The White Sox were seen as a postseason contender going into the season. Thirty-five games in, they’re thinking much bigger than that.
Is a World Series appearance a fantasy? When you win 11 of your last 13 games before Tuesday, lead the American League in multiple offensive categories — including home runs and slugging — and your starting rotation has a 2.59 ERA in your last 30 games, you’re going to flirt with the thought.
In the weirdness of a 60-game season played in the midst of a pandemic and without fans in the stands, the experience leading up to the playoffs alone and what happens in them will be huge for the many young Sox who haven’t been through it, general manager Rick Hahn said.
‘‘There’s a great deal of value in winning this year,’’ Hahn said Monday. ‘‘It’s unique, but with the challenges presented this season, what a team has to go through to get across that finish line as a champion by no means takes away from the value of that championship.’’
If anything, Hahn said a gold star, not an asterisk, belongs next to the champion’s name on the trophy because of the unique challenges.
After chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, vice president Ken Williams, Hahn and manager Rick Renteria met with seven players Sunday to discuss the Sox’ present and future, Hahn said: ‘‘One of the things that really struck me was how diligent our group is and how focused they are in doing everything in their power to sprint through to this finish line and attempt to win a championship.’’
So the Sox’ clubhouse and chemistry are good, but talent will rule the day. And as these Sox blossom from also-rans into bona fide winners, they will be stuck with each other — in a good way, in all likelihood — for a long time because of their contract situations. The only players not under club control for next season are closer Alex Colome, catcher James McCann and injured utility player Leury Garcia.
Prized rookie center fielder Luis Robert, third baseman Yoan Moncada, left fielder Eloy Jimenez, shortstop Tim Anderson and left-hander Aaron Bummer were signed to long-term deals before they hit free agency, keeping them in the fold for as many as seven more years.
Robert is under control through 2027, Jimenez through 2026 and Moncada and right-hander Dylan Cease through 2025. Anderson, Bummer and right-hander Michael Kopech are under control through 2024.
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel, catcher Yasmani Grandal and right-hander Lucas Giolito, who threw a no-hitter last week, are under wraps through 2023. First baseman Jose Abreu is signed through 2022.
So this season is far from a last dance. On the contrary, it’s one big toe on the edge of the dance floor, waiting to bust a big move.
The Sox’ objective all along has been to build for multiple championships. Maybe, perhaps a year ahead of schedule, they can pull it off now.
‘‘The rapidity with which many of these things have happened’’ is how Hahn summarizes the big steps Robert, Jimenez, Anderson and Giolito are taking.
‘‘[And] once they all attain what they are ultimately supposed to be, you’re going to see consistent performance, which is going to be hopefully unstoppable,’’ Renteria said.
The Sox aren’t there yet, but they were feeling it after winning the first game of the series Monday against Twins.
‘‘It’s what we’ve been waiting for, man,’’ Giolito said. ‘‘It’s been a lot of losing baseball the last few years. We knew what we were capable of, and now we’re starting to show it.’’
With the no-hitter, homer binges and walk-off victories, it has been one thing after another.
‘‘All of it has really led us to not only feel good about where we are as an organization now, but to reinforce where this thing is going to lead us over the better part of the next decade,’’ Hahn said.