As baseball fans everywhere wait anxiously for a breakthrough in negotiations, fans of the Chicago White Sox are as anxious as anybody. The Sox are coming off a 2021 season in which they went 93-69, and ran away with the American League Central Division title. The anxiety is even higher due to the fact that the White Sox were eliminated in the wildcard round for the second year in a row. Expectations run high on the South Side for a 2022 season, if and when it happens. Fan are rightfully looking for even more growth and improvement, and a deep run into October in 2022. There is even talk of a World Series title for the Pale Hose if things go their way.
These expectations are not unrealistic, although it certainly will not be easy. Fans are looking for continued growth and health for young stars like Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, as well as more development for youngsters Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets. In addition, solid seasons from veterans like Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Tim Anderson, and Yoan Moncada are not too much to ask. Pitching-wise, a rotation of Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech comprise a good group of four. Dallas Keuchel may be in line for the fifth spot, while Reynaldo Lopez is also a possibility. That said, is this group good enough to duplicate the feat of the 2005 White Sox, and win a world championship?
2005 White Sox: A Look Back
It is never fair to compare teams from different seasons, yet it is hard to resist for these White Sox. That title run did occur 17 years ago, although it seems like much longer to many Sox fans. Of course, there are no players remaining from that team, and even Don Cooper is gone. Tony La Russa is the third manager to lead the team since Ozzie Guillen was on the bench for the title run. So, in one sense, 17 years seems like a lifetime ago. On the other hand, playoff runs have been few and far between on the South Side. While the 2022 White Sox may have several question marks, there are still some valid comparisons to the magical 2005 season.
First, the Contrasts
The 2021 White Sox won 93 games and ran away with their division. The 2004 White Sox went just 83-79 and finished nine games out of first place. While Sox fans can generally muster hope for most seasons, expectations were not sky-high for the 2005 season. Fans expect a deep playoff run in 2022. Additionally, the 2004 division winner Cleveland Indians were widely expected to win the division again in 2005. At this point, the competition for the 2022 White Sox in the AL Central does not appear to be overwhelming. One other contrast is in the respective managers. Heading into 2005, Guillen was 41 years old and going into his second year as an MLB manager. La Russa will be 77 years old on Opening Day, and in his 35th season as a manager. The difference could not be greater.
Both the 2005 team and the anticipated 2022 version will feature solid players at some key positions. For example, Aaron Rowand played center-field in 2005, while Robert will be there this season. Joe Crede was solid at third base in 2005, and Moncada should be a steady presence in 2022. In 2005, Paul Konerko was a rock at first base, much like Abreu is today. On paper, the rotation looks to be as good as the 2005 core of Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Freddy Garcia, and Jon Garland. In the runup to both seasons, there are questions about the bullpen, although in 2005 the starters ultimately dominated the postseason.
Perhaps, though, there is another area where fans hope that the 2005 and 2022 teams are similar. In 2005, the White Sox added veteran players in two key positions prior to the season. They signed Jermaine Dye to play right field after saying goodbye to Magglio Ordonez. Dye would go on to win the World Series MVP for the 2005 Sox. Then the White Sox added Tadahito Iguchi to play second base. Iguchi had a solid season for the Sox and was a key to their playoff run. Second base and right field are two positions where Sox fans are desperately hoping for upgrades. The current in-house options are not overly attractive. If, and that’s a big if, but if the White Sox can solidify these two positions, there just might be a parade on the South Side in November. Stranger things have happened; 2005, anybody?
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