Before the season began, most baseball experts had two distinct predictions when it came to the Tigers and White Sox. One was slated to seek and destroy, the other was expected to run away and hide.
I think you can guess whos who.
But after winning five of their first eight games, and taking two of three from the Tigers, the White Sox have raised a few eyebrows -- but not Jim Leylands. They remain firmly planted in a horizontal line at the bottom of his forehead.
Mainly because Leyland thinks the prognosticators who are calling for the White Sox to lose 90-95 games are working with a shortage of baseball brain cells. And leave it to the outspoken Tigers manager to use his post-game press conference on Sunday as an opportunity to harpoon the pundits who are predicting gloom and doom for, of all teams, his AL Central rivals.
The people who made those picks dont know anything about baseball. Trust me, said the Tigers manager in a classic rant following his teams 5-2 victory at U.S. Cellular Field. If they think the Chicago White Sox arent going to be in the thick of this, theyre crazy.
But Leyland wasnt finished. Far from it.
They dont know anything about baseball, people making picks like that. They know nothing about baseball. Nothing. Since 2006 when I got here, this has been one of the best teams in the league every year, and theyll be right there.
Well, thats probably an exaggeration. The White Sox have clearly not been one of the top teams in the league every year since 06. However, theyve at least been in the conversation at the start of every season as a team that has a chance to contend. But not this year. Most people have been writing them off since November.
Leyland has been down that road before.
They picked us fourth last year. We won 95 games, so dont pay attention to those people. They just make a pick and they talk, but they dont know what theyre talking about, Leyland said.
If youre looking for an expert to talk about the White Sox, Leyland might be the guy. Hes seen his share of games between both clubs over the years, and the results have been all over the map. In his first three seasons in Detroit, the White Sox owned the Tigers, going a combined 35-20. Things were even the next two years until 2011, when the Tigers put a spanking on the White Sox, winning 13 of 18 games.
Leyland is not expecting a repeat of that in 2012, and now after seeing the Sox up close and personal for three days, hes come away impressed, basically giving a scouting report for his fellow American League managers.
Look at that pitching staff. Look at the arms they throw out there. Look at the arms they bring out of the bullpen, Leyland said. Paul Konerko is one of the best hitters in baseball. You know Adam Dunn is going to do a lot better than he did last year. He had a couple hits today. This is a good team. Alexei Ramirez is one of the best shortstops in the league. This is a real good team. A.J. Pierzynski is one of the best catchers and gets a lot of big hits.
Now before you pencil in the White Sox as contenders in the division, realize that there might be a method to Leylands madness. He could have used these comments to light a fire under his own team. Hes crafty like that.
But he also knows baseball, more than just about anybody in the game. Ill take his opinion over that of John Q. Baseball Expert.
Where is this season going for the White Sox? I have no clue. Nobody does. But here on April 15, theyre a half-game behind the Tigers and they look better than they did last year. Its only eight games, but thats the current reality. We cant predict the future. The experts tried, and Sunday, so did Leyland.
I dont know why anybody would not pick the White Sox as a solid, solid contender, he said. Weve got a good team. So do they. Theyre proving that.
Now just 154 games to go.