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Defining Success for the White Sox in the Competitive Window

How will we ultimately define success for the White Sox through what’s supposed to be the competitive window?

Photo: Chris Tejeda

Since the rebuild began in December of 2016, we were told repeatedly by Rick Hahn that the goal of the process was to ensure the White Sox “were competing for multiple championships.” At face value this statement, I hate to say it, is laughable at best. We root for a franchise that has won three World Series championships in their history. They’ve never made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons ever. Hell, all or parts of four different decades I’ve been a fan, I’ve seen them play in the postseason a whopping four times. For context, the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that didn’t exist until 1998, has five playoff appearances since 2008. So while I appreciate the idea behind “multiple championships,” it’s simply not realistic.

Since the start of the new millennium twenty years ago, four teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Giants) have won multiple championships. I don’t need to tell you that this isn’t a very long list. So the probability of the White Sox winning multiple championships in a competitive window isn’t particularly great. I, for one, believe the Sox are going to be a competitive team this year, whether that manifests itself into a playoff appearance in 2020 remains to be seen. With that being said, I do believe the playoff drought that has stretched for far too long will be coming to an end relatively soon.

With a core group comprised of Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Yasmani Grandal, “Diamond” Dallas Keuchel, and Jose Abreu, we should be entering a period of unrivaled success for this American League charter franchise. We know they’re not a finished product yet and that they will still need external reinforcements to have a sustained period of success, but how will we ultimately define success for this group?

The internet is a crazy place at times, especially when it comes to baseball fans. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see a group of Sox fans proclaiming 2020 the opening of a decade-long window of success with October baseball every year. I hate to be that guy, but I think I have to in this instance. The White Sox aren’t the Yankees or the Dodgers. Hell, they haven’t even shown that they can be the Nationals or as successful as the small-market pissants in their own division. So how can we as a fanbase realistically define success for this competitive window?

From my standpoint, I think it’s very simple. I think a realistic measure of success would be to look at a competitive period in a six-year window. Some of the faces will change throughout the course of that six-year timeframe, but many of the core pieces (as mentioned above) should remain the same. During that six-year window, the expectation should be four playoff appearances and hopefully one World Series championship. I would consider this an overwhelming success, personally. As I mentioned above, that would be more playoff appearances in a six-year window than I’ve seen in my entire life.

Recent history has suggested that this should be the benchmark when we look at competitive windows. Since the turn of the century, the following teams have had a run of at least four postseason appearances in a six-year stretch:

TeamTime FramePlayoff AppearancesPennantsWorld Series Titles
Braves2000 -2006600
Red Sox2003 – 2009622
Red Sox2013 – 2018422
Cubs2015 – 2019411
Indians2013 – 2018410
Tigers2011 – 2015410
Astros2015 – 2019421
Angels2002 – 2009611
Dodgers2004 – 2009400
Dodgers2013 – 2019720
Twins *2002 – 2010600
Yankees2000 – 20121232
Yankees2015 – 2019400
A’s2000 – 2006500
Phillies2007 – 2013521
Cardinals2000 – 2006621
Cardinals2009 – 2015621
Rays2008 – 2013410
Rangers2010 – 2016520
Nationals2012 – 2019511
*Note: The Minnesota Twins have lost an MLB record 16 consecutive playoff games

As you can see from the table above, going to the playoffs four times in six years has actually been rather common since the turn of the century. I’d also like to note that Giants famously won three World Series in a five-year window didn’t make this list because baseball is weird. While I believe we’d take the Giants’ window of success, it’s fairly certain that is an outlier.

The fact is, given what we’ve endured the last three seasons with the full-scale tear down of this roster and subsequent pairing back of the Major League payroll, going to the playoffs at least four times in six years should be the expectation going forward with this team. As you’ll notice, there are several teams on this list that have big, fat zeros in the “Pennant” and “World Series Titles” columns. The fact remains all you can do in baseball is aim to have multiple shots at winning a championship and hope that in one of those years you play the best 30 days or so of baseball of the remaining ten teams. There is no guarantee of a title.

For all that we’ve dealt with since Chris Sale was traded in December of 2016, a move that signaled a direction for this organization, there needs to be a payoff. The most successful period in franchise history was from 2000-2008, a period in which the team made the postseason three times and won a World Series. Will anyone be happy if this team makes the playoffs three times in an eight-year period? What if that’s the end result and there is no parade at the end? Can we really deem this process to be a success?

I am of the belief that in order for all of this to have been worth it, the Sox need to have a run similar to the teams mentioned above. Again, there is no guarantee that a World Series Championship banner will be hung at 35th/Shields, but there needs to be a sustained run of success similar to other teams this century. This should be the standard for this rebuild. We need to have our October calendars remain open with this type of frequency. Get into October with regularity and see where the chips fall, and who knows — we may get to stand on the streets of downtown Chicago on a crisp October day again with confetti raining down on us.

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Former scrub JUCO pitcher

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