The White Sox are in a situation recent memory is unfamiliar with as they enter the 2017 season devoid of hopes for contention. Because of this, it would be foolish to judge the successes or failures of the team based solely on wins and losses, but instead look at individual growth of certain players, trade value increasing or decreasing, or players cementing themselves as having a future with the organization, in order to better gauge how successful this season will be. We’re taking a look at every aspect of the organization, from the prospects, to the players on the 25-man roster to begin the season, to the team as a whole, trying our best to answer the question: How do you define success with this team as currently constructed? Thursday, we looked at the prospects, and Friday, we dissected the 25-man roster. Today, we’ll look at the team as a whole.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this question since Spring Training began (approximately) six months ago.
We’re entering unchartered waters with the White Sox, at least in terms of recent history. Trading the team’s two best players, using the world “rebuild,” and openly acknowledging the fact that they don’t have eyes on contention this season is something we’ve never really experienced.
That’s almost laughable to think about. The White Sox haven’t made the playoffs since the year of my 21st birthday. I turned 30 two weeks ago. In the entirety of those 30 years, they’ve made the playoffs four times, and never in back-to-back seasons. And yet, every season during that period, the end goal was contention, or, at the very least, they didn’t say publicly that it wasn’t the end goal.
So what’s the end goal in 2017?
We’ve look at how the prospects can find success, as well as what would make the season successful for each player on the 25-man roster. But when October rolls around and the season is over and the White Sox have won 65 or 70 or 75 games, is there any way to view this season as a success? And, more specifically, what’s going to make the team worth watching for 162 games?
The answer to the first question, in the vaguest of terms, is progress. The individual successes and failures of the players that make up the roster will vary throughout the season, but when it’s all said and done the White Sox should have a better idea of who has a shot at contributing to the next contender. And the more of those types they are able to identify, the better.
The second question is more difficult on the surface. Watching the losses pile up, day after day as the season drags on, can be deflating. Every James Shields pitch or Avisail Garcia at-bat will be depressing. But, if you’ll allow me a moment of optimism, guess what? We’ve seen this all before. And those innings and those ABs are no longer hurting the White Sox playoff chances. Instead, they’re just filling the void while the building blocks — Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, eventually Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez — put in the work that will eventually make them, if all goes as planned, those individual part that make up the next contender.
Success for the White Sox in 2017 will be defined by the evolution we see in those players and others. Some won’t pan out, some will join them, and some may emerge from unexpected places. But the White Sox have started building something new and unique to this fanbase, and 2017 is the ground floor being built. If by the end of the season that’s been completed and maybe a couple more stories have been added to the base, that’d be a pretty solid beginning.
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