The White Sox are in the spotlight. And it’s for all the right reasons.
In a season marked by COVID-19 outbreaks, seven-inning doubleheaders and no fans, the White Sox have emphatically turned the page on their three-and-a-half-year rebuild. Shattering team and major league records, the offense is looking more like the South Side Hit Men, and the pitching staff is, dare I say, flashing signs of that memorable season in 2005.
Just 12 days ago, the White Sox sat at 10-11 after being swept in a doubleheader by the St. Louis Cardinals, who hadn’t played in two and a half weeks. But much as life has gone for everyone in 2020, one week can feel like one month. And in a season like no other before it, nothing rings truer than the present.
Since that lackluster performance on Aug. 15, the White Sox have catapulted themselves into not just playoff contention but the national spotlight.
It began with a back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs against St. Louis on Aug. 16. Then, José Abreu didn’t just make his mark on the Crosstown series, he did so by tying a major league record, hitting a home run in four consecutive at-bats en route to his fifth AL Player of the Week honor. But who knew it was only the start? Lucas Giolito’s no-hitter on Tuesday against Pittsburgh capped off a wild nine-day stretch that has not only Chicago on notice but the rest of Major League Baseball, too.
And make no mistake, at 19-12, the White Sox have not only earned the spotlight, but they’re ready for it.
“I’m sure those guys enjoy the notoriety that they’re getting,” manager Rick Renteria said. “They deserve it. They deserve all the accolades that they’re getting. They’ve worked extremely hard, and they’ve continued to evolve as baseball players and as a team, and I’m glad that people are noticing them because they deserve it.”
Though the White Sox have players with postseason experience and success, the core that they built around is getting a taste of winning for the first time. Giolito’s no-hitter, the latest of historic feats produced in August, has put the White Sox front and center in baseball’s limelight.
“I think that we know what we’re capable of, we know what we can do on a baseball field,” Giolito said. “I think it’s fun. I think it’s exciting that people are starting to pay attention.”
Dallas Keuchel was signed in the offseason for times like these. He’s been a go-to source both on the mound, and in the clubhouse, even holding a team meeting after a loss to the Tigers on August 10th. Since then, the White Sox are 11-3, and Keuchel says the attention is warranted.
“Eventually at some point there was going to have to be some national attention,” said Keuchel after earning his team leading 5th win on Wednesday.
“I think most of these guys are built for that anyway. We’ve got some pretty flamboyant individuals on this team and rightfully so, they know how good they are. That’s why sometimes guys like myself are so hard on them. We all let ourselves go sometimes and get lost in the moment, but if we’re able to kind of corral that and harness it in, we got 4 or 5 guys in this lineup that are potential MVP candidates and that’s pretty scary.”
Renteria has earned it, too. After 284 losses in three trying seasons on the South Side, this is what the White Sox envisioned when Rick Hahn declared a rebuild and hired Renteria for the manager's post in October 2016. But don’t expect a change in Renteria because outside expectations have shifted.
“I always call it noise, whether it’s good or bad, it’s just noise," Renteria said. "All of them are going to deal with it differently. I think we expect them to handle success humbly, continue to work, handle failure humbly, knowing that hopefully tomorrow is another day and continue to grind. If we try to live on highs and lows of everybody that’s around us, at times (that) can be debilitating.”
The players have embraced Renteria’s mantra, as well. That should come as no surprise for players like Giolito, who took his share of lumps prior to becoming one of baseball’s best pitchers.
“We have a job to do. We come. We do our job. We get our work in. We go out there and try to win as many ballgames as possible, and that pretty much takes care of itself," Giolito said. "I don’t think that any of us are reading too much into that.”
In other words, while this is new territory for the White Sox, they’re not acting like it.
While fans and those around the country are buying into and building off of the hype, Renteria & Co. remain even keeled, setting their sights on the grand prize. And, if perhaps they get sidetracked, Renteria, who prefers to let the players police themselves, will step in if need be.
“Honestly I don’t have any conversations in regards to how they should deal with or not deal with certain situations unless it becomes an issue," Renteria said. "Then in which case I can share my 58-year-old perspective and life experience.
"But I hope they continue to be very balanced young men and they go about their business, regardless of what’s going on around them.”