Meanwhile…on the South Side: Hope Springs in Spring Training

A weekly visit with our neighbors to the south

Ed note: While this site’s primary devotion is obvious, forces have conspired to send a Cubs fan or two seeking other topics of interest. Whether it’s the team’s lack of movement this winter after two disappointing seasons or the inability to watch them on Marquee Sports Network, the buzz isn’t quite the same.

On the other side of town, however, young players are being signed to extensions and big free agents are being brought in to help. It’s an exciting time to be a White Sox fan, or just to be a baseball fan in Chicago if you’re able to drum up a little agnosticism.

So when Dr. Kevin Kaufmann, host of the History of the United States podcast, approached me with a proposal to pen a weekly Sox column, I gave him an immediate green light. That’s got nothing to do with a dire need for content or my fears that the Cubs will give us nothing to write about and everything to do with enjoying a different POV.

You may not have noticed, but there is quite a buzz around the White Sox coming into the 2020 season. Manager Rick Renteria (you remember him! the guy that got whacked for Joe Maddon) is vocally calling for his team to make the playoffs. General manger Rick Hahn is trying to temper expectations, but there is a distinct twinkle in his eye. After three years in the rebuild wilderness, not to mention the 11-year playoff absence, the White Sox look poised to make a jump this year.

How big of a jump? The first winning record since 2012? Wild card? Division title? World Series? It’s spring! Time to dare to dream!

This is unfamiliar territory as a White Sox fan. The last time I was this excited, this hopeful, was heading into the 2006 season. The White Sox won the World Series in 2005 (no, really, it happened.) They traded for Jim Thome and many of the key players from that title team were coming back. Even though they won 90 games that year, they didn’t make the postseason. The following season was a disaster and, while getting back to the postseason in 2008 was a blast, the strategy of that year dominated the better part of the next seven seasons.

The Sox would build teams with longshot or post-prime signings, reach .500, maybe a little better, and figure on reaching the playoffs with a little luck. Unfortunately, it never happened.

The other factor in those years was watching the Royals and the Cubs completely strip it down only to come out on top. With each successful season from divisional and crosstown rivals, the call for a rebuild of our own got louder and louder. Finally, the die was cast with the Chris Sale trade and a full rebuild was on.

Even if prospects like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez (thanks!) were acquired via trade, it still feels like a homegrown effort. The pitching rotation looks solid at the very least and it could be one of the best in the American League if Carlos Rodon and Michael Kopech come back healthy. I’m practically giddy and I haven’t even mentioned Luis Robert, Tim Anderson and the signings of Dallas Keuchel and Yasmani Grandal.

Of course, it could all go pear-shaped. If the White Sox come out of the gate and have a horrible April, those chilly May games will have crowds that could fit at a bus stop. But I’m not thinking of that right now. Instead, I’m anticipating meaningful baseball in September, purchasing potential playoff tickets (I still have mine from 2004), and chilly October nights at Sox Park.

The best kind of chilly nights in baseball.

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