White Sox

White Sox thinking big: 'It's not just get to the playoffs, it's win a World Series'

White Sox thinking big: 'It's not just get to the playoffs, it's win a World Series'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Even throughout an overwhelming success of an offseason, Rick Hahn has been wary about setting specific expectations for the 2020 season.

Not to worry, Rick. Your manager and your players have taken care of that for you.

Like he's been talking about since the end of the 2019 campaign, Rick Renteria is placing playoff expectations on this year's team. He did it all offseason long, and now that spring has sprung and pitchers and catchers have reported to Camelback Ranch, he's back at it.

"We want to play to win. We want to play to put ourselves in the position to have a chance to get to the dance. That’s what it’s about, ultimately," Renteria said Wednesday. "If people think I’m scared to say that, you’re looking at the wrong guy."

But is simply making the postseason thinking too small? If you think so, then allow James McCann to become your spirit animal.

"If I said we weren’t trying to win a World Series, then I’d be lying," McCann said. "You go into every season with an expectation to win. This season is obviously no different, but there is a little more in regards to the moves that were made in the offseason.

"It’s win now, and it’s not just get to the playoffs, it’s win a World Series."

Now, that's not exactly atypical talk for this time of year. You'll probably read similar quotes from all across the desert and down in Florida as teams get their camps going this week.

But the point isn't that talk of winning has come to White Sox camp. It's that such talk doesn't sound so crazy anymore.

Plotting a parade route down Michigan Avenue is putting the cart before the horse, but playoff expectations are indeed realistic for a team that got so many breakout performances from its young core players in 2019 and added a ton of winning experience in the offseason that followed.

Before Yasmani Grandal, before Dallas Keuchel, before Edwin Encarnacion and Gio Gonzalez and Steve Cishek, Lucas Giolito talked about about how the White Sox wouldn't be living up to their potential if they didn't make the playoffs in 2020. Now, all those guys are part of this roster and Giolito's words don't seem like such a stretch anymore.

"I think it’s very realistic because the fact that the young guys, we’ve been growing and learning for a few years now to the point where, ‘OK, we’re ready to put it together,’ and now we have a bunch more help thanks to the acquisitions this offseason," Giolito said Wednesday. "I think for us, it’s just about everyone buying in, being on the same page with the direction that we’re going and just playing consistent baseball. I think that’s what’s been missing the past few years, just that consistency.

"Obviously the talent’s there. But just coming to the field every day saying, ‘We’re going to win this ballgame,’ and knowing that, just having that confidence.

"I think that there’s a lot of winners on this team, a lot of guys that are not content with just being here and just playing and, ‘Oh, the season’s over, get ‘em next year.’ That’s not the vibe over here. We’re about winning, it just hasn’t happened yet.

"So now the big thing — I think spring training will be very important for us — is shifting the focus from what it’s been the past few years, the development and getting guys going, to now, ‘OK, we’re here and we’re going to play to win every single day.’ And I think that’s going to be huge in us playing good, consistent baseball and winning games."

This all might sound premature to some. The White Sox lost 89 games last season. The year prior, they lost 100. A lot has to go right for these White Sox to reach their potential with so many question marks scattered throughout the roster. What will they get from Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech in the starting rotation? What will Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal do in their first tastes of the major leagues? Will Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada stay productive if their good luck from a season ago diminishes?

But Hahn, for all his desire to remain focused on the long-term vision and preach that the contention window will open soon even if it isn't necessarily open yet, is thrilled to hear his manager and players set their sights so high.

"I think it’s important that the eye level be raised. Whether you are exactly in a position to win or not, I think the raising of the eye level comes first, if that makes sense," Hahn said. "Putting the expectation in there that this is a team ready to win and we expect to win or we are a playoff-caliber club, it raises the focus for everyone around there.

"We love what Grandal and Keuchel and Encarnacion bring between the lines. But as I’ve mentioned before, each of them have been in the playoffs at least four out of the last five years and a couple of them each of the last five years.

"There’s something about being part of a winning culture and the players reinforcing what the coaching staff is preaching that we think is of great benefit in terms of having those guys around and creating that winning culture and raising the eye level and letting the winning follow."

