Alright, we’ve all had a day to take it in: baseball is gone for the next few months.
First of all, congratulations to the Houston Astros on holding on to win their first World Series Championship. While most of the Sox on 35th Crew was #TeamCamelback, I was pulling for the Astros, and I think you’ll understand why later on in this article. This Postseason, while one of my favorite Postseasons ever, was also an incredible learning opportunity as a writer and fan of the sport I love so much. However, as a rebuilding team hopefully ready to compete in a few years, the White Sox should also have been studying these Astros and how they became the latest team to go from bottom-dwellers to champions. So, let’s take a look at this 2017 Postseason and what and what the White Sox, and we as White Sox fans, can take away from it all.
5. Yeah, Bellinger and Bregman are REALLY Good…
All we could talk about all offseason was trades for Quintana and Sale. Who would it be? Bregman from the Astros? Bellinger from the Dodgers? As we just watched, neither of these trades happened for a seriously good reason. Sure, Rick Hahn and Company know how to identify talent, but the Astros and Dodgers were smart enough to understand the value of their talent. While Bellinger only hit .230/.270/.483 in the Postseason, defensively – and throughout the regular season – he has shown how good he can be. Bregman hit .269/.310/.538 in the World Series and played phenomenally at third base. Basically, well played Dodgers and Astros, Rick Hahn couldn’t fleece you if he wanted to.
4. Baseball in 2020 is Going to be REALLY Good
The Yankees went to the ALCS in a year they were supposed to be rebuilding. The Indians won 22 straight games with a young core and didn’t go the World Series. The Red Sox didn’t even make it out of the first round, and the Astros won the World Series. That’s not even taking into account National League teams. I know we all have our eyes set on the World Series in 2020, but honestly, the path to the trophy is only going to get harder over the next few seasons. However, whether or not the Sox are hoisting the trophy in 2020, one thing is clear: with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, the Core Four of the Astros, Lindor, Bellinger, Puig, Trout, Harper, and so many more, baseball is going to be amazing in 2020, and I can’t wait for the match-ups it might bring.
3. “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit” Will be Extremely Important
The Yankees were down 2-0 to most people’s predicted World Series Champion this year (myself included). The Astros looked as if they might’ve lost their chance to go to the World Series after falling down 3-2 to the Yankees. Then, in the World Series, the Astros looked like they might’ve lost all momentum after losing Game 6. Finally, Game 5 of the World Series will go down as one of the best back-and-forth baseball games in recent memory. All of these moments have one thing in common: a need for resiliency. Every team speaks of it, but it is an intangible asset that not every team can possess as strongly as others. It comes through the culture that is created on and off the field by both the manager and the players.
My point in all this? We as fans have adopted, thanks to Hawk, the mantra “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit” due to the Sox’ tendency to come back late in games this season. I have already commented several times on the culture I believe Renteria is creating in the clubhouse because of what I have seen on the field. The teams that mesh the best on the field are naturally going to find themselves in a position to win games and handle adversity better than others. So, Ricky, continue what you’re doing with the team, and continue to teach these young players what it means to handle setbacks and adversity; it will only benefit the team moving forward.
2. Conventionality is Overrated
Starting pitchers in the 2017 Postseason – not counting those who came out of relief – pitched only 51% of the total innings played, while posting a 4.08 ERA. These stats are consistent with what has been happening in the playoffs in recent history: starting pitchers have an EXTREMELY short leash, because managers are more willing to go to their deeper bullpens rather than watch their starters try and fight their way out of jams. This has given way to situations such as seeing David Robertson throw over 3 innings in one game, Brandon Morrow pitch in the 3rd, and Kenta Maeda be absolutely lights out in middle relief as opposed to starting. What does this all mean for the young players on the Sox right now? Stop saying “I’m only a 7th inning guy,” or, “I could never handle more than one inning.” Conventional roles are overrated in today’s game: the bullpen-by-committee idea is real.
This is where I believe the Sox will have an advantage in future seasons, because the minor league system is stocked with young arms with lively fastballs who are all gunning to be a part of the starting rotation. Obviously, all these guys can’t have a starting job, so they will become a part of the bullpen. So, now is a good opportunity for them to learn how to pitch multiple innings out of relief or pitch in different situations than usual. I know the mental aspect of baseball is HUGE, which is why I suggest the young White Sox pitchers take note of what teams like the Astros and Dodgers did: learn to feel comfortable pitching in whatever situation/inning you are presented with. There’s no better time than in the Minor Leagues to develop your skills.
1. Royals, then Cubs, then Astros… The Rebuild Works
Fun fact: the winners of the last three World Series have all gone through a rebuilding process. I know I’m never going to convince every White Sox fan that reads my articles that rebuilding is the best option for the White Sox, but let’s take a look at the process of the Astros’ rebuild:
2011: 56-106 2012: 55-107
2013: 51-111 2014: 70-92
2015: 86-76 2016: 84-78
Does it take awhile? Yes, of course it does. But, as before, the White Sox still have an advantage the Astros didn’t: they had the ability to trade top-tier Major League talent to acquire top-tier Minor League talent. Cut that 7-year rebuild in half, and that’s what is planned for the White Sox. Here’s the thing: the length of time doesn’t matter. The Royals have proven what the Cubs went on to prove, which has now been proven by the Astros: any team that has been mired in mediocrity for a few years should be rebuilding. Unless you are the Red Sox, Yankees, or the like, you will not be buying yourself a World Series Championship – and even with a high payroll, nothing is guaranteed (See: 2017 Dodgers). This World Series should have gotten you excited about the White Sox’ future, because while nothing is guaranteed, it’s sure going to be a fun ride. Good things come to those who wait…