clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The 2017 White Sox were a ton of fun

New, 115 comments
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

The 2017 White Sox were a bad team that lost close to 100 games. There were more innings pitched by rejects and suspects than we’d care to remember and a slew of overmatched hitters that filtered in and out of the lineup all year long. We had to watch Cody Asche and Jacob May (remember them?) flop out of the gate with a unique brand of futility. We had to watch a probably-hurting former fan favorite in Tyler Saladino fail his way to a 33 wRC+ and a homer-less season. We had to watch Matt Davidson strike out more often than Joey Gallo without the walks and with only about 60 percent of the dingers. We had to watch Adam Engel hit for most of the year because doggone it, someone on this defense had to be able to move to catch a damn ball.

We had to watch James Shields, Derek Holland, and Mike Pelfrey piss off air traffic controllers as opposing hitters launched dingers off of them into the stratosphere. On 12 occasions, we had to watch Dylan Covey try his damnedest to get through that frickin’ batting order a second time. We saw Juan Minaya and Gregory Infante ascend to the role of “high-leverage reliever” in a bullpen so depleted by trades and injuries that there was actually something called “The Tyler Clippard Era”. David Holmberg — David Holmberg! — started seven games and gave us five innings just twice. We kicked our tactically-challenged manager out the door only to replace him with a guy hell-bent on winning the sacrifice bunt attempt crown, even if that meant doing it a lot with two strikes. By mid-summer we were saying good-bye to so many beloved players and pleasant surprises that Josh was able to keep rolling with template podcast titles for over a month.

And yet, the 2017 White Sox were a hell of a lot of fun.

Part of it was because for the first time since 2014, we didn’t have to take it so hard when the White Sox lost a game. Part of it was the changing standards for what constituted success for a team more focused on the future than present. Most of it, however, was that we got to watch a group of likable players that did plenty of exciting things on the baseball field. We had thrilling victories, great individual accomplishments, surprise breakouts, and a group of mostly younger players bursting with personality that played their hearts out down to the wire. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather have a bunch of stodgy old veterans that gave us a pennant race, but this was easily the most fun the White Sox have been since September of 2012.

Take the poster boy for 2017 breakouts, Avisail Garcia. He came into the season as a something of a whipping boy amongst fans, and all he did this year was hit .330 (and .432 in high-leverage situations). No, he wasn’t able to wrestle the batting title away from Jose Altuve, but did you know that this was the first time since 1997 that a White Sox player finished in the top four in the AL in batting average? That’s actually kind of astonishing; there’s been 76 player-seasons (4 slots times 19 years) to finish in the top four from 1998-2016 and not one of them was a White Sox. The odds of that happening by random chance are 0.39%. It was great to see Avi put an end to that and actually give the Sox a dog in the race.

Joe DiMaggio. Albert Pujols. Jose Abreu. These are now the three men in MLB history to start off their career with four 25 HR, 100 RBI seasons. Abreu had declined for a couple seasons prior to this one and it was awesome to see him mash as he led this young offense. I know Abreu’s team control expires after 2019, but damn, one way or another I want him to be in a White Sox uniform when this thing gets good, because he has been everything this team could possibly have asked him to be during some lean years.

Abreu and Garcia are the headliners for individual accomplishments among this bunch, but the joy in watching this team extended far, far beyond those two. Let’s recall the not-so-short list of all the cool, fun, and weird stuff the 2017 Chicago White Sox gave us.

