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How It Started

If it's a presidential term, the days, weeks and years can seem interminable. Conversely, a high school career tends to fly by in a flash. If a college kid has the means and the desire, he or she can stretch out the tenure for another year or more.

Four years. For aficionados of a ballclub that launches into a rebuild, the early years move at a snail's pace, and if not properly conceived along with good fortune, a successful ending never materializes. Not so for the newly crowned AL Central Division champion White Sox. The process, while not totally linear, has a distinct pattern. Ninety-five losses four years ago followed by 100 and 89 the next two seasons before earning a wild card playoff berth a year ago.

And now, according to plan, the division flag can be flown for the first time in 13 years.

At the risk of reminding us of the struggle and ineptitude of that initial rebuilding year, our memories also are refreshed by the promise of the future. Looking back on this weekly White Sox Report, we must start at the beginning.

So Long Chris Sale, December 7, 2016: So we say adieu to one of the greatest pitchers in Sox history. No more K Zone. No more nasty sliders and a devastating change-up. Gone is the Cy Young watch. No more bickering with the front office. No more national exposure over destroyed uniforms.

SI: Sox Suck, April 3, 2017: Sports Illustrated has rated the Sox the worst team in the American League. The magazine says their final record will be 65-97. Vegas odds put the Sox at 500-1 to win the World Series. General manager Rick Hahn procured a treasure trove of youngsters for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. They'll pay dividends but just not now. The rival scout's assessment in SI says, "I think [the Sox] will be better in 2018, but it's probably the following season when they really establish these guys."

Not Irrelevant, April 17, 2017: From a fan's observation, compared to the low-key Robin Ventura, Renteria appears to be more engaged with his players. The sample size is small, but at least the White Sox at this point are not irrelevant. Let the rebuild continue.

Anderson's April, May 1, 2017: Let's begin with shortstop Tim Anderson, a gifted young man who runs like an Olympic sprinter, exudes confidence and desire, and will hit a lot better than his present .204 batting average once he stops flailing at breaking balls outside the strike zone. In 98 games last season after being called up from Charlotte, Anderson was charged with 14 errors. Obviously he'll pass that number by mid-May unless Renteria, a former infielder, and coach Joe McEwing can fix him. Winning teams rarely have shortstops who can't catch the ball.

Signing Robert, May 22, 2017: [T]he Sox made headlines over the weekend by agreeing to terms with another in a long line of Cubans, 19-year-old Luis Robert, who, because the rules are changing, is the last of the free agent athletes from the island that big league clubs can sign for huge bonuses. Apparently Robert's deal is in the neighborhood of $27 million. Robert, projected as a centerfielder, also is a product of the nation's National Serie league. Last season he hit .393 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases. He's received rave notices from scouts who have watched him recently in workouts in the Dominican Republic. The Robert signing and the eventual arrival of Moncada at 35th and Shields give us Sox fans lots to look forward to. Or at least we hope so. Most of the talk focuses not on "if" the Sox will call up Moncada, but "when."

Rickey's Boys Don't Quit, May 29, 2017: Renteria has been an elixir for this club, bringing a sorely-needed fresh approach where players actually run out ground balls and continue playing hard regardless of the score.

Awaiting Moncada, June 12, 2017: In addition, the poster boy of prospects, Charlotte second baseman Yoan Moncada, has struggled since the media hype of last month. After being disabled for ten days with a sore thumb, Moncada has just nine hits in 59 at-bats for a .153 mark since his return. His average has dropped to .278 from .331. Chances are we won't see Moncada or any of the other future White Sox on the South Side until rosters expand in September. While Moncada is hitting .278 in Charlotte, current second baseman Yolmer Sanchez is hitting .302 and making most of the plays in the field. Too bad Moncada doesn't play the outfield where the big team needs a lot of help.

This Is Your Brain On White Sox, July 10, 2017: This season's edition of the White Sox carries a "never quit" tag, but the bottom line is that they've come up short far more often because of a lack of talent and young players who are still developing. Heading into this week's All-Star Game break, Rickey Renteria's outfit occupies last place in the Central Division of the American League with a 38-49 record.

Meet 2020, July 17, 2017: Have your pencils and scorecards ready for today's 2020 starting lineup. Let's glance into the future by looking at a hypothetical cast of White Sox and how they're performing today. In centerfield, we have Luis Robert. Playing in the Dominican Summer League, the soon-to-be 20-year-old Cuban prospect, who signed in May with the Sox for an astounding $26 million, is slashing .255/.479/.872. MLB Pipeline says, "[Robert] pairs electrifying bat speed that should translate into considerable power with well above-average speed." In left field is Eloy Jimenez, the newest member of the organization, being the centerpiece of the Jose Quintana trade. Says FanGraphs, " . . . he's going to have elite power in his mid-20s and there's solid feel for contact here, too." Jose Abreu at first base will be 33 in 2020 and should be the elder statesman of the ballclub. He not only has earned the respect of the Latin players, but everyone in the clubhouse recognizes his work ethic and team-first character. At second base Yoan Moncada. He's 22, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds who is "a switch-hitter with tremendous bat speed," according to MLB Pipeline. Perhaps the most intriguing is Michael Kopech, 21, who was part of the Chris Sale deal with Boston. The kid is a fireballer whose fastball frequently has been clocked north of the century mark. At Double-A Birmingham this season, he's whiffed 106 batters in 84-plus innings while giving up just 60 hits. Lucas Giolito, who came over from the Nationals in the Adam Eaton swap, appeared in six big league games last season without much success. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old's credentials are noteworthy - "When he's on, Giolito shows stuff that most pitchers can only dream of," says MLB Pipeline - even though he's struggled a bit this season at Triple-A Charlotte where he's 3-8 with a 5.00 ERA.

