How La Russa, Sox players approach trade-deadline buzz originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
While Chicago White Sox fans spend the week leading up to the trade deadline combing the internet for rumors and refreshing their Twitter feeds, the White Sox themselves — the manager and the players, that is — aren't exactly glued to their phones.
They have baseball to play, and they have to play it for another two months before the playoffs are a certainty, no matter how big their division lead is (it's the biggest one in baseball, by the way).
At least that's how their Hall-of-Famer manager sees it.
"If there's one thing that beats you — I'm not exaggerating, I'm just making a point — distractions," Tony La Russa said Tuesday. "Distractions will do more to mar performances, I don't care if it's a pitcher, position player, team. And whether or not a player is going to join your team, it's the front office, are we selling or buying? All those are distractions.
"In our case, we're buyers, and there's no doubt that our front office is trying to help — reasonably, as I've said before — because that's the way it should be. But we can't get distracted (from) the game that's being played that day. ... Just play today, and sooner or later we'll find out if we get help or not. But don't get distracted and lose an edge."
Certainly that's not a surprising approach from La Russa, who's spent the season preaching a one-day-at-a-time method and praising his team for following it to a "T." It strikes as one of sports' most classic cliches. But for the White Sox, it's worked.
But as La Russa mentioned and knows well, the White Sox are indeed contenders, and being active at the trade deadline is what contenders do. And that's exciting.
"It's all exciting," White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson told NBC Sports Chicago last week. "It's all new to us. Obviously, if we're in the mix, that means we're definitely going for it."
It might be a new sensation for a White Sox team that's spent the last several years in rebuilding mode. But despite getting an influx of returning middle-of-the-order bats in Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal, needs remain and Rick Hahn has vowed an aggressive approach.
There's perhaps no more obvious need than the one in the bullpen, where a talented collection of arms has not lived up to its own sky-high preseason expectations. Outside of All-Star closer Liam Hendriks and fireballing future starter Michael Kopech, the White Sox relief corps has struggled to give La Russa a crop of consistently dependable options on a nightly basis.
That hasn't eliminated those relievers' talent, of course. But it's made for an area that Hahn figures to address before the clock strikes 3 on Friday afternoon.
"There's a lot of things I wouldn't be surprised (by at the trade deadline)," Hendriks said earlier this month. "There are a number of areas we can go. I still think our bullpen is good enough where we are at, and if we get a couple of guys just turned around to what they've done in the past, we'll be fine.
"But in saying that, I wouldn't be opposed to another veteran piece that's going to be a little bit of a different personality than I am. Going to be better for the young kids who show less emotion or (are) more stoic."
Hahn could also address the hole at second base, one of the positions on the field where an injured star isn't slated to return. Nick Madrigal's been ruled out for the season, and while Leury García has, like the rest of the White Sox fill-ins, done an admirable job stepping in, it's one of those areas Hendriks talked about that the front office could go.
Regardless of what positions are affected by any potential moves, though, the White Sox are jazzed to be living life in contention mode — and with everything that comes with it.
"I think it's an exciting week. We'll see how it goes," White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago last weekend. "I don't know too much, but I'm looking forward to seeing what happens, both with our team and the rest of the league. There's some big names out there, so we'll see how it plays out."
Excitement might be the buzz word this time of year, but at least one person in a White Sox uniform, while willing to welcome any addition that joins the roster this week, is fine with the excitement that already exists for the South Siders.
"I'm excited enough we are in contention getting into the fifth month of the season. Don't need anymore excitement. It's plenty of excitement," La Russa said Wednesday. "If the front office decides there's something, then they will make a move and we'll embrace it. If they don't, we go with what we've got."