Four years have passed since Chicago last saw Jermaine Dye trotting out to right field in his home whites.
And as the last-place White Sox scratch and claw to salvage the 2013 season, fans cling to brighter days when Dye led the team to two playoff appearances and a World Series championship in five years.
[RELATED: Hahn has the White Sox headed in the right direction]
The 2005 World Series MVP returned to his title city last week, making an appearance at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont.
Immediately following his trade from Oakland to Chicago, Dye helped the White Sox to their first World Series title in 88 years. He is most remembered for his exceptional performance with the White Sox in 2005, especially in the postseason as he made an immediate impact in Game 1 of the World Series against the Astros with an opposite-field home run in the first inning.
“We had a great pitching staff," he said of the championship 2005 team. "We had timely hitting. It wasn’t just one guy doing it for us day in and day out. We had one of the best pitching staffs I’ve ever played on. I think that showed in the playoff run and into the World Series. I can remember in the Anaheim series, I don’t even remember getting a ball because our pitching was so good. We got timely hitting from everybody and became world champs.”
[MORE: White Sox 'not married' to Garcia in center]
Dye batted .274 with 31 home runs and 86 RBI that season and despite the initial success the White Sox had after his arrival on to the South Side, the veteran slugger also endured his share of rough years.
“You’re going to go through tough stretches," he said. "I know [the White Sox] had a lot of guys who have been injured and unfortunately things haven’t been going their way. I know they’re pitching really well, but they're having a tough time scoring runs.”
The White Sox rank second-to-last in Major League Baseball in runs scored with 425 on the year, coming in above only the Miami Marlins. Dye can empathize with the kind of attitude a player can fall into when his team is fighting to keep its head above water.
[MORE: White Sox acquire infielder Garcia in Rios deal]
“It’s always tough when you’re on a losing streak," he said. "It's tough to come to the ballpark happy and ready to play and get up for a ballgame, but you got to somehow find a way and look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘We’re professionals, we got to come out here and do a job and hopefully tonight we can go out and put together a good game and try to put together a couple of wins in a row.'
“You just have to keep trying to battle every day, keep coming to the ballpark ready to play every day and just try to take one day at a time.”
As for the success of the White Sox going forward, Dye said, “It starts with pitching and defense. Add in that with timely hitting and you’re going to win a lot of ballgames.”
The depth of the 2013 White Sox pitching staff and the struggles with timely hitting has pushed general manager Rick Hahn to make some changes in his team. Pitchers Jesse Crain, Jake Peavy and Matt Thornton were traded before the July 31 deadline in an attempt to build for the future. On Friday, Alex Rios became the latest White Sox player packing his bags, as the veteran outfielder was dealt to the Rangers.
Dye knows a thing or two about being uprooted midseason, having been traded three times in his career.
“Every player is different," Dye said. "Depending on where you’re playing, if you want to be there, you kind of get down a little bit because you want to stay with that club. Most of the time, you want to be on the team that you’re on right then and there. You don’t want to go anywhere.”
Dye played his last season in Chicago in 2009, hitting 27 homers and driving in 81 runs at age 35. He left as a free agent and didn't catch on anywhere else. The 14-year veteran looked back on his time on the South Side fondly.
“We gelled. We were like a family. We all got along. We all did things together," he said. "I felt like I was right at the prime time of my career where I knew what I was as a player, I knew what I needed to do to help the ballclub win and just believed in the abilities of myself and my teammates.”
[RELATED: Former White Sox Uribe victim of hidden ball trick]
And while Dye never played again after leaving the White Sox, the California native understands why the team didn't re-sign him.
“It didn’t impact me at all because I got the chance to go out into the market and see what there was out there," Dye said. "I already had my mind set on playing closer to home, closer to the West Coast. I was trying to kind of wind down a little bit, wasn’t sure if I wanted to play anymore. I had three kids. I was kind of getting mentally worn out of baseball. So, the right team had to come along for me to sign, and if not, I was very happy and content with going home and being with my family."
Dye’s departure won’t necessarily be permanent, though.
The White Sox have been known to bring in former players to serve in the front office and on the coaching staff. From managers Ozzie Guillen and Robin Ventura, GM Kenny Williams to recently-hired Jim Thome, a special assistant to the GM, previous players have resurfaced in the White Sox organization.
Dye hasn't ruled out returning to Chicago baseball in a different role.
“I’m sure someday," he said. "Being away from the game so long, you just want to take time once you’re done and be daddy and do those things for a couple years to get away from all the traveling and stuff like that. So who knows? Maybe someday I’ll come back and do something with the White Sox.”