A funny thing happened on the way to the playoffs: Minnesota brought in a Bringer of Rain. (@680TheFan)
A funny thing happened on the way to the Chicago White Sox winning the Central Division in 2020: The Minnesota Twins went out and signed big-hitting third baseman Josh Donaldson to a mega-deal bigger than any individual deal the White Sox have ever shelled out.
The resulting storm on social media led me to think that many Sox fans, while certainly excited about the prospects of the coming season, are thinking with their hearts instead of with their heads.
Let me be clear about something first: High expectations are a good thing. They help drive someone or something to work and strain to be the best. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and sometimes miracles do happen — just look at the 1969 New York Mets.
But you also need to be realistic, which is why I can’t understand the social media meltdown from some Sox fans. Even if the Twins hadn’t signed Donaldson, the Sox probably weren’t going to win the division, anyway!
The Sox won 72 games last year, and showed marked progress on a number of fronts. But to think that they could “somehow” win another 20 games to put themselves into real contention is stretching belief.
Could it happen? Sure, just look at the 1990 White Sox, who incredibly won 94 games, “Doin’ the Little Things” under manager Jeff Torborg. But remember the Western Division back then wasn’t close to being as strong as the current Central Division and the American League as a whole.
With the 2020 White Sox, you’re asking a bunch of kids to take a next leap into greatness basically overnight and asking a franchise to keep said guys healthy. If the last three seasons at both the major and minor league level have shown anything it’s that the White Sox are having serious problems in the health department, whether it’s because of bad luck or something else going on with strength and conditioning.
To me, it’s too much to think everything is going to break right for the Sox, which is one reason I advocated in a previous column getting at least two starting pitchers to help protect themselves from what is almost a certain bad injury or slump.
Again, it’s fine to dream, and every Sox fan should certainly be doing that given the generally awful baseball the Sox have put on the field since the start of the 2007 season, but if the Sox don’t make the playoffs this year that doesn’t mean the season was a failure if they can:
- Win at least 82 games. That means a winning season, the first since 2012. Anything over and above that is gravy.
- Continue to develop the core group of young players.
- Play meaningful baseball at least through August — and hopefully into September.
- Continue to develop and emphasize all aspects of the franchise both on and off the field: advertising opportunities, season ticket sales, attendance in general, fan and media public relations, TV ratings.
Do these things, see what you can add in the offseason before the start of the 2021 campaign (if some pieces weren’t already added at the trade deadline this July), and then let’s really rock and roll.
The table should be set and ready for the White Sox. But 2020 is still probably too soon.