  • The hot start. Heck this team was in first place near the end of April after sweeping the Royals and taking two from the Tigers in Detroit. Speaking of those teams...
  • The White Sox posted winning records against both Detroit and Kansas City. The last time the White Sox posted a winning record against either was 2010. They beat up Tiger and Royal pitching so hard that they didn’t need to rely upon...
  • A great bullpen to open the season. Remember when the Sox could turn the ball over to David Robertson, Nate Jones, Tommy Kahnle (?) and Anthony Swarzak (???) and lock down nearly every lead? Remember in particular...
  • Kahnle striking out nearly half the guys he faced because of filth like this? He also was the source of...
  • A weird pissing match with LaTroy Hawkins. This gave Derek Holland the chance to show he’s a good teammate. In addition to sticking up for his guys, Holland...
  • Got the inside scoop on his teammates’ performance during games, and determined that Mike Pelfrey wanta Fanta. Speaking of media...
  • The second season with Jason Benetti and Steve Stone in the booth was even better than the first. In addition to being a pleasure to listen to, they brought to light important developments such as...
  • #RallyUnicorn! The advent of this short-lived but excellent White Sox mascot coincided with the first game of a three-game winning streak that contained two walk-off victories over division opponents, the first of which executed by...
  • Tim Anderson, who was in the midst of a roaring second-half comeback. Anderson slashed his considerable error rate and batted .293/.309/.484 from August onward. Anderson had to overcome personal tragedy and showed great fight at the end of the year. In September, his surge was complemented by that of...
  • Yoan Moncada. Moncada’s passive approach initially brought walks and not much else, but he started to turn on the aggression in a five-homer September. The White Sox’ top prospect also...
  • Won a game practically single-handedly against the Astros by hitting a game-tying homer against Ken Giles in the 9th and a walk-off single in the 11th. It was one of...
  • The White Sox’ nine walk-off victories on the season, which included this dramatic comeback against Texas and...
  • Nicky Delmonico eliminating the Angels from the postseason with one swing of the bat. Delmonico also...
  • Reached base in 21 of his first 22 games, all while playing with the enthusiasm and smile of a guy thrilled to be in the major leagues. The random event generator also...
  • Beat the shift three times with a bunt to the vacated left side, which soothed the itch of fans that have long clamored for less-adept sluggers to take advantage of loaded positioning. The uniqueness of Delmonico’s play wasn’t limited to positive stuff, as he...
  • Dropped this fly ball in Fenway Park, but that sorta fell under the label of FUNBAD anyway, sorta like...
  • The pathetic post-trade version of the White Sox bullpen, which allowed the White Sox to maintain a strong draft position while more interesting players thrived. One such player was...
  • Yolmer Sanchez, who was the only thing that prevented lumbering slugger Abreu’s shocking six triples from serving as the team lead. Sanchez’s improved bat and great glove were surpassed by his status as the White Sox dugout’s resident goofball. In that regard, he was like a younger...
  • Melky Cabrera, whose country music night promotion and epic troll job of the New York Yankees by briefly pretending not to catch a home run were just two of many reasons he was such a fan favorite on the South Side, if for different reasons than...
  • Jose Quintana, whom I can’t discuss without getting teary eyed so I’ll just link to this and move on to the Sox’ success against former-rotation mate...
  • Chris Sale. The Sox tagged The Condor for five runs and ten hits in his return to U.S. Cellular Field, which stood out as Sale’s worst start of the first half. After moving on from the aces of the past, we got a look at...
  • Lucas Giolito, a potential ace of the future. Despite a couple uneven outings, the headliner of the Adam Eaton trade looks like a rotation fixture, with outings like his ten-strikeout dominance of the Tampa Bay Rays teasing at a possible great career. He and...
  • Reynaldo Lopez both showed considerable promise through some bumps and breathed much-needed life into the White Sox rotation down the stretch. Lopez, his duck face, and his stuff were a source of excitement late in the season, as was...
  • Carson Fulmer, who shook off a pretty poor minor league season to toss a few gems in September, one of which came during...
  • The six-game stretch from September 9 through September 14 when the White Sox racked up 96 hits. That was comfortably the most hits in a six-game stretch for any team in baseball this year. The bats for the young White Sox were humming late in the year and while they didn’t have the gloves to match, they at least had...
  • A web-gem machine in center field in Adam Engel, whose sensational plays like this one gave the Sox the defensive excitement they’ve been lacking at the position since Aaron Rowand left town. Engel largely struggled, but he at least brought some energy to the table, as did...
  • Matt Davidson, whose surprising home run output (including hitting a home run on four straight days) and walk-off hits in back-to-back games gave the team some thrills despite overall poor results. In general, the young players had at least something to hang their hats on, including...
  • Six White Sox who hit their first major league home run in 2017. The silent treatment in the dugout got to be something of a semi-regular occurrence. That style of celebration isn’t unique to the White Sox, but...
  • Home runs brought out the personality of the team from everyone from Davidson to Greg Sparks. It painted a picture of a loose, fun atmosphere that speaks volumes about the contributions of...
  • Rick Renteria, who despite all the bunting is a man who at least has some semblance of a plan and whose engaging personality fostered a unit that played together from start to finish. From his excellent performance at the Q&A at SoxFest to his cook-off against Carlos Gaytan to getting ejected more than any other person in the major leagues this year, Renteria’s passion has been evident all year long. This has all been about just the major league team, and is to say nothing of...
  • Signing Luis Robert, big performances from Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Dane Dunning, and Alec Hansen in the minor leagues, and a thorough re-stocking of the farm system through a complete gutting of the roster’s key trade chips and spare parts.

Whew.

If we can pull this much joy out of what is theoretically the most painful year of a rebuild, we can’t help but get excited about everything that this team has in store for us for the future. It’s likely we’ll have a run of competitive seasons sometime during the next six or seven years that will probably wipe our memories clean of the delightful struggle that was 2017. However, it’s my wish that years down the road, we can look back and savor all the fun we had during this fantastic, random, action-packed, sad, beautiful 95-loss season.

2018 can’t get here soon enough.