The talk of White Sox camp in these early days of spring training has revolved around October — the end of it, to be specific — and what sort of hardware this team could be lifting when that point in the calendar rolls around.
It's "World Series this" and "World Series that" emanating from Camelback Ranch. That should be no surprise, of course, with the White Sox legitimate championship contenders heading into the 2021 season. They boast arguably the finest collection of talent in the American League, big-time offseason additions like Lance Lynn and Liam Hendriks joining a dynamic core that made the leap out of rebuilding mode during an ascendant 2020 season.
But while everyone else is spending February eyeing October, one veteran member of these White Sox wants to make sure they don't forget about the many months in between.
"It's always good to have high expectations," catcher Yasmani Grandal said Thursday, "but we need to understand that the World Series is six months away or so. We need to stay in the moment. We need to understand that, yes, we can look forward to that, but we need to make sure we're in the here (and now), we're working towards a goal, we're not just thinking about it."
While much of the focus has been on the winning experience added to the roster this offseason — newcomers Lynn and Adam Eaton own World Series rings, and new manager Tony La Russa owns three — that influx started an offseason prior, when Grandal and Dallas Keuchel came aboard. Grandal hasn't won a World Series, but he's been to six straight postseasons, including trips that ended in World Series defeats with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 and 2018.
So Grandal is speaking from experience. He knows what it takes to reach the Fall Classic.
"In order to get to the World Series," he said, "there's a lot of checkpoints we need to get to first and understand that we need to keep on getting better as we go on.
"I've been in different organizations that there's a plan and we knew that, yes, the World Series is where we want to get to, but we have to make sure that we get into the playoffs, we have to make sure that we take back the Central, win the division, get into the playoffs and then we go from there. Learn about what happened last year in the playoffs and then apply it to this year. And then we can move forward.
"If we're able to do that — we concentrate, we focus on each and every single goal that we have — we should be fine."
Grandal's caution against putting the cart before the horse might contrast with all the uber-hopeful World Series talk swirling around camp. But certainly the catcher believes in this group. He raved about all the young talent present when he signed his four-year contract in November 2019, continuing to do so to the present, hyping Dylan Cease as a potential future Cy Young candidate.
Grandal watched as the majority of his teammates played playoff baseball for the first time last fall. And even though they won just one of the three games they played in the brief series against the Oakland Athletics, Grandal believes they're better prepared for what awaits in any quest for a ring.
"There are a lot of guys who had never been in it," he said. "For the first time in the postseason for a lot of guys, there's a lot of pressure, there's a lot of anxiety that you don't know how to deal with, that you don't really think about, but it's there. Some guys might have fear, you don't know, just because they're putting pressure on themselves just because it's the playoffs.
"It's a learning curve, it's another step towards that. Now this year, once they get into the postseason, they already know what it feels like, they already know how to deal with the anxiety and the pressure and once you do that, it comes down to just playing the game."