Disclaimer: I’m going to talk about some hockey for a bit, but I promise it’s relevant.
Let’s travel back to February 2015, a time when Blackhawks fans felt as though their season was over — Patrick Kane sustained a broken clavicle in a game against the Florida Panthers. It was announced that Kane would miss 12 weeks of the season, and undergo surgery. Kane’s recovery would likely keep him out until the Western Conference finals.
In 2015, Kane had 64 points, tied with Jakub Voracek (of the Philadelphia Flyers) and Nicklas Backstrom (of the Washington Capitals) for the NHL lead. Kane led the Blackhawks in points, goals (27) and assists (37). If you aren’t familiar with hockey, let me simplify it: Kane was (and still is) very good at hockey.
“You’ve got the leading scorer in the game on your team, so that’s a very valuable asset. He makes a lot of things work for us,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after the game. “We missed him for the majority of [the game Tuesday], and it was one of those where we were good for 40 and hung on there at the end.”
So what does this have to do with the White Sox?
After the White Sox announced that Yasmani Grandal would undergo surgery and be out for at least the next four (but likely six) weeks, I panicked. Grandal had picked up the pace and had quickly turned into an irreplaceable bat. He was slashing .260/.402/.603 with eight homers and 18 RBIs in the month of June and had two RBIs already in July before his injury. I thought about where the White Sox would go after the news broke. Who can replace the power of Grandal at the plate, or behind the plate?
Going back to the Blackhawks in 2015, I was reminded of how the team persevered and improved as a team without their leading scorer. Everyone got better. Without Kane, the Blackhawks secured the third seed in the Central Division. Kane was able to rejoin the team earlier than planned, and was rested and dressed for Game 1 of the first series against Nashville. To get there, the Blackhawks overcame what felt like the impossible.
And do you remember what happened next? Chicago made a stirring run through the playoffs, and on June 15 secured its third Stanley Cup in five years, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning four games to two in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals. (My guy Duncan Keith scored the winning goal, so it wasn’t just the Patrick Kane show.)
In turn, this reminded me of Grandal improving after the loss of a certain power hitter, Eloy Jiménez.
BREAKING NEWS! Eloy Jiménez will begin his rehab assignment on Friday with Winston-Salem. pic.twitter.com/Unb9BxSVNf— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 8, 2021
This White Sox team has been plagued with injuries. Losing players like Jiménez and Luis Robert has been tough. Yet the White Sox are now eight games up in the Central — the largest division lead in all of baseball right now.
Half of the team are rookies, and half the rookies were called from Charlotte up less than two weeks ago. Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets were already good, but being pressed into fill lineup losses made those two better, which will pay off not only now but in the future — back in Charlotte, in trade to a future franchise, or even if they never relinquish their current roster spot.
Jiménez will be back soon. Robert will be back soon. Grandal? You guessed it, back soon. The guys on this team have maintained an all-around good season without some of their biggest stars. Meanwhile, those that have spent time on the dreaded injured list have been able to heal, rest and build up their strength so they can come back and produce on the field.
I’m here to tell you that it’s fine now, and will be fine later. I was one of those Blackhawks naysayers in 2015, feeling completely hopeless. Then they had a championship parade on my birthday.
With everyone back before September, the White Sox will be a force. (Yes, I still want some insurance bats and for the front office to spend some money, but I’m trying to be realistic and positive.) Try to enjoy the ride and appreciate the spectacular team we as fans can enjoy now, too.