Kevin Pillar believes the ‘us vs the world' White Sox can win the division

Kevin Pillar believes the ‘us vs the world' White Sox can win the division originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

GLENDALE, Ariz –  When Chris Getz became the new general manager of the White Sox last August, he was given the gargantuan task of turning around a team that would end up losing 101 games.   The job wasn't just about fixing the front office, roster and coaching staff, it also meant changing the negative perception and reputation of the White Sox that was spreading around the league.

Free agent Kevin Pillar was hearing those critical rumblings about the White Sox and despite being a former teammate of Getz with the Toronto Blue Jays, he initially had some reservations about jumping on board.

"I’m not naive in that when I came here, I have friends who are in this clubhouse who have been here the last couple years, I’ve got former teammates that have played in here and to be honest, it wasn’t the most positive things said about the organization,"  Pillar said on the White Sox Talk Podcast.  "So there definitely was some hesitancy of wanting to come here, about what it had been like in the past.   But after I had the opportunity to talk with Getzy and Pedro (Grifol) on the phone, you could hear it in their voice, you could hear it in their message that things would be different."

With some of the best talent in the league, the White Sox were supposed to contend for a World Series title the last two seasons.  We all know what happened instead.   Playing for the Atlanta Braves in 2023, Pillar experienced how a team with a strong core and work ethic pulled from the same rope and won 104 games in the regular season

It was very much the opposite with the White Sox.

"Quite frankly, they s--- the bed the last couple of years with the amount of talent, the type of people they brought in here," Pillar said.  "But being inside this clubhouse, seeing the talent, seeing the type of pitching we have, the type of offense, the ability to play defense, all the pieces are in place. It’s up to us individually, collectively as an organization to prove people wrong."

He's not kidding.  Pillar is believing in the 2024 White Sox whether you want to or not.

"As camp continues to go and numbers get smaller in this room and the message can be delivered a little bit more, it’s got to be us vs. the world.  I think if we take that mindset I think there’s no reason this team can’t win a division,"  Pillar said.

If you follow the computer models, the White Sox's current chances of winning the AL Central is 0.4% according to Fangraphs.  They're 0.7% to make the playoffs.

Pillar and his teammates are clearly not buying what the computers are saying.

"If you ask a lot of people in that clubhouse I think they to some degree like the position we're in, being underdogs and being undervalued, being given no shot to get to the postseason and win a division."

Pillar's words seem to be carrying a lot of weight in the clubhouse. He's an 11-year veteran who has a lot to prove himself. He signed with the White Sox on a minor-league deal in February. He'll earn $3 million if he makes the team out of spring training. At 35 years old, Pillar is still an above-average defender. He slugged .472 against lefties last season. And he clearly isn't afraid to lead and speak his mind. A righty-lefty platoon in right field with Dominic Fletcher seems possible.

What sold Pillar on the White Sox was not only his strong relationship with Getz, but their shared value system when it comes to playing the game.

"I know there have been some dark years the last couple of years, but with new leadership and the vision (Getz) has, I felt like that was something I wanted to be a part of,"  Pillar explained.  "I think Pedro has touched on it a lot in our meetings.  Talking about us having an opportunity to leave our mark on this organization.  To take it from some of the dark times and shine a light on what’s positive about this organization and change the culture when people walk into this place, change the expectations of what our expectations are, what our fans expectations are, and that’s to play fast, to play hard, that’s to do whatever it takes to win games, and more importantly have an expectation every time we go out that we can win."

Of course, the way to change minds about the White Sox is by winning.  Words during spring training don't help in the box score, but you have to start somewhere.  Pillar said that Getz and Grifol made sure that the hopes and expectations for the 2024 season were delivered from the very beginning of camp.

If the White Sox are to shock the league and make the playoffs like Pillar believes they can, the seeds were planted here in Arizona.

"We need to be open and honest with each of us about where we are as an organization, what we can do better, how the perception outside of this room is a lot different than the perception inside this room, and use that as motivation, use that as fuel to take this mindset of us vs. the world,"  Pillar said. "I think if we can continue to have those conversations and continue to work and continue to build on that, then the sky's the limit for the team."

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