CHICAGO – It’s the simplest yet perhaps the most difficult question to answer when it comes to the end of a sporting season in which a team makes the playoffs but doesn’t win a championship.
Is it a success or is it a disappointment?
That’s something that the White Sox are asking themselves after their 2021 season came to an end with a thud as they lost 10-1 to the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Division Series Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
It brought an end to a season in which they were division champions for the first time in 13 years, won 93 games, won their first home playoff game since 2008 while also reinvigorating a fan base that has had little to cheer about for a decade.
Yet it was the White Sox themselves who said before the season that their goal was a World Series championship. So where does one strike a balance?
“Well, I would never apologize for our clubhouse. I thought they needed it because they did try,” said manager Tony La Russa when asked how he viewed the 2021 season went as a whole. “We accomplished the first goal, but we are disappointed to get one win and not two more, so bittersweet.”
Obviously, the last week makes that so, since the team was only able to grab one victory against an experienced Astros team. Houston showed their playoff savvy by taking at least a four-run lead in every one of the four division series games, and didn’t lose it in three of them.
Only a big rally on Sunday in Game 3 at Guaranteed Rate Field kept the White Sox from being swept out of the playoffs. In the victories, the Astros outscored the White Sox 25-6.
“I mean, it was a fun ride, ended a little short as we thought as a team, but, you know, we enjoyed the time together,” said Game 4 starter Carlos Rodon when asked how he looked back at this year knowing the expectations for the club.
There could be a different perspective from some younger players who either made their debut in 2021 or saw significant playing time for the first time. Gavin Sheets is one of those as he made his major league debut this season, seeing action in 54 regular season games then in three ALDS contests against the Astros.
He hit a homer in the second inning of Game 4 to give the White Sox a brief lead.
“I think just for me, it was the experience, experience of being here, experience of being with a bunch of incredible veterans. Yeah, just learning as much as I can,” said Sheets of the 2021 season. “You know, we got the taste of the playoffs. Obviously, right now it sucks. It hurts, but to be able to have this experiences the rookie year, I think I can only grow from it, and I think as a team, it’s the same way.
“We’re only going to grow from it.”