Going from 89 losses to a World Series championship would be some kind of jump. While parades and rings are the ultimate goal of this rebuilding project, it doesn't mean they have to happen this season. Hahn has set his team up for long-term success as opposed to a short-term burst. The Minnesota Twins are still quite good, not to mention the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. And remember all those question marks?

But what's not a question is how these White Sox players are feeling right now. Spring has sprung and so has the era of high expectations on the South Side.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: The untouchable Jon Garland

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: The untouchable Jon Garland

Jon Garland was on absolute fire to start the 2005 season.

On May 1, he shut out the Detroit Tigers. It was a sensational performance. It was also a carbon copy of his previous outing against the Oakland A’s. Both games featured no runs, four hits and no walks against Garland in nine innings. If anything, he was better against the Tigers, striking out six hitters as opposed to the three strikeouts he had six days earlier.

These back-to-back shutouts capped an incredible start to the campaign for Garland, who was coming off a solid but unspectacular 2004 season. He finished that campaign with a 4.89 ERA. This was already his sixth big league season. In his first five years in the majors, he owned 4.68 ERA in 149 games.

Well, he was a different kind of pitcher in 2005. In his first five starts, he had a 1.38 ERA in 39 innings, an average of nearly eight innings per outing. He had nearly three times as many strikeouts as he had allowed runs.

To close out that game against the A’s, he retired the final 13 batters he faced. In this one, he retired 15 of the final 16 hitters he faced.

The dude was practically untouchable.

And he still knows it.


Even Cy Young seasons have their blips, and his streak of stellar starts was snapped the next time out. He allowed six runs in 5.2 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. The White Sox still won that game, though, and won each of Garland’s first eight starts, 12 of his first 14 starts and went 20-12 overall in games he pitched during the regular season.

But those blips were few and far between in 2005. In only nine of his 32 starts did he give up more than three earned runs. By season’s end, his ERA was significantly higher than it was at the outset of the campaign, 3.50, but he remained a workhorse and averaged just a hair under seven innings an outing on the year.

Garland made the AL All-Star team and finished sixth in the Cy Young vote in 2005. He allowed just four earned runs in 16 innings over a pair of postseason starts.

He had a similarly fantastic stretch from late June through the month of July, but he perhaps never looked as good as he did during this electric start to the season.

After tossing these back-to-back shutouts, Garland only went the distance once more during the 2005 regular season, in his first start of September against these same Tigers. He obviously was one of the four consecutive complete games against the Los Angeles Angels in the ALCS, but he allowed two runs in that game.

White Sox starting pitching was phenomenal in 2005, and Garland was no exception. This was Garland at his best.


What else?

— The play of the game in this 8-0 White Sox rout came courtesy of “Come On” Timo Perez, who laid down a suicide squeeze with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the third inning. Tigers starter Wil Ledezma got himself in a real jam after getting two of the first three hitters of the inning out. He hit Paul Konerko with a pitch and walked Aaron Rowand to load the bases. Perez followed with a perfectly executed bunt down the first-base line, catching the Tigers off guard and bringing in the White Sox second run of the afternoon.


Before that crazy play, Perez used a bunt to help bring home the White Sox first run. In the second inning, a sacrifice bunt followed up a no-out balk that advanced Rowand to second. Perez moved him up another 90 feet, and Rowand scored on Joe Crede’s sacrifice fly.

— Perez’s May 1, 2005, excellence wasn’t limited to bunts. He also homered. At this point, I can only assume 2005 ended with Timo Perez as the American League MVP.


— The benches cleared in the fourth inning. As mentioned, Konerko was plunked in the third, and after two quick outs, a pitch got away from Garland and flew behind Rondell White. White was not pleased and started walking toward the mound with bat in hand. Everyone left their respective dugout and stood around on the field, as most baseball dust ups go. Hawk Harrelson: “What is it, Rondell? Our guy gets drilled and you can't get hit?”

— All apologies to Pedro Lopez, but who is Pedro Lopez? This was the major league debut for the White Sox infielder and one of the two major league games he played in in 2005. He continued the trend of solid performances from the White Sox bench, with a hit, a run and an RBI in this game. But the majority of his 2005 was spent in the minor leagues. Those two games were the only big league action he saw with the White Sox. He returned to the majors two years later as a Cincinnati Red, getting 45 at-bats in 14 games.

