On Thursday afternoon, the Chicago White Sox accomplished something they’d never done before in franchise history. They reached 86 wins for the first time since 2010 and won their first division title since 2008. They also accomplished something else they’d never done before in their entire franchise history dating back to 1901. They made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons!
It’s pretty amazing the White Sox hadn’t accomplished this before, as they were the only team in the MLB up to this point (save for the Marlins) who hadn’t. If you look at the Sox history, it’s not that surprising they haven’t done this. They had a great team in 1917, going 100-54 and winning their second World Series. However, the wartime conditions of 1918 interrupted their dynasty.
They recouped in 1919 to capture the AL pennant but after throwing the 1919 World Series, eight of their players were banned for life in the last week of the1920 season, causing them to finish in third place and be a bad team for a foreseeable future.
The Chicago White Sox became good again in the 1950s, having an impressive 17 straight winning seasons from 1951-1967. Yet, in only one of those years (1959) did they win the pennant, mostly because they were stuck behind the New York Yankees.
The Chicago White Sox dominated the AL West in 1983 but that team was something of a fluke, as they fell short 6 games in 1982 and were straight-up bad in 1984. The Chicago White Sox won the West in 1993. After moving to the AL Central, they continued to be one of the best teams in baseball in 1994, until the player’s strike ended the season.
Some say the Cleveland Indians were more talented (who were just a game behind the White Sox for first place at the time), but even if they passed up the Sox, Chicago would still have been able to grab a wild card spot. Unfortunately, after that season, ace pitcher Jack McDowell left in free agency and the White Sox were bad again.
The 2005 White Sox were World Champions. Despite having a good team, they failed to make the playoffs in 2006 as the Twins and Tigers were too much for them. Under the current system, the White Sox would have been the second wild-card team but that didn’t exist back then. They then started a pattern of being bad in odd years and good in even years which is not a recipe for back-to-back appearances.
The 2008 White Sox finally beat out the Twins for another division title. After that season, Kenny Williams attempted to “retool” the White Sox by trading away Nick Swisher and Javier Vazquez. He also let Orlando Cabrera and Joe Crede leave in free agency, both of whom played for the Minnesota Twins in 2009.
In hindsight, William’s retooling was a mistake as it cost them a chance at winning the weak AL Central in 2009 and they would not see the playoffs again until the shortened 2020 season as a wild card.
The Chicago White Sox are finally in the playoffs for a second straight season.
In 2021, the White Sox finally changed all of that, making the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time ever and winning a rare division title on top of that. Thanks in part to a weak AL Central, the White Sox were able to overcome a truckload of injuries and be the first team to clinch the division, despite being a mediocre 32-32 ballclub in the second half.
In many past failure seasons, like 2006 and 2012, all the White Sox needed to do was just tread water and they would make the playoffs but they failed to do so and collapsed at the end. This White Sox team, unlike many others, managed to hold on and play .500 ball. The help of a dominant first half pushed them into the playoffs.