White Sox camp report: No predictions, but Sox quietly believe
The White Sox defy predictions more frequently than any team in the game. So maybe it's good for them that everyone is talking about the rest of the AL Central this spring, just as it turned out just fine when a scout predicted last spring that they would lose 100 games.
It was quiet at White Sox camp, at least until I showed up.
"Hey!" Sox general manager Rick Hahn yelled. "Have you found any scouts who think we're going to lose 100 games?"
Fair question, since I found one last spring, one who was proven completely wrong when the White Sox instead won 85 games and spent much of the season in first place. Fair question, but I haven't found anyone who thinks the White Sox will lose 100 games in 2013.
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Maybe the White Sox should be hoping I do.
What is it about this team? Predictions for every team are often wrong, but is any club more wrongly predicted more consistently than the White Sox?
Even the White Sox themselves don't seem able to predict what they'll be from year to year.
"We see no reason to have trumpets blaring our impending success," Hahn said. "It hasn't worked out well."
No, it hasn't.
The years we tell you the White Sox are going to win, they don't. We had eight guys picking the American League Central in 2011, and every single one of us had the White Sox first.
They finished under .500.
The years we tell you the White Sox aren't going to win, they do. We had the White Sox fourth in 2005 (they won the World Series), and half of us had them fifth last year.
So where are we picking the White Sox this year? Not telling you. Not for another couple weeks, and not ever if I can convince the bosses to let us refrain from (wrongly) picking them this year.
Here's what I can tell you: The White Sox deserve more attention than they seem to be receiving this spring. In the AL Central, everyone talks about the Tigers, and the Royals are universally acknowledged as a team on the rise. The Indians hired Terry Francona and signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, so there's excitement there, too.
The White Sox made no splashes. They re-signed Jake Peavy. Good pitcher, but they already had him. They let Kevin Youkilis walk away and replaced him with Jeff Keppinger. OK.
"There's a reason we didn't make a lot of moves," Adam Dunn said. "We didn't need to."
The White Sox will remind you that Peavy was one of the top starting pitchers on the free-agent market, something that gets overlooked because he re-signed so early. They remind you that John Danks, their opening day starter last year, didn't pitch after the middle of May, but is back this year after shoulder surgery.
They'll remind you that they're good -- but not too loudly.
Hahn talks about how much he likes the pitching staff, one through 12. Danks talks about Peavy and Chris Sale at the top of the rotation.
"We understand we don't have a [Justin] Verlander," Danks said. "But we have two aces. Not many teams have a Sale and a Peavy."
But Sale's 192 innings were 119 more than he threw the year before. Peavy's 219 innings gave him his first complete season since 2007. Danks' surgery wasn't the worst kind of shoulder surgery, but everyone around the White Sox speaks cautiously when talking about what to expect from him.
Can the White Sox really count on Sale and Peavy to be as good in 2013?
Veteran pitching coach Don Cooper strongly believes that the answer is yes. He had Sale begin throwing later this spring.
"I think we got every ounce out of Chris starting last year," Cooper said. "But now a new plan comes into effect. He's got a chance to be really good. We see him as a 200-inning guy year-in, year-out. So we don't need him throwing 120 innings in the offseason."
Peavy was supposed to be a year-in, year-out 200-inning guy, too, just as he was with the Padres. The White Sox traded for him in 2009 thinking he was going to be the No. 1 starter they needed, but in 3½ years with the Sox, Peavy has just 28 wins and the one 200-inning season.
That could have been it, too, if Peavy had left as a free agent. Instead, he quickly signed on for two more years (for $29 million), getting the deal done on Oct. 30 before true free agency had even begun.
"I knew this was where I wanted to be," he said. "I just felt there was unfinished business for me here. You get traded for, you want to be the guy they traded for.
"Without question, personally and for the team, I feel there's a little more there."
As Peavy spoke, Dunn and Paul Konerko had a one-on-one hockey game going, right in the middle of the clubhouse. As Peavy spoke, Dunn's goalie stick whacked me (thankfully, not too hard) in the back on the leg.
"Sorry," Dunn said. "Faceoff."
I'm sure he didn't mean to hit me. I'm sure it wasn't for finding someone who thought the White Sox would lose 100 games last year.
After all, with this team, when you say they're going to lose 100, there's a better chance they'll win 100.
What will it be this year? I'm not saying.
But there's no way they lose 100.
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