Paul Konerko thinks the Detroit Tigers are the team to beat in the American League Central and that the White Sox have a big opportunity in front of them this week.
But neither the team’s captain nor his manager or general manager believes this four-game series would make or break the upstart club’s chances.
Still, a chance to play the team residing in first place in the division four times at home is significant.
“This is a good opportunity, if we got out and play well and things go our way, and we can show we can play with these guys, because it is their division to lose,” Konerko said. “They’ve won it. It’d give our guys confidence if we won the series.”
The key is playing well.
The White Sox didn’t do much of that over the weekend when they swept by the Los Angeles Angels.
A team that entered the series a game above .500 -- and has quickly become relevant again after 99 losses in 2013 -- disappeared against the Angels. Many believe this is a key series for the White Sox to determine whether or not they’re contenders as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline isn’t too far away.
But GM Rick Hahn said none of that would matter if the White Sox don’t get back to playing how they were previously.
“What makes a difference is that we haven't been playing real good ball the last three days and no matter who the opponent is now, it's time to turn that around,” Hahn said. “The fact it happens to be Detroit gives us a barometer against a team that's been the class of our division and more or less the class of the league for the last couple of seasons. So it's a nice barometer about where we're at, but regardless of who the opponent is right now, we need to start playing baseball more similar to what we playing in the early part of the year.”
Early is the key for Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.
He said he tries to keep an eye on how the White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins are doing but emphasized he won’t really pay attention to the standings until September.
So while a sweep by either team could have Detroit ahead by 8 1/2 games or merely half a game, Ausmus isn’t overly concerned at this point.
“I certainly don't look at it on a daily basis,” Ausmus said. “I know what teams did, but I don't keep track. It's too early. It's the second week of June. There's a lot of baseball left, whether you're up 10 games or you're up one game -- really, at this point, it doesn't matter.”
Robin Ventura agrees with his counterpart.
He has a young team where development is the key.
He wants to beat Detroit and gain ground in the standings. But he also wants his team not to be so focused that they go into a tailspin if they don’t.
"You're not going to make your season if you do something in the next four days,” Ventura said. “But you'd like to do well. You'd like to beat them. You'd like to catch them in the standings.