mazara unlock the potential the White Sox see in their new right fielder?

It all has to work out for the White Sox to compete for the division title and a World Series championship. But isn’t that the case with every team?

This is the time of year when hope springs eternal. Viewing the upcoming season through rose-colored glasses is a February tradition on par with Presidents Day mattress sales.

But the White Sox have good reason to be excited and good reason to be talking playoffs. The light at the end of the tunnel that Hahn has been talking about for so long isn’t just visible; it’s bathing these young White Sox.

Of course, they have to prove they can do it. But all this talk? Don’t roll your eyes. It’s not at all crazy.

The White Sox are saving the crazy for the field.

“We have a chance to do something crazy,” Anderson said. “That’s what everybody is talking about, right? So why not own up to it and set the bar high, go to the playoffs and win the championship. That’s the goal, right?

“We didn’t come here to work for nothing. We come here to win championships and make it to the playoffs. That’s no secret. Everybody knows we are here to win championships.”

It’s time to get nuts.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen

An awful lot of energy is spent these days discussing the leadoff spot.

Offense struggling? Maybe there needs to be a new leadoff hitter. Offense doing fine but the leadoff man isn’t of the stereotypical variety? Better think about making a change.

While teams certainly don’t need a stereotypical leadoff hitter who specializes in speed and small ball to be successful — the school of thought that your best player should get the most plate appearances possible is not a bad one — Scott Podsednik showed how guys at the top of the order can simply make things happen and win you ballgames because of it.

On April 11, 2005, the White Sox were once again having trouble figuring out Kevin Millwood, who was throwing his second gem against the White Sox in as many starts to begin his season. But after five scoreless innings, Podsednik made something happen.

He popped up a bunt that went so awry that it went over Millwood and behind the pitcher’s mound. It was a bad bunt, maybe, but it worked. He reached first with a single. Not long after, he used that blazing speed of his to swipe second base and put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

In a one-run game, the White Sox down 1-0 at the time, Podsednik changed everything. He scored the tying run two batters later, when Carl Everett drove him in with a single. It’s a run that doesn’t happen without Podsednik’s skill set. Call it the best argument in favor of the stereotypical leadoff man. Or just call it making things happen.

Podsednik did it again two innings later, driving in the winning run to cap a two-out rally against Millwood. After two quick outs, Chris Widger and Joe Crede delivered back-to-back singles. Podsednik made it three in a row, driving in Widger — who went from first to third on Crede’s hit up the middle — to put the White Sox in front.

Podsednik’s work 15 years ago isn’t likely to do much to sway any ongoing arguments over who should lead off for the 2020 White Sox or any of the 29 other teams. But it sure paid big dividends for the 2005 White Sox.

He made it happen.

What else?

— Millwood pitched extraordinarily well against the White Sox for the second time in 2005. After throwing six shutout innings on April 6, he allowed just two runs over seven innings in this one. Millwood ended up making five starts against the White Sox in 2005, logging a 1.32 ERA in 34 innings, but went just 0-2 in those five games. He had himself an excellent season overall, with a 2.86 ERA that led the American League and was the second lowest single-season ERA of his 16-year big league career. He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young vote that season, tying with White Sox pitcher Jon Garland and finishing behind Mark Buehrle.

— Freddy Garcia was pretty darn good in this one, too, throwing eight innings of one-run ball. He retired the final 13 batters he faced. Garcia allowed just three runs in 14 innings in his first two starts of the season. This one was the first of a whopping nine outings he made that season of at least eight innings.

— Garcia threw a pair of wild pitches with Grady Sizemore at the dish in the second inning, two of the 20 he ended up throwing in 2005. That total led the major leagues. In the following season, his second full campaign with the White Sox, he only threw four in the same number of starts, 33.

— Podsednik threw Ronnie Belliard out at third base in the third inning, preventing what might’ve been another run in the inning the Indians scored their lone tally. Podsednik had three outfield assists in 2005, and that was one of them.

— “Aaron’s going to get hit a lot in his career.” Hawk Harrelson chalked up Aaron Rowand getting hit by a pitch in the fifth inning to the center fielder’s approach at the plate. Well, Rowand did get hit by a lot of pitches in 2005, 21 of them, to be exact. Only Shea Hillenbrand of the Blue Jays got hit by more that season. This one that caught Rowand in the hand looked like it hurt like hell.

— Remember when the Indians played at The Jake? Good times.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

April 10, 2005: The White Sox got shut down by the reigning AL Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, who allowed just two runs in his seven innings, striking out 11. The Twins tagged Buehrle for five runs, including four in the third inning alone. Torii Hunter’s three-run homer was the big blow in that frame. White Sox lose, 5-2, drop to 4-2.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the April 13, 2005, game against the Indians, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s an extra-inning affair with some heroics from Juan Uribe.

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Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

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USA Today

Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

Early in the 2005 season, there was one White Sox player that fans thought was on thin ice and another who actually was on thin ice.

Despite playing great defense at third base, Joe Crede hadn’t exactly won over the fan base yet. He hit just .239 in 2004 with a .717 OPS in his second full major league season. He was already 27 and the White Sox had used their first round draft pick in 2004 to select hot shot third baseman Josh Fields, who was already considered an MLB Top 100 prospect.

So when Crede got off to a 3-for-21 start in the team’s first six games in ’05, there were already calls for his benching.

It wasn't going to happen. Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen were prepared to be patient with Crede. They seemed more concerned with closer Shingo Takatsu.

Takatsu had taken the South Side by storm in 2004, entering games in the ninth inning to standing ovations and the sound of a gong playing over the speakers at U.S. Cellular Field. After taking over the closing duties in June, Takatsu converted 19-of-20 save opportunities in his first year with the White Sox.

Still, there were concerns that his unique frisbee style of pitching wouldn't last once teams saw Takatsu more than once. Those concerns were heightened when the Indians tagged him for three solo home runs on April 7, 2005, leading to the White Sox’s first loss of the season. Takatsu’s only blown save in 2004 also came to the Indians and Guillen was already voicing his concerns.

“I might not use him against (the Indians),” Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. “They have a good left-handed lineup. Right now, he’s going to be there no matter what. We’re going to see the next couple days.”

It wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence, especially considering the White Sox had already played three straight close games against the Indians, including two one-run victories.

But that was the situation as the White Sox went to Cleveland with a 4-2 record for the Indians’ home opener. Freddy Garcia took the mound for his second start of the season, while Kevin Millwood countered for the 3-3 Indians.

Here was Guillen’s lineup:

LF Scott Podsednik
2B Tadahito Iguchi
DH Carl Everett
1B Paul Konerko
RF Jermaine Dye
CF Aaron Rowand
SS Pablo Ozuna
C Chris Widger
3B Joe Crede

The White Sox-Indians game from Apr. 11, 2005 will air Saturday at 4 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago. For the full White Sox Rewind schedule from the 2005 season, click here.