Jake Peavy wants the White Sox to earn respect.
The right-hander feels he and his teammates didn't earn it last year, despite being in first place in the AL Central for the majority of the season. Losing the division to eventual league champion Detroit in the season's final month means, for Peavy, the White Sox didn't deserve the respect of those making preseason predictions for 2013.
"To be respected as one of the best teams in the league you gotta win, you gotta get it done," Peavy said before the White Sox beat Kansas City 1-0 on Monday. "That's something we didn't do, and we haven't done since I've been here."
Peavy's not talking about respect from opposing teams. It's more along the lines of this: He's not rankled by the White Sox being picked to finish behind Detroit in the AL Central. It'd be different if the Sox were defending division champs returning largely the same roster with a few key upgrades, as is the case with the Tigers.
"With people talking the way they talk about Detroit and everybody else, they've earned that respect," Peavy said. "They've won the division a few times, they've won the American League, that's why they have the respect and they're spoken of the way they are. We set out to chase that down and be talked about in the same breath going into the following year as they're being talked about."
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That respect is the byproduct of success. For the White Sox, that success will be predicated on the team's pitching staff, one which general manager Rick Hahn sees as worthy of raising the expectation level for his team.
"We have reason to believe we are going to be strong 1 through 12 in the pitching staff. There are going to be key elements from our offense that hopefully take the next step forward and we plan on being this to the end," Hahn said. "Someone pointed out to me a few minutes ago we were in first place 117 days last year. That’s quite an accomplishment. While it is, I think this team’s focus now is being in first place only on one day and that’s at the end of this season."
Hahn's confident in the pitching staff and defense of the White Sox, which he thinks tailors perfectly to the home run haven that is U.S. Cellular Field. Even though the park can often times play small, the White Sox expect to be in plenty of close games in 2013 -- and success in those contests often comes down to having a good bullpen and quality defense.
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The White Sox showed both on Monday, with Gordon Beckham making a sparking diving catch in the seventh, keeping Kansas City from putting the tying run in scoring position. Alexei Ramirez, too, made a difficult play to scoop a low throw by starter Chris Sale to second base, getting an out and perhaps keeping Kansas City from a big sixth inning.
Matt Thornton then pitched the White Sox out of a first-and-third jam in the eighth by dispatching third baseman Mike Moustakas on three fastballs, teeing up Addison Reed for his first save of the year.
"A lot of times you look at the team’s record and you look at the one-run ballgames," first baseman Paul Konerko said after the game. "Whatever that record is swings that team from being a really good team to just kind of a mediocre team."
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Konerko sees winning one-run and close games as a habit, one that takes time to get into. The White Sox actually fared well in one-run games last year, going 26-21 -- 5 1/2 games better than Detroit's record in one-run contests. While success in close games isn't always a factor in a team's success, it's certainly a routine the White Sox would like to get into in 2013.
"When you get into those games, I know we’re approaching those to feel normal," Konerko said. "But it takes a lot of those to get accustomed to it and to get into habits. But today was a good start. It’s one game, but it feels good to win those tight ones like that."
That's all part of the White Sox thinking they're in a good spot, no matter what those outside the clubhouse predict.