By Jim Owczarski
A year ago, the Chicago White Sox were all in. This year, theyre asking Why not us?
The tenor surrounding SoxFest this year is markedly different than 2011, an event bursting with expectation and excitement due in large part to a veteran core that was boosted by the free agent acquisition of Adam Dunn.
A year later, the team is in a modified rebuilding mode, infusing some younger talent around that same veteran core that under-produced en route to a 79-win season.
In meeting with the media prior to the opening ceremonies of SoxFest Friday night at the Palmer House Hilton, general manager Ken Williams set a tone that new manager Robin Ventura and players carried throughout the afternoon -- one of exceeding expectation.
This is an interesting year because yes, we have injected some youth into our equation, but theyre pretty good, Williams said. Theyre pretty good, and we can come out of this thing competing and get some momentum on our side and surprise some people.
Several players felt entering the season as an afterthought might be what they need to do just that.
Its always nicer to have less pressure, less expectations and then go out and do it, second baseman Gordon Beckham said. Nobody thought (Arizona) would win the (National League) West last year and they did. Its just one of those things. If we mesh well and do what were supposed to do I really think weve got a great chance.
Starting pitcher and Cy Young-winner Jake Peavy, healthy for the first time in his White Sox career, wholeheartedly agreed with his teammate.
I think its going to be nice with expectations lower and not being where it has been in the past, Peavy said. We can certainly sneak up on people. Theres enough talent (on this team), I promise you, to compete.
We can play with anybody in baseball and thats with the losses weve had and the gains other people have had. Its just a matter of if we show up and do it.