Forget last year. This is the year the White Sox have to win a World Series. Right? RIGHT?

Coming up short this time around won’t be acceptable for a team still loaded with talent.

SHARE Forget last year. This is the year the White Sox have to win a World Series. Right? RIGHT?
The White Sox need a big — and healthy — season out of Luis Robert.

The White Sox need a big — and healthy — season out of Luis Robert.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Well before last season began, plenty of people insisted that 2021 would be a failure for the White Sox if they didn’t win the World Series. Great talent carried great expectations, right? So when the Sox lost early in the playoffs, there was some discussion that they were a complete disappointment and that they might want to think about sheltering in place until it was safe to go outside. Which would be never.

But strangely — strange for hard-bitten Chicago — the discussion shifted fairly quickly. There had been injuries to key players, there had been COVID-19 challenges and there was always 2022. Forgiveness seemed like the thing to do.

But now? Now we really mean it! It’s World Series or bust for these White Sox. Don’t even bother coming back to town if you don’t win it this year, fellas.

OK, I’ve got that out of my system.

But it’s true. At some point, the Sox have to live up to the hype and have to stick their heads through the championship window before it starts closing. Now would be wonderful. There are too many gifted players on the roster, and there’s never enough time in professional sports. So, yes, this would be a perfect occasion for the Sox to make good on the tacit promises that came with the rebuild they foisted upon their fan base several years ago.

Back-to-back postseason appearances are nice, but nice was never the goal. October was. November, if necessary.

About that load of talent: It’s still there. Anderson and Abreu and Robert, oh my! The concern is that the Sox didn’t add much in the offseason. The Astros scored 31 runs in their four-game American League Division Series beatdown of the South Siders last year. If you had your hands over your eyes during that debacle, you might have been under the impression that general manager Rick Hahn needed to add pitching for 2022. But the series showed that if the Sox wanted to keep up with the big boys, they needed to hit like them.

It was a very quiet offseason, with the only signings of note being reliever Joe Kelly and infielder Josh Harrison, who hit .279 with eight home runs last season with the Nationals and Athletics.

It would be a mistake to think that the Sox don’t have enough offensively, though. They finished in the top 10 in the majors in all meaningful categories last season, including first in BABIP (sorry, I gave up explaining what that is for Lent). But they finished tied for 19th in home runs, and if we know anything about today’s baseball, it’s that you’re a weak, puny, possibly un-American team if you’re not hitting homers.

There’s no reason to think that Yoan Moncada can’t reprise his 2019 season (25 home runs, 79 RBI, .315 average) and forget last season (14, 61, .263). Any big ideas the Sox have of a postseason run are based on their prayers that Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez will stay healthy. Injuries reduced Robert to 68 games last season and Jimenez to 55. It’s why Robert had only 13 homers and Jimenez 10.

Put them with Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal, pray like hell (again) for good health and you have the backbone of a monster lineup. The pitching should be good enough.

Should the Sox have done more in the offseason? Yes. Maybe they weren’t aware, but you can have complete faith in your team and add talent. Still, they rank seventh in payroll ($184.7 million). It’s hard to criticize them when they’re acting much more like a major-market team than the purportedly major-market club across town. The Cubs rank 15th at $130.1 million.

PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus’ computer model, has the Sox winning 91 games in 2022, two fewer than they won last season, but winning the AL Central by five games over the Twins. Last season, PECOTA had the Sox winning 83 games and finishing third in the division. PECOTA probably should be drug tested now and then.

At some point, Sox fans have to rely on faith. This is the time to believe that some or all of the young players on the roster will figure it out and realize all that potential the franchise saw in them. Why not this season? It’s time to expect them to be what they’re supposed to be.

If they don’t, then all of it, especially the painful rebuild, will be a flop. The whole idea is another World Series title, the first since way back in 2005.

So this is the year, right? This is the year the Sox have to win it all, the year they turn all the talent into a beautiful thing? It is. It’s time.

Or else.

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