CHICAGO -- As friends and members of the same starting rotation, John Danks had many casual conversations with Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon over the course of this past season.
But the veteran southpaw drummed home one point in particular for the two young starters, focusing on the excitement of playoff baseball. Danks' only postseason experience came in 2008, thanks in part to the greatest pitching performance of his career in possibly the most exciting single evening in White Sox history -- known as the play-in Blackout Game against the Twins.
"When we're good, the support we get here and just the excitement every day coming to the ballpark -- being in contention and being in a position to go to the playoffs -- it's a blast," Danks said prior to the end of the 2015 campaign, revealing his message. "Hopefully we can feel that next year."
General manager Rick Hahn has the task of trying to bring that playoff feel back to the South Side. He'll need to start with the first winning season since '12.
The White Sox have moved more than a few steps in the right direction. They have a starting trio of Sale, Rodon and Jose Quintana that rivals the top of the rotation of almost any other franchise.
They have an established closer in David Robertson, although the veteran said he had the worst season of his career after finishing 34-for-41 in save opportunities. They have a proven run producer in Jose Abreu and an elite leadoff man in Adam Eaton, not to mention talented, developing pitchers at the Minor League level who could help the big league team or be used as part of trades to help the big league team.
Those same assets, though, also point up the importance of getting this team quickly turned around. The White Sox have Sale, Quintana, Abreu and Eaton under extremely team-friendly long-term deals, and the club certainly doesn't want to waste the prime years of such assets.
Robertson pointed out during the season's final week that despite the disappointment on an individual or team-wide level, all that could be done was finish strong, bring the confidence into next season and put a lot of hard work into the offseason geared toward improvement in 2016. That hard work extends to the front office as well, as the White Sox try to strengthen their core while contending in the same competitive cycle.
"This is a great team. This is a great group of guys," Robertson said. "We just didn't play well this year."