ARLINGTON -- Names such as Jake Burger, Gavin Sheets, Seby Zavala and Ryan Burr won’t be at the forefront when the story of the 2021 White Sox eventually is told.
But there’s little doubt this group, along with other Minor League additions over the course of the season, have made major contributions to what should be the organization’s first American League Central title since 2008.
“I’ve been really happy with the contributions of the players that you are talking about,” Chris Getz, the White Sox assistant general manager/player development, told MLB.com before Friday’s game. “They’ve been able to provide for a Major League club. That’s a testament to our Minor League coaches, certainly our Triple-A staff, preparing them for what it takes.
“We’ve got guys who understand what [manager] Tony [La Russa] expects at this level. They’ve been able to build relationships with Tony right from the get-go. That has allowed us to have more of a direct purpose on a daily basis to work with those players, and it’s paid off.”
These call-ups have talked about fitting into the clubhouse and the overall team scheme as soon as they arrive. Of course, many of them played with the established veterans and top-notch young talent as recently as Spring Training, which always helps.
La Russa, in turn, has spoken on a few occasions concerning these Minor League arrivals being ready and willing to do whatever is asked of them as soon as they make it to Chicago. It’s a strong working relationship good for all involved.
“That’s the most important part. Certainly at the Triple-A level but ultimately: Do we have players who can help our Major League club win? And you can’t lose sight of that,” Getz said. “That’s No. 1 when it comes to having a healthy system, is when those guys get to the big leagues, are they ready to contribute?”
The ultimate goal of this White Sox rebuild, beginning in the offseason following the 2016 season, is to win multiple World Series championships as general manager Rick Hahn has discussed on numerous occasions. The first level of that goal was getting the initial wave of young players featuring Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Luis Robert and Dylan Cease to the Majors and contributing.
Mission definitely accomplished in that case. The team also has the luxury of gradually developing some of these new top young players at the top of their system by pushing and challenging but not rushing.
“Players will tell you when they are ready, whether it be from lower level to working their way up to the following stage,” Getz said. “Of course, are they ready to be Major League players?
“We have internal discussions. What are the strengths of the players? There might be times where there’s a need for that particular strength, however they are not as fully well-rounded as we would like. Perhaps they need to continue that development at the Major League level or will try to continue development in the Minor Leagues.
“Work really never stops. It really doesn’t,” Getz said. “We still have a mission to be able to supplement the Major League club, and each year ... you have your surprises that pop up.”
Friday marked the anniversary of the White Sox clinching the 1983 American League West title, marking La Russa’s first postseason appearance as a manager. Harold Baines delivered a game-ending sacrifice fly during a 4-3 walkoff victory to send the White Sox to the playoffs for the first time since 1959. La Russa’s crew won the AL West by 20 games with a 99-63 record.
“It’s forever tied for first, as far as memories of teams that get to October,” La Russa said. “Once we got it going, the excitement level that, ‘Look, we might be able to do this,’ just kept building and building, just kept motivating us to keep going.
“First pitch, Harold hits a sacrifice fly, and you win. Probably as much as anything else, if you saw the pictures or the TV, the fans just flooded the field, everybody climbed over the walls and joined in. You can't do that anymore, but they did it then. It really added to the enjoyment.”