The White Sox dugout was mostly cleared out by the time the Astros gathered on the mound for a picture on Tuesday.
Scattered boos from the emptying Guaranteed Rate Field stands fell on the American League Division Series champions, who had donned hats and T-shirts that announced their victory. The Astros had eliminated the White Sox from the playoffs in four games.
Next, the Astros would head to Houston to host the first game of the AL Championship Series. And the White Sox would head into the offseason, earlier than they had hoped.
“You play 162 games to experience these playoff moments,” southpaw Carlos Rodón said after the White Sox’ 10-1 loss Tuesday. “We have the taste for it, and I think we're going to be pretty hungry trying to get back to where we're at and exceed where we were this year.”
White Sox outfielder Eloy Jiménez had said something similar two weeks before, reflecting on last season’s Wild Card Series exit.
“First experience in the playoffs for us, and it tastes good,” he recounted, “not going to lie.”
Last season, they were the new kids on the block, making their first postseason appearance since 2008, after the franchise committed to a rebuild starting the winter of 2016.
This year, they had their sights set higher, talking in spring training about World Series aspirations.
“I like the fact though, that from the start, they knew they still had something to prove,” general manager Rick Hahn said early this month. “Whether it was individually about what they are capable of doing as players, but more importantly about this team's capability of winning a championship. I think that has served us well through the adversity, and is going to serve us well over the next several weeks as well.”
The White Sox, however, won only one game in the best-of-five ALDS, the same number of playoff wins that they logged the year prior.
“I don't think anybody is going to forget (Tuesday) and Sunday night, just what it was like,” White Sox rookie Gavin Sheets said of the White Sox’ two postseason games at a packed Guaranteed Rate Field, an experience they didn’t get in 2020. “The crowd, the blackout, the support. That burns a fire, and that makes you want to do it again and with a different outcome.
“Last year, we got to the Wild Card. This year, we won the division. We're just going to continue to grow.”
The White Sox are set to return most of their team next year. On their playoff roster, only Rodón, utility man Leury García, outfielder Billy Hamilton and reliver Ryan Tepera are on the precipice of free agency – which, of course, doesn’t guarantee that they’ll leave.
Reliever Craig Kimbrel and second baseman César Hernández have 2022 club options, which Hahn cited as part of both players’ draw when the White Sox acquired them at the trade deadline. But that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll stay.
Still, the nucleus of the team is poised to stay intact.
“We accomplished the first goal (winning the division),” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “But we are disappointed to get one win and not two more. So, bittersweet.”