The Chicago White Sox have bigger things in mind than a playoff appearance.
The Chicago White Sox are going to the postseason! It has been 4,370 days since this phrase has been uttered by White Sox fans. With a 4-3 victory over the division-rival Minnesota Twins on Thursday afternoon, it finally rings true once again. While fans were rightfully excited, White Sox players looked like they had just won another regular-season game. After beating Minnesota to clinch a series victory and secure a playoff spot, the team went down the high five lines, packed up their things, and departed into the clubhouse. Making the playoffs is simply business. Now the fun begins.
“It was a fun moment,” Eloy Jimenez said after the game, “but we just need to save it for when we win the division”.
Twelve years ago the White Sox also beat the Twins to clinch a playoff spot but it was a much different scene. Brain Anderson made a diving catch in center field and a dogpile ensued while a sea of black erupted behind them. The White Sox were the last team to sneak into the postseason in 2008. It took 163 games. The current version of the White Sox is the first team in the American League to clinch a spot. While the 2020 White Sox did not have the luxury of enjoying the moment with fans they still have more meaningful games to play before the postseason ramps up.
They still have a chance to win the division. They have a chance to clinch the number one seed. Luis Robert has a chance to win rookie of the year. Jose Abreu has a chance to win the MVP. Tim Anderson has the chance to steal votes from him along with winning his second consecutive batting title.
The main difference between the 2008 team and the 2020 team is that the 2020 White Sox expected to go to the postseason. They have bigger things in mind. The goal is not individual accolades, or a playoff berth, or a division title, or even the number one seed. It is to be the last team standing with a ring on their finger. The extra stuff that comes along with it is just icing on the cake. As Tim Anderson put it in his postgame press conference: “We want the bigger goal, these are just steps along the way”.
Lucas Giolito offered a similar sentiment: “for us, the ultimate goal is to win the World Series, straight up”. A World Series title is no longer an ambitious pre-season goal, it is beginning to look like a realistic expectation. The White Sox are white-hot owning a 22-5 record in their last 27 games. You want to be playing your best baseball as you are rolling into the playoffs and the White Sox are doing just that.
The offense is elite. Jose Abreu is the first White Sox player since Frank Thomas to have 51 RBIs in the team’s first 50 games. He also leads the league in hits, RBIs, total bases, and extra-base hits. Tim Anderson leads the lead in batting average. Both players lead the MVP conversation. It is rare for a team to boast two MVP caliber hitters in the same lineup. The lineup also includes rookies, Luis Robert who owns a 2.1 WAR, and Nick Madrigal who refuses to strikeout.
The pitching staff has quietly been one of the best in baseball this season. Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel have been as advertised this season. Lucas Giolito tossed a no-hitter against the Pirates while Keuchel has posted the second-best ERA in the AL. Meanwhile, rookie, Dane Dunning has emerged as a reliable third option. The White Sox have won the first five games he has pitched. Closer Alex Colome holds down the back end of the bullpen and guys such as Matt Foster, Codi Heuer, and Evan Marshall and have stepped up as high leverage options. The return of Aaron Bummer will only strengthen an already solid bullpen.
The depth of the White Sox was also on full display in the series against the Twins. Adam Engel had a clutch pinch-hit single to put the White Sox ahead in game one of the series. Backup catcher James McCann had two RBIs and a home run in game two of the series while midseason acquisition Jarrod Dyson had multiple hits and stolen bases in the series finale.
Championship caliber teams have layers of good players and the White Sox have just that. Buckle up White Sox fans, unlike in 2008 making the postseason is not the end of the road. This team is just getting started.