CLEVELAND -- In the Marlins' clubhouse, they're feeling the first effects of what you sign up for when you hire Ozzie Guillen. His unfortunate comments about Fidel Castro have caused a firestorm unlike anything he's said before, but it's far from the first time Guillen's words have created a controversy that takes the attention well beyond baseball. The White Sox, meanwhile, operate in a new reality these days. They're a long, long way from knowing if or when they'll match the success they had when they won the World Series under Guillen in 2005. But one thing they know for sure is that Robin Ventura is all business. And one week into a 2012 season that's all about establishing a new identity, business is good.
"This is definitely a very, very positive clubhouse and dugout," starter John Danks said on Wednesday, after an uneven outing that nonetheless netted him his first win. "Obviously, this is Week 1 and it's a long year, but judging by the way things have gone and the feel in the clubhouse right now, it's been a lot of fun." Heading home after a 3-2 trip through Texas and Cleveland, the White Sox are, on the whole, encouraged by the performance of their pitching staff (Chris Sale shone in his first Major League start, and the bullpen has been effective), and they see potential in an offense that was 7-for-17 with runners in scoring position in a two-game sweep of the division-rival Indians. "I think people on the outside get nervous," Ventura said. "They think you've got to get a win just so you can say you got a win. But you know, we're playing all right. We're getting good pitching and the offense is coming through. [What's important] is just more of a daily thing, of showing up every day with the same attitude." All attitude aside, to see these White Sox as a playoff team, one really has to squint. It's awfully difficult to imagine such a leap for a club that finished last year four games under .500 and then lost ace Mark Buehrle to free agency. But when it comes to goals, how's this for a modest one? Don't be a complete abomination. One prominent publication -- Sports Illustrated -- picked the White Sox to lose 95 games this season. That's a loss tally that would certainly qualify within the realm of abominable. And when Jake Peavy told reporters "that ain't going to happen," he essentially set a bar -- a low one -- that simply must be crossed. One week in, then, it's three victories down, 65 to go. "Not a lot of people are expecting a lot out of us," Adam Dunn said. "But if we stay healthy, we should be fine." But the club's intent goes well beyond avoiding the 95-loss tally. The team's primary goal is simple: Don't beat yourself. It's why Ventura has put an increased emphasis on the fundamentals. To that end, the White Sox took infield practice their first day in Cleveland, and it's a rare practice Ventura plans to put in place the first day in every city this season. "I like them to get out there and do it, be on the field and be comfortable," he said. "You can make adjustments, but you can't make adjustments if you're only doing it once every two or three weeks." The White Sox have already grown comfortable with the new regime. Ventura is as no-nonsense as they come -- the anti-Guillen, in terms of his dealings with the media and his unwillingness to call out his players publicly. The White Sox knew this, and it was undoubtedly one of the many reasons they made the unexpected decision to hire Ventura, despite his utter lack of professional coaching experience. They couldn't have made the move if Ventura didn't have the personality or the professionalism to win over a clubhouse that still has a great deal of veteran presence. "He's got that fine line between player -- because he's not far removed from that -- and manager," Dunn said. "That's kind of surprising, because all he knows is being one of the guys. And he is. But when things need to get done, he does it really well. "I'm telling you, it's tough. You want everybody to like you and be your buddy, and you don't want to step on anybody's toes. But I think everybody respects him so much because everyone remembers him as a player and how good he was. I know he's got everyone's respect in here, for sure." They respected Guillen, too. His colorful personality and, yes, his controversies quite often took the heat off the players themselves. But under Ventura, it's all business. All baseball. And so far, it's been a good thing.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.