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.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.