— Lopez wearing No. 62 instantly brought Jose Quintana to mind, but Quintana is one of a whopping six players to wear that jersey number since Lopez did in 2005: Ehren Wassermann, Bret Prinz, Jack Egbert, Eduardo Escobar, Quintana and Dustin Garneau.

— Ledezma balked twice in this game and five times in his career. The record for the most balks in a single season belongs to Dave Stewart, who had 16 of them in 1988. The record for the most balks in a career belongs to one-time White Sox hurler Steve Carlton, who got charged with 90!

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 26, 2005: The White Sox and A’s traded back-to-back four-run innings, with the South Siders on top by three heading into the bottom of the seventh. But Oakland’s bats produced five runs in their final two trips to the plate against Mark Buehrle, Damaso Marte and Luis Vizcaino. White Sox lose, 9-7, fall to 16-5.

April 27, 2005: Konerko drove in a run in the first inning, but it was all the White Sox got across the plate. The A’s tied the game against Freddy Garcia in the fourth and got a walk-off single from Marco Scutaro in the ninth to grab a series win. White Sox lose, 2-1, fall to 16-6.

April 29, 2005: Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, the White Sox rallied against Troy Percival, getting a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Rowand to force extras. But a Nook Logan triple off Shingo Takatsu in the 11th broke the tie. White Sox lose, 3-2, fall to 16-7.

April 30, 2005: The White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak with a three-run seventh inning. Crede, Scott Podsednik and Tadahito Iguchi all drove in runs in that frame to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead. White Sox win, 4-3, improve to 17-7.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Saturday, when you can catch the May 4, 2005, game against the Royals, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Crede and A.J. Pierzynski both leave the yard in this one.

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Olympic gold medalist Ryan Held details his long road to White Sox fandom

Olympic gold medalist Ryan Held details his long road to White Sox fandom

After wearing a Ryan Arcidiacono jersey at a swim meet earlier this year, Olympic swimmer and Springfield resident Ryan Held appeared on the Bulls Talk podcast to talk about his fandom.

But he's not just a Bulls fan. He also cheers for the White Sox. His path to becoming a Sox fan was one based on trial and error. 

"Being in Springfield, (Illinois, where Held resides) we're only an hour and a half away from St. Louis," Held said. "So growing up, we went to a lot of Cardinals games. It was probably only my senior year in high school, end of my high school career, that we went up to Chicago. We went to Cubs games and everything, and then this past summer of 2019, I was talking to my parents and I said 'Hey, why don't we ever go to a Sox game?' And they were like, 'Well, I don't know, we just never have,' and so we went up to a Sox game, went to this little restaurant called Turtle's Bar and Grill, right across the street, had an absolute blast.

"Went to the game, had an absolute blast, and it was like, 'Oh man, this is awesome.' Because everyone's a Cubs fan. People who aren't even from Chicago are Cubs fans. They're not true fans. But Sox fans are live, breathe and die Southside baseball. And I like that commitment to the team way more. And ever since then, I was like, 'I don't want to support the other team more. I don't want to support the other state and the Cardinals, I want to support my home state of Illinois and the White Sox.'"

Held is on board with the White Sox 2020 sloan, "Change the Game." He tweets about the Sox and Bulls regularly, and said he tries to watch every game he can, even while training for the Olympic Games.

He talked about what he was looking forward to seeing out of the Sox in the upcoming 2020 season. 

"I wanted to see Tim Anderson just go crazy again. He was one of the players I remembered doing really well in the games I watched. And he's from Tuscaloosa, Alabama," he said. "I feel like I've had this unknowing Sox fandom over my shoulder. Because I went to school in Raleigh, North Carolina, where they have the Winston-Salem Dash, which is a Sox affiliate, and they have the Charlotte Knights, which is a Sox affiliate. And then I moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama which is just outside of Birmingham, and the Barons are another Sox affiliate.

"So I feel like the universe was pointing me in this direction to become a Sox fan."

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