This Is What Progress Looks Like, July 24, 2017: [T]he arrival last Wednesday of Yoan Moncada, an imposing, athletic presence, represents the franchise's future. [W]e'll cringe not at all if Melky Cabrera is dealt away in the next few days. We'll hardly notice if Anthony Swarzak or Dan Jennings can't be found in the bullpen. Say goodbye to James Shields? No problem because the seed has been planted that five to 10 years from now, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and a couple of others will take their place year after year.

Keeping Moncada Company, July 31, 2017: It's been 11 games now, and the kid has just four hits. He's hitting .111. Of 36 official at-bats, he's trudged back to the dugout 15 times having struck out. Yoan Moncada was brought here to hit, and so far that hasn't happened. However, history, along with his immense talent, dictates that it's just a matter of time. He got a standing ovation when he first strode to the plate a couple of weeks ago. When he drew a walk in that first at-bat, Sox faithful went slightly nuts. That's how dismal things have become.

Keep 'Em Down On The Farm, August 14, 2017: Watching the White Sox, the American League's worst team, sweep the league's top ballclub, the Houston Astros, in three games last week was a welcome antidote for the losses that have been piling up in near-record fashion. Houston invaded with a 71-40 record, while Rickey Renteria's outfit crawled along at 41-68.

An Ugly, Reachable Goal, August 28, 2017: Goal-setting wasn't supposed to be part of this rebuilding season. Rickey Renteria's vague notion of playing "clean" baseball is about as close to a stated goal as anything we've heard, but judging from all of the unclean games we've witnessed, Rickey's fellows have fallen short of their skipper's objective. Winning ugly would be a welcome respite because losing ugly is exactly that. [W]e have the emergence of Lucas Giolito, the centerpiece of the Adam Eaton trade with the Nationals last winter. Giolito made his White Sox debut last week in two games, a 4-1 loss to the Twins on Tuesday before a strong effort Sunday against Detroit for his first major league victory in which he posted seven shutout innings on a yield of three hits, three walks, and four strikeouts.

Colon & The Kids, September 4, 2017: Joining Giolito on the mound last week for the White Sox were young prospects Carlos Rodon, Carson Fulmer and Reynaldo Lopez. The foursome accounted for 19 innings pitched, allowing just 11 hits, six walks and 23 strikeouts. Their combined ERA was 2.84, and Fulmer got his first major league win on Saturday in a rain-delayed 5-4 win over the Rays.

Streaks, September 11, 2017: It was a record-setting week for the White Sox. Holy Cow! Hey Hey! You can put it on the board, yes! Let's hope a couple of years from now we're celebrating for much different reasons, like a division championship or a pennant winner. At the present time we'll have to be diverted by the role the Sox played last week in helping the Cleveland Indians to four victories in their current 18-game winning streak. For less than tongue-in-cheek plaudits, how about Jose Abreu hitting for the cycle last Saturday, just the sixth player in White Sox history to do so? Not since 2000, when Jose Valentin did it, had a Sox hitter recorded a cycle, and Abreu accomplished it the hard way, waiting until his final at-bat in the eighth inning to leg out a triple to the alley in right center.

He's A Believer, September 25, 2017: Moncada lined a shot over the centerfield wall Friday night with a man on, which turned out to be the game-winner. He still strikes out too often, but this kid is everything he's cracked up to be. Anderson has a 15-game hitting streak in which he's batting .415. He still leads everyone with 26 errors, but he's made just one in September. Reynaldo Lopez pitched into the seventh inning last Friday, his fifth straight start of at least six innings. Lucas Giolito kept up his eye-opening, late-season showing on Sunday by limiting the Royals to a lone run on Cain's solo homer in seven innings of work. He yielded just five hits, and, like Lopez, he didn't issue a base on balls. Young pitchers simply aren't supposed to do that. I am finding out that this edition of the White Sox are young, capable, athletic and energetic. Forget that they're 29 games below .500. In September the ledger reads 11-12, which might not be noteworthy until you consider that in the previous four months the team posted a 39-70 mark.

How It's Going, September 27, 2021: The rear view mirror tells us just how far this franchise has come. Meanwhile, winning is in its infancy regardless of how the team performs this postseason. Robert is under contract through 2028; Moncada's deal runs out in 2025; Jimenez is signed through 2026; Giolito 2023; and Anderson through 2024. The rebuild has run its course. A new chapter has arrived, and it figures to be the first of many.


Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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