As Rick Renteria gets close to winding up his second season as the White Sox’ manager, another with 95 losses — or more — quite likely, he envisions the day when these days are long forgotten, when the rebuild will have come together.
“Do I think about what it’s going to feel like to win 100 games? Yes, I do,” Renteria said. “But you also have to think about winning as many as you can to get into the postseason and make a postseason run.’’
Talk about thinking big.
“Maybe for most people it’s laughable [to think that way]; they say, ‘Come on, you’re full of b.s.,’ ’’ Renteria said before a game against the Indians in Cleveland last week. “But that’s OK. The only ones who have to believe is us. We have to stick together believing in us. If there is a fray or doubt, eliminate the doubt.’’
A second consecutive season approaching 100 losses has allowed some doubt to creep in, though, even with a farm system ranked fourth in baseball by MLB Pipeline. For the key building blocks on the major-league roster — shortstop Tim Anderson’s improving defense and Yoan Moncada’s good finish at the plate notwithstanding — a little more was probably expected. On the pitching side, Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Jace Fry are three thumbs up with Lucas Giolito a mixed bag. And the injury to Michael Kopech, their top pitching prospect who had Tommy John surgery that will force him to miss all of next season, was a huge blow.
“He’s a big part of what we are in the future and what’s going to be in the present,’’ Renteria said. “It’s going to hurt a little. We’re going to have to make an adjustment in the organization and fill a void.’’
From a performance standpoint, Renteria said he gives his team “a C-minus or D.” For effort, they get A’s.
And if and when he is managing when the team is ready to win, effort will still be in demand, which means players run everything out or take a seat.
“You’re still going to have to bust your butt,’’ Renteria said. “You’re going to hustle. You don’t win without doing those things. I don’t think you can [change].
“Forcing a guy into an error because you’re taking a hard turn at first or driving in a run by using the proper side of the field, that’s just good baseball. That’s not just me.
“Look at all the clubs who’ve won in the last five years — Giants, Royals, Indians, Cubs — every single one has done something that is consistent: They’ve all pushed the envelope on the bases, run the bases a certain way, used the proper side of the field when needed, played the little game. All of them won with pitching and defense.’’
Renteria has one more year left on his contract, but all signs point to him being around past next year.
“Am I hopeful I’ll be around?” he said. “Yes, I am. But I can only control what I can control — what is going on in here.’’
With prized outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez adding pop to his lineup and perhaps a capable free-agent pitcher or two added to the mix for next year (we might know more of what general manager Rick Hahn has planned when he talks next week), the Sox should open 2019 with a more competitive roster.
But that 95- to 100-win dream is well down the road. Player development will be the theme — again — next year.
“Everybody says you have to learn how to win,’’ Renteria said. “No kidding. That’s a keen sense of the obvious. But it takes a lot of things to come together. You need not only players with talent but players who execute with that talent. And they all have to buy into a certain way of how to play the game. That’s what we’re trying to establish now.’’