GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chicago White Sox fans have every right to feel awful.
Not only is their baseball team a dozen years removed from World Series glory, they haven’t witnessed a winning season since 2012.
That was Robin Ventura’s first year in the dugout, and even that was a painful season to watch.
Running first in the AL Central with just nine games to play, the Sox lost six times, dropped into second place and missed the playoffs.
Even tougher times have followed, and ESPN twice dissed the White Sox with reporting that apparently forgot about that 11-1 surge through the 2005 playoffs capped by a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros in the World Series.
Even Wheel of Fortune — Wheel of Fortune! — piled on the Sox.
Earlier this month, the popular game show gave four clues for Chicago’s professional sports teams. The Cubs were there, the Bears, the Blackhawks and the Bulls.
Alas, no White Sox.
It has been a difficult stretch, without a doubt. But even on an unusually cloudy, drizzly day in the desert at Camelback Ranch, there was a ray of light.
Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Wednesday and, continuing a trend from SoxFest last month, there was no talk about another probable losing season.
“A lot of people say (things), but this is baseball,” said new relief pitcher Joakim Soria. “Baseball is a lot of surprises. You’ve seen through the years teams that are rebuilding and they have postseasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up winning the division.
“Baseball is a different animal and you never know if this is going to be the year. If everybody has the best year of their career, we can go on a good run.”
Soria actually sounded pessimistic compared to top prospect Eloy Jimenez, who predicted at SoxFest multiple World Series championships.
Rick Hahn has had five losing seasons in five years on the job, and that would put most major-league general managers in the unemployment line.
But Hahn has been receiving nothing but praise for deftly navigating through a long needed rebuild.
He’s not getting measured for a World Series ring in the near future, but Hahn is understandably excited about the White Sox’s future.
“We know where we’re at,” Hahn said. “We know we’re one year into a rebuild and usually those things take a little more time. But it’s fine. The enthusiasm is great and, again, a lot of it is coming out of the clubhouse, a lot of it is coming from these players who think that they have the ability to surprise some people.”
Rick Renteria was 73-89 managing the rebuilding Cubs in 2014. He was fired after one season and Joe Maddon replaced him.
In 2017, his first season as White Sox manager, Renteria was 67-95.
A cynic would say there’s no where to go but up, but Renteria knows how deep the Sox are in young talent, and that’s why he’s aiming high.
“I’m not going to talk about anything other than winning ballgames,” Renteria said. “You can’t approach any season in a professional sport other than focusing on the process and hoping for the outcome you’re hoping to get. I’m not going to sell them short.
“We’ll shoot high and we’ll see where we fall from there. I’m not going to lower the bar and be happy if we surpass that bar. I’m not that person. We’re going to shoot high and see where it falls.”