White Sox Mailbag: Yes, it is 'World Series or bust' time on the South Side

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Vinnie Duber
·5 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Sox Mailbag: 'World Series or bust' time on the South Side originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Welcome to White Sox Mailbag Week, where I answer your preseason questions as we count down to Opening Day.

First up, a two-fer:

We’re officially in “World Series or bust” territory, right? — @CanIBeRell

Would you say 2022 is a more realistic “World Series or bust” year than 2021? — @Robby1777

RELATED: How Engel's injury impacts Sox roster for Opening Day

The season hasn't even started yet, and already expectations are shifting to next year?

Nah. The answer is that it is officially — and resoundingly — "World Series or bust" time on the South Side.

We found that out in early December, when the White Sox traded promising pitching prospect Dane Dunning for Lance Lynn, who despite the lack of national attention, perhaps, while chucking as a Texas Ranger has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the past two seasons. That was a win-now move by a front office that spent years talking about long-term visions.

Make no mistake, that long-term focus still exists, the White Sox hoping their rebuilding project yields many consecutive years of championship contention. But Lynn, with just one season remaining before his next round of free agency, is a hired gun. And a really good one. You only hire guns to win the World Series.

Of course, it was hitting coach Frank Menechino who unleashed that exact phrase, "World Series or bust," that's been dominating conversation ever since. While some fans might hesitate to place such expectations on a team that's still pretty young and just barely made the playoffs — before a disappointing exit — last season, the mindset in the White Sox clubhouse is exactly that: World Series or bust.

"We want to win a ring," White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said when camp started last month. "We want to win a World Series.

"We're at the point now where the word rebuild is completely out of the vocabulary. We're a very, very good team, and we expect to win. That's pretty much where we're at."

The reason the World Series expectations are legitimate is that this roster is quite good. To hear Giolito say it, it's "very, very good."

— The White Sox have the reigning American League MVP in José Abreu, a pair of Silver Sluggers in Tim Anderson and Eloy Jiménez, the runner-up in the AL Rookie of the Year vote in Luis Robert and a whopping four of the top 10 finishers in the AL Cy Young vote: Dallas Keuchel, Lynn, Giolito and Liam Hendriks.

— Their 1-2-3 starting-pitching punch of Giolito, Keuchel and Lynn is as good, if not better, than any in the AL.

— Their lineup, already the most powerful in the AL last season, figures to be even better, with Yoán Moncada and Yasmani Grandal lined up to improve upon disappointing 2020 seasons and one of the top prospects in baseball, Andrew Vaughn, projected to slot in as the team's everyday DH. Adam Eaton, regardless of fan opinion, is a sizable upgrade in right field over Nomar Mazara, and all the excitement Robert generated as a rookie came with him mired in a horrific second-half slump.

— The bullpen could quite seriously be baseball's finest now that Hendriks has joined forces with the likes of Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer and Matt Foster. Plus, fireballers Garrett Crochet and Michael Kopech are part of that unit.

And the AL around them has weakened, too.

In the Central alone, the Minnesota Twins are not the juggernaut they appeared in 2019, when they hit every home run under the sun. The White Sox are, as Anderson said, "hands down" the better team on paper. The Cleveland Indians made another selloff this winter, leaving the Kansas City Royals, undoubtedly improved but hardly scary, as the heirs apparent to the No. 3 spot in the division standings.

Out East, the reigning league-champion Tampa Bay Rays traded their best pitcher. The Toronto Blue Jays went on an offseason spending spree, upping their chances to duke it out with the New York Yankees.

Out West, the Los Angeles Angels still haven't done anything to provide Mike Trout with a pitching staff capable of getting him very far. The Oakland Athletics, who bounced the White Sox from last postseason, lost Hendriks, as well as recent MVP candidate Marcus Semien. The Houston Astros are now down George Springer and Justin Verlander.

Toppling teams like the San Diego Padres or Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves in the World Series would provide a new and bigger challenge, for sure. But the question isn't whether they can beat those teams in a seven-game series seven months from now. It's whether the White Sox, with their talent, should expect to get there. And absolutely, they should.

This is what the rebuild was building toward, the point in time where meeting championship-level goals wasn't just a possibility, it was an expectation.

"As we sit here today, the goal is to win a World Series championship," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said on the first day of spring training. "So if we fall short of that, it would be a disappointment.

"Of all days, especially on the first day of camp, not to mention what we've all been through for the last several years preparing to get to this point, I think having championship aspirations is to be expected and, to a man, what people want."

The team's contention window is open, and winning time has most definitely arrived. This isn't your typical "hope springs eternal" type talk. This is one of the best rosters in the game, which was built to play deep into October, simply relaying its job description.

2022 figures to bring the same kind of talk. But this is 2021, and those sky-high expectations are just as legitimate now as they will be a year from now.

Click here to subscribe to the White Sox Talk Podcast for free.

Download

Download MyTeams Today!