Thanks to White Sox and Rick Hahn for offering some relief during tough times
The signing of closer Liam Hendriks is the latest move for a franchise hellbent on winning it all.
It’s not just that these are dark times. It’s that the darkness seems to increase in intensity on a regular basis. Right when you think that things can’t possibly get worse, they do.
So you go looking for relief because if you don’t, if you stand too long in the absence of light, you’re pretty sure you’ll get swallowed by it. You find relief in small ways and in wisps of moments that might seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things but aren’t. A walk in the woods. A loved one’s infectious laugh, the good kind of infectious. A baseball team.
A baseball team?
A baseball team. The White Sox. They’ve provided consistent good news for the better part of two years. Every time you turn around, they’re doing something that makes you take notice. It has been a steady march of exciting stuff. It’s almost been dizzying. When the world is upside down, you wouldn’t think dizziness would be good. But it is.
The latest is the Sox’ signing of All-Star closer Liam Hendriks to the tune of $54 million over fours years, a large chunk of change for a team that isn’t shy about its World Series yearnings.
“We feel like we’ve added another premium piece here to our growing core, and we’re very excited for what it means for our pitching staff going forward,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said in a Zoom conference Friday. “Obviously, it’s a major economic investment, and it’s something that makes a strength stronger, but it’s still nonetheless a very important one for us to take given how high our aspirations are for this season and ideally to play and win deep into October.’’
There have been so many moments like this with the Sox that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. The whole thing is a blur, a wonderful mashup of times and dates, signings and trades, accomplishments and dropped jaws: top prospect Eloy Jimenez’ six-year, $43 million deal before he had played a big-league game … Luis Robert’s major-league debut, his first hit a single with a ridiculous exit velocity of 115.8 m.p.h. … his 487-foot home run against Oakland in a wild-card game … a six-week span in which the Sox re-signed Jose Abreu, then signed catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitcher Dallas Keuchel … Tim Anderson’s batting title … Anderson’s bat flips … the Sox’ four homers in a row against the Cardinals … Abreu’s four home runs in four at-bats against the Cubs … the debut of hard-throwing Garrett Crochet, three months after the Sox chose him with their 2020 first-round pick … the shock of Tony La Russa’s return … Lucas Giolito’s turnaround … the acquisition of Lance Lynn from the Rangers … the first playoff series in 12 years.
And now Hendriks’ arrival.
It’s OK if you feel the need to sit down.
Hendriks, who was 14 of 15 in save opportunities with the A’s last season, was drawn to the talent and momentum the Sox had. Probably the money, too.
“You look at the guys they’ve got and how long they’ve got them for, as well, which is another huge thing,’’ he said Friday. “At the end of the season, my wife and I sat down with a list of teams (and) on paper, the White Sox were the team I wanted to go to.’’
I would never suggest that something like baseball has the ability to cancel the pain and ugliness of these times. But it’s a nice source of obliviousness. If you’re going to be stuck inside because of a pandemic, it’s good to have for company an active, engaged team with reachable dreams.
It’s why thoughts of spring training and beyond are a heat source right now. And it’s why even the Sox’ controversial hiring of the 76-year-old La Russa as manager in October was a good thing. It meant those so inclined could shake their fists at the White Sox instead of the White House for a while.
So much activity to ponder from the past two years: Michael Kopech’s 2018 debut … his Tommy John surgery … his decision to sit out the 2020 season because of the pandemic … Moncada’s breakout 2019 season after moving to third base … Abreu’s American League MVP season in 2020.
And more entertainment and distraction to come, for sure.
This is a franchise and a general manager with a massive goal in mind and the resources to reach it. The Sox and Hahn are not satisfied with the status quo. They talk only of progress. They’re too busy to talk about yesterday. There’s tomorrow to attack.
It’s a great help for those of us trying to get through today.