GLENDALE, Ariz. -- White Sox players have a message for any fan or pundit who doesn't believe this 2012 team can contend for the American League Central title.
Don't give up just yet on this team, and don't base this year's outlook on last year's disappointment.
"Fans shouldn't be upset because I think we have a great team, I really do," said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham, taking the purely optimistic viewpoint. "If we do what we are capable of, which is easier said than done, but if we do that, the sky is the limit for this team. We can compete and compete with the Tigers and give them a run."
"Every year there are teams that aren't expected to do anything, but they have great years and get in the playoffs," starter John Danks said. "I don't think anyone saw the Cardinals winning it all [in 2011] after losing [Adam] Wainwright."
Skepticism pushed toward this particular group comes from key team members such as Mark Buehrle, Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos all departing from last year's squad, and reserve outfielder Kosuke Fukudome standing as the lone Major League free-agent addition. Comeback questions surrounding Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Jake Peavy and Beckham all have to be answered in the affirmative for the 2012 squad to take a major step forward.
They are trying to erase three straight disappointing roller-coaster rides produced since the White Sox last division title in 2008. This group has no intention of reliving the past, but it shares in the fans' overall frustration. The White Sox also hope the fans will soon share in their excitement for the upcoming campaign.
"We understand there aren't a whole lot of expectations, but if we get off to a good start and if we have a good year, people will follow us," Danks said. "If we do what people expect us to do right now, then the season will go like people are planning."
"When you are throwing the junk we've been throwing out there, with last year how bad we played at different stretches of the year, I wouldn't want to watch that either," reliever Matt Thornton said. "But our fans are great. They are passionate. They want to see a good product."