With eight victories in their last 11 games, the Chicago White Sox moved within three games of first place in the AL Central and were talking playoffs.
But general manager Kenny Williams decided Chicago needed to do more than talk. In less than 12 hours Tuesday, he made two blockbuster trades that let the rest of the American League know the White Sox are serious about making a run at the postseason.
"We're here to win it," Frank Thomas said Wednesday. "This is not going to be a wait-and-see for two years. We're going after it now."
The White Sox were still celebrating the news they had gotten 12-time All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar when Williams pulled off another deal late Tuesday. This one was even more stunning. Outfielder Carl Everett was on his way to the South Side.
In a matter of hours, the White Sox went from being a team on the fringes of the AL Central race to being the team looming behind the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins.
"They got Roberto and Carl Everett. Can you ask anything more?" Minnesota center fielder Torii Hunter said. "That lets you know they're trying to win. So we just have to keep on pushing. That's all I have to say."
Alomar and Everett were both in the lineup for Wednesday night's game against Minnesota -- even though Everett had been in Anaheim, California, the night before and the White Sox have an off day Thursday. Both got loud cheers when they were introduced.
"I'm coming to a team that is committed to winning, and I'm looking forward to this opportunity," Alomar said before the game. "They have made some great moves, and I'm really excited about being here.''
The White Sox began the season as the favorite in the AL Central. They had picked up Bartolo Colon in the offseason, pairing him with Mark Buehrle for one of the most formidable 1-2 combinations in the American League. They had traded for closer Billy Koch, making an already solid bullpen even more intimidating.
They had Thomas, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee and Paul Konerko, an offensive juggernaut few teams could match.
"You can put together what you think is going to work on paper," Williams said. "But ultimately, it's the players and their performance."
And that's where the White Sox stumbled. They lost their first three games, and were eight games below .500 on June 4. Their pitching was solid, but their offense was abysmal. Even laying down a bunt was a challenge.
When they lost to San Francisco on June 12, they dropped a season-high 81/2 games back. The AL Central race, it seemed, was down to Kansas City and Minnesota.
"We played as bad as you can possibly play in the first half," Thomas said, "and we're still in the thick of things."
There's nothing that cures a slump for a Chicago team like the Crosstown Series, and this year was no different. The White Sox took two of three in the first series against the Cubs, outscoring them 20-11.
Then they went to Minnesota, which has been like a black hole in recent years. But Chicago won two games there, too, then came home to take another pair from the Cubs.
Just like that, the postseason didn't seem so far-fetched.
"I knew if we played up to our capabilities that we would win this division," Williams said.
But the White Sox needed help. They had never found an adequate replacement for Ray Durham at second, with D'Angelo Jimenez making errors and base-running blunders. Jose Valentin is never going to make anyone's list of top 10 defensive shortstops, leaving the middle of the infield extremely vulnerable.