Sometime around Thanksgiving, the White Sox are likely to look back and realize they were in the fight from start to finish.
They'll try to build off that fact, and the Sox can also use their colossal collapse as motivation heading into 2013.
But as the regular season came to a close Wednesday night against the Indians in Cleveland, the White Sox deserve to be chastised for failing to finish what they started.
"All we had to do was take care of business and we wouldn't be sitting here in this position," Sox general manager Kenny Williams told reporters in Cleveland Wednesday.
"I can only be so disappointed for not closing this thing out because if there is such a thing as losing the right way, this group did," Williams continued.
If that doesn't encapsulate a tale of two seasons, nothing does. Let's take a closer look:
On July 3, Rios drove in 3 runs, upping his RBI total to 45. He had 44 RBI last season.
On July 13, he hit his 13th home run, matching last year's total.
Rios wasn't wowing anyone, again, over the first few weeks of the season. But a 9-for-17 surge later in April got the 31-year-old outfielder going and Rios never slowed down.
Rios finished with a .304 batting average, 25 home runs and 91 RBI, all career highs. Combined with his 23 stolen bases and stellar play in right field, Rios was clearly the White Sox' best all-around player this season. By far.
Like many of his teammates, Sale ran out of gas at the worst possible time.
But even though the 23-year-old lefty allowed 11 earned runs on 25 hits and 7 walks while losing two of his last three starts, Sale went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA in his first year as a starter.
Sale's not going to win the Cy Young, but he'll get plenty of votes. And he is the Sox' ace moving forward.
Like Rios, Dunn bounced back from a miserable 2011 and led the White Sox in home runs and RBI.
When he got hot, Dunn carried the Sox for lengthy stretches and terrorized opposing pitchers with tape-measure home runs.
In addition to Sale, who moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation, there were plenty of other young White Sox pitchers that made the most of their first crack.
Nate Jones has a rocket arm and he could be the future closer. Another rookie, Addison Reed, tailed off in his first season as closer but he's going to be an integral part of the bullpen moving forward.
Hector Santiago, who looks like a future starter, Jose Quintana, Donnie Veal and even Brian Omogrosso also pitched well.
You can't pin the White Sox' offensive collapse on one player -- everyone but Rios went cold when the season was on the line.
Dunn, however, was most noticeable after he hit 2 home runs to lift the Sox to a critical win on Sept. 24. Dunn was 1-for-21 with 11 strikeouts over the next six games, five of them losses, and the early guess is he switches places with Rios next season and bats fifth instead of third.
Dunn finished the season with 222 strikeouts, one shy of the major-league record set by Arizona's Mark Reynolds in 2009.
Williams was being touted as baseball's Executive of the Year after acquiring Kevin Youkilis, Brett Myers and Francisco Liriano in trades that cost little or nothing.
But the trio disappeared in September, along with the rest of the White Sox.
He'll never admit it, but health was the reason Paul Konerko tailed off so much in the second half.
The Sox' 36-year-old captain is scheduled to have wrist surgery in Chicago Thursday. Konerko also missed time with a concussion and a swollen face, courtesy of an errant pitch from Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija on May 18.
The White Sox were in first place for 117 days this season, but they rank 24th out of 30 major-league teams at the gate.
Failing to draw 2 million for the first time since 2004 is understandable due to the economy, but the Sox' attendance has slipped for six straight years.
If the trend continues, how long is it going to be before talk turns to whether Chicago can support two teams?
He was signed to a five-year, $65 million contract extension in December. That's ace money, but Danks got off to a slow start (3-4, 5.70 ERA) and his season ended when he had shoulder surgery in early August.
Danks was really missed in September as the White Sox' starting rotation wore down, but he's been cleared to throw in November and should be 100 percent by spring training.