CHICAGO – This isn’t the parade down Michigan Avenue that he declared the thing that would make the current structuring of the White Sox organization a true success.
Rick Hahn has bigger goals for the White Sox rebuild that was started late in 2016, including the franchise’s next World Series championship. In fact, the general manager has hinted that he’d like to add multiple trophies to the team’s collection at Guaranteed Rate Field.
But even Hahn acknowledges that attaining major goals like that first take small achievements, which are big ones for a franchise that entered this season stuck in a 12-year playoff drought.
So Thursday’s clinching of a playoff spot, the first for the team since 2008, was a significant event for the general manager and the franchise he’s retooled the past four years.
“When you take not just what this organization and its fans have been through the last few years, but you add, frankly, the general state of the world over the last six months, and the amount of sacrifice that people have gone through and the amount of effort that it’s taken just to get the season to the point where we got to yesterday, in some ways, it was a big overwhelming at times,” said Hahn when talking to reporters on Friday. “It was a bright moment, certainly not the brightest moment that we anticipate for this club or hope to see for this club over next several months much less the next several years, but it was a momentous event. It’s something that needs to be celebrated, especially in these times right now, especially in times where outside of the ballpark people are suffering.
“Had this been a normal season, had we progressed into the playoffs, they’d be an understandable great amount of rejoicing within White Sox nation for what this team has done and where it has come from and how these fans have stuck with us throughout this process. But when you mix in the efforts involved in playing through a pandemic, and hopefully this team has brought some happiness, at least distraction to fans that maybe suffering in the real world, it was nice to witness something that brought potentially joy to people in a difficult time.”
The way the White Sox have done so has been even better than some have thought, including Hahn. The White Sox were sitting at 10-11 after 21 games this season, but since have gone 23-6 and find themselves at the top of the American League.
Not only could this give the team an AL Central title, this could also give them the chance to host a best-of-three Wild Card series at Guaranteed Rate Field at the end of the month.
“I don’t think we ever had doubts that this team could go on an extended run and certainly capable of competing for a postseason spot,” said Hahn. “After our first 21 games or so when we were 10-11, I don’t think I would have told you ‘Buckle Up, we’re gonna make a run for the No. 1 seed in the league here.
“But we knew team at least had that potential.”
They’re showing it now, and many consider them to be a title contender should their strong finish continue into a month-long postseason. Ending the team’s 15-year championship drought may not have been on the minds of many, including Hahn, as the group welcomed a number of new players both young an old this offseason.
“As I said since the start of the offseason, we really had no idea how long this sort of intermediate stage of transition was going to take. Had we conceivably continued to win at that same pace (when 10-11) and come in around .500 at the end of the season, I don’t think that would have been a great shock,” said Hahn. “But the fact of the matter is that enough of the players have taken that step forward. The veterans have acclimated themselves well and we’ve been able to achieve at a higher level, perhaps a little more quickly than we anticipated.”
Producing a moment on Thursday worth celebrating, even if there’s not a parade to go along with it yet.