On Thursday afternoon the White Sox will play in the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time in their 120 year history. It was considerably harder to accomplish in the first 68 years of that span due to the Yankees’ dominance and the lack of participants. The 1950s were an especially good and frustrating decade for the White Sox, who didn’t have a losing record from 1951-59 and won 90 or more games four times. They only got to the World Series once, in 1959, the year of the Go-Go Sox.
The division era hasn’t been much kinder. Most of the teams since 1969 haven’t been that great and even the good ones rarely got to the top, with the notable exceptions of 1983, 1993, and 2000. After winning it all in 2005 (yes, it happened) it took three years to get back to the postseason. From 2008-20, there was a lot of retooling and rebuilding. Finally, the White Sox are playing meaningful baseball in back-to-back years.
It is perversely impressive that the White Sox have had such limited experience in the postseason. With the gradual expansion of the playoff pool and being in a major market, it takes a certain kind of ineptitude not to at least fall into the playoffs once or twice. So, forgive White Sox fans if we are a little bewildered right now.
This year feels different, however, because this particular team has been confident in itself for the whole season. There was also a belief in the fanbase that this team was going to the postseason, it was just a matter of getting through the regular season. Another rare feeling for South Side fans. This is an impressive group that doesn’t seem “just happy to be here.” They don’t seem like they will fold under the pressure of the moment. Also, they are such a young team that this feels like the beginning of a run, not the finale.
It all gets started, coincidentally, on the field where the White Sox last won the World Series. The road back to the Series won’t be easy, it never is. Houston is a tough first task and Tampa Bay, the prohibitive favorite to return to the championship, is even tougher. On the positive side, the White Sox look to have their full lineup finally ready to go.
The pitching grew a little worrisome over the last month, but the certitude of winning the division in August might have played into that. Still, it would be great if the Carlos Rodón from June could come back for a few more weeks. We also get to see if Tony La Russa — who has been to the World Series six times, winning three –still has the touch in the playoffs.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is why he was brought back. To paraphrase Jerry Reinsdorf regarding another coaching change, La Russa is meant to get the team from point B to point C. It should be a fun weekend, especially Sunday, when the White Sox host their first postseason game since 2008. Let’s hope it isn’t over next week.