The AL Central title has finally come home back to Chicago, and 13 years away only makes it feel sweeter. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, or something like that.
Depending on how you’re reading this, the “finally” in this title and first sentence could refer to a couple of things, either a) how long it took the White Sox to put away the non-competitive competition in the AL Central, or b) the 13 year gap between division titles. Personally, I couldn’t decide which was more appropriate here, or which I was exactly referring to, but that’s part of the point.
All in all, here we stand on September 24th, the first day of the new reign on the South Side. At long last, the Chicago White Sox are the champions of the American League Central division.
Regardless of which part of the wait the “finally” means for you, this feels incredible nonetheless.
A.L. CENTRAL CHAMPS!
The White Sox capture their first American League Central title since 2008. pic.twitter.com/5TkgKN3zIy
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) September 23, 2021
While the season began with some debate of whether the Sox could take on the Twins in a full season, the end result became clear about as early as Byron Buxton could stay on the field.
Since then, it has been clear for the last several months that this is where the division was headed. After all, the White Sox were trading for a the NL’s best closer (at the time of the trade) and their division rival’s leadoff hitter, while the rest of the division wasn’t trying to win. Those things clearly ceded the race, allowing the magic number to become more of a symbol of when and not if from about 50 down, and giving Tony La Russa the space to rest guys as much as possible for October.
Regardless of how those last few weeks went, it’s important to look back at how the White Sox got here. Once the 2021 season is long in the rear view mirror, we’ll remember a few of the major moments, but ultimately it’ll look like a one horse race from about May 7 onward. That would be completely missing the boat though.
From start to finish, we’ve had probably the most eventful non-eventful pennant race in recent memory, including:
- Injuries a plenty, from Luis Robert to Eloy Jimenez to Yasmani Grandal et al
- Side note: The stupid Yasmani Grandal slash line and it’s arguments
- Carlos Rodon getting non-tendered, coming back on the cheap, no-hitting the Cleveland Baseball Team and turning in a career year out of nowhere
- The Yermin Mercedes experience, easiest way to put it, and the subsequent “mutiny” I and others were way off on
- The best baseball game I’ve ever seen live and hands down the league-wide game of the year in 2021 in Iowa
Something you can only dream of.
A walk-off shot in Iowa for Tim Anderson.
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) August 13, 2021
— Sports ON Tap Chicago (@SONTChicago) August 13, 2021
Outside of these events, there were all of the mostly unsung heroes that helped carry the team, or at least contribute when needed. The likes of Brian Goodwin, Billy Hamilton, Jake Lamb, Reynaldo Lopez, and others helped get the Sox to where they are, and the AL Central banner doesn’t go up without their contributions.
All of this, this entire wild ride, got us to where we are now, to say nothing of the last 5 years since the rebuild started. There’s (hopefully) more to come in 2021, but for now this is something to celebrate.
While the 2020 Postseason appearance was fun and felt like an arrival, there’s something different about winning the division over a full season. For once, the White Sox did what was expected, adversity be damned, and got to the dance. If anything’s a sign of how far this franchise has come, that’s about as clear as it is.
I still remember the Blackout Game fondly, even these years later. Being 14 at the time, celebrating in the stands only three years removed from the golden year of 05, I didn’t anticipate being 27 the next time this rolled around, but thus is life.
— MLB Vault (@MLBVault) September 24, 2021
I guess that’s part of why I left a lot of stress behind during the White Sox struggles over the last few weeks. Sure, I could worry about seeding or the lack of momentum heading into the postseason, but to me that’s all noise.
I’ve always been of the belief that in baseball you build a team to get to October and see what happens. The playoffs are always a wild ride, and either it’s your year or not. There’s more to it than that, but Rick Hahn and co. have done a ton right to build a team that is as good as anyone on paper.
This team has been, to put it lightly, an afterthought for most of the last decade-plus. For God’s sake, this is the first time the franchise has ever made back to back playoff appearances. There’s a time for worrying and stressing, and in my opinion riding out the easiest postseason march you could imagine isn’t it.
Home field advantage would have been nice, but like others I’d argue having the lineup at full go is more important. Plus, any scenario to the World Series leads you through some combination of the Astros, Rays, Jays, Yankees, Red Sox, etc., so there’s nowhere to hide come October. The White Sox will either have it or they won’t, so why worry in September.
On top of that being in Chicago during the last few years has given me perspective on how the Cubs’ run went. Here I was, watching from the other side of town during the Cubs’ best run literally ever, and what was happening most of the time? Fans complaining about this or that, not winning this game or that game in August, you get the idea.
In the middle of 5 playoff appearances in 6 years, 3 LCS appearances, and a ring. I get it, in the moment you want your time to win every year, but if you spend your time angry about what could be, you’re going to blink and miss it. Just like that, the window is closed and that whole era is gone.
I told myself after seeing all that, that I was going to just enjoy the ride with the Sox as much as possible. We’re gearing up for the best era in franchise history, with an insanely likable, fun, and nationally marketable team. I’m sure come October my nerves will be shot, but this is everything we could ask for as White Sox fans.
Teams like this haven’t come around often in this city. It’s about seeing this team grow, seeing the climb to a powerhouse, and finally getting to see guys like Jose Abreu celebrate. It doesn’t get much better than this.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) September 24, 2021
There’s more to come, but the AL Central Championship matters. We deserve to feel good about it, so for now that’s what I’m going to do.
See you in October folks, let’s get ready for one hell of a ride.
The journey continues. ? pic.twitter.com/Zh3t2PPpaA
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) September 24, 2021