"A very exciting day around here," Rick Hahn said to start his beginning-of-spring-training press conference, "one that we've been all eagerly awaiting for, some would say several months, and others would say several years."
Indeed, the latter seems true. This is what the rebuild was building toward.
The White Sox are championship contenders, so says their roster, which might be the best, on paper, in the American League. Their expectations are accordant. They are expressing a desire to win the World Series.
"As we sit here today, the goal is to win a World Series championship," Hahn said. "So if we fall short of that, it would be a disappointment.
"Of all days, especially on the first day of camp, not to mention what we've all been through for the last several years preparing to get to this point, I think having championship aspirations is to be expected and, to a man, what people want."
There was no such firm stating of expectations from the general manager at this time last year, hopeful but hardly certain how things would progress following the 89 losses of 2019. But the 2020 season served as a no-doubt ascent for the White Sox, out of rebuilding mode and into contending mode.
And so now, there's no doubt about what the expectations should be, either.
Keep in mind that this is the time of year when such bold proclamations get made. After all, "our goal is to win the World Series" will probably be uttered by someone on all 30 major league teams this spring.
But the White Sox are, for the first time in a long time, legitimate preseason championship contenders. The rebuild can't be deemed a success until a trophy is brought back to the South Side. But another milestone has been reached on the "what the White Sox have been waiting for" timeline.
"It makes all of us happy for me to be able sit here, four years and a few months after the Chris Sale trade and legitimately have World Series aspirations," Hahn said. "That's not wish-casting. That's not us (seeing things) through rose-colored glasses. That's realistic. That's how the league views this team.
"At the same time ... it's time to get to work. And we all know we haven't accomplished anything until there's another banner above Guaranteed Rate Field."
Staff ace Lucas Giolito went as far as saying Tuesday that the word "rebuild" is no longer part of the White Sox vocabulary. We can debate the semantics of whether the process truly lasts until either a championship is won or the window closes, but semantics they'll remain.
The truth is the White Sox are no longer among baseball's rebuilders, and the sights are set no lower than the ultimate prize.
That means that even though the franchise has seen just three playoff games — and just one playoff victory — since 2008, reaching October is no longer enough. The bar is set much higher than that.
"Making the postseason was extremely important. It was a good experience for everybody. It was helpful to build for the future," Hahn said. "But the fact that they left that experience unsatisfied and hungry for more and with loftier goals, all the better. That’s what we are looking for here."
Hahn has alluded to banners and parades and trophies for years now, and plenty were quick to tell him to pump the brakes when the big league club was busy piling up 279 losses from 2017 to 2019. But though the 2020 season didn't end the way the team wanted it to, not by a long shot, last year provided evidence that Hahn wasn't off his rocker when discussing building a team that could compete for championships for years.
Giolito threw a no-hitter and flirted with perfection in the postseason and was one of what is now a quartet of White Sox pitchers that finished in the top 10 in the AL Cy Young vote. José Abreu was José Abreu, consistent and productive and a leader off the field; he just happened to win an MVP for it this time. Tim Anderson showed his batting-title season was no fluke, Eloy Jiménez was quietly one of the best hitters in the league, and Luis Robert dazzled with his five-tool display, winning a Gold Glove and finishing as runner-up in the AL Rookie of the Year vote despite slumping at the plate for half his rookie season.
And that's a brief summary leaving out much about this exciting collection of players.
Finally, though, because it required time, the White Sox talk of future glory is starting to be backed up. There's not much more convincing that needs to be done. This is a team that deserves its contender status.
"World Series or bust," as hitting coach Frank Menechino put it during the offseason?
Sounds about right.