White Sox confident in October showing

White Sox confident in October showing

CHICAGO -- Let's imagine for a moment that Sept. 4 magically has become Oct. 1, and the White Sox are in the postseason.

That's right, the South Siders held off a strong challenge from Minnesota and managed to navigate three late September games played at the Metrodome to emerge with the American League Central title. But what does this crown really mean for the White Sox?

It certainly confirms how general manager Ken Williams, manager Ozzie Guillen and the players who contributed to the playoff run were in on a little secret starting in Spring Training not known to the rest of the baseball world.

No surprise there. In 2005, that "us against the world" attitude for the White Sox helped bring about the first World Series championship in Chicago in almost nine decades.

But will 2008 produce less of a celebration for the White Sox, working under the assumption that they are part of baseball's Elite Eight? Will they be one and done, instead of going all the way?

Recent on-field results would support the negative side of this hypothesis. But regardless of the won-loss record against other top teams, Guillen and his charges have the utmost confidence in their collective abilities.

"I hope we get in there, because if we get in there, I'll take my chances," said Guillen with a wry smile. "I'll put my money on our team.

"We have experience. We have guys out there who can do it. I think the way we compete, we have a good chance to do it."

Here's the evidence to the contrary concerning Guillen's opinion. Since June 20, the start of a three-game Cubs Interleague sweep at Wrigley Field, the White Sox have a 1-4-1 series record in matchups against current playoff-bound teams.

They followed the Wrigley sweep with a three-game whitewash of their own at U.S. Cellular Field of the National League Central leaders. There also were three losses in four games at the Metrodome, from July 28-31, a home loss to the Rays and a loss at Fenway Park last weekend. The Red Sox and the White Sox split a four-game set in Chicago from Aug. 8-11.

Yet all of these results will mean precious little to the White Sox if they get to the playoffs.

"Once you get to the playoffs, it's a whole new scenario," said White Sox third baseman Joe Crede, arguably the team's most valuable position player during its 12-game run to glory in 2005. "Every pitch, every out is huge. The fans are in it that much more. Players are pumped up that much more.


"When we click, we are one of the top teams in baseball, without a doubt. I read it somewhere where it doesn't matter if you lose to good teams and beat the bad teams. All it matters is that you have enough wins to get to the playoffs. Getting to the playoffs, that's what it's all about for us."
-- White Sox pitcher
Matt Thornton

"Look at the past, and you see teams with the best record in the big leagues and they have not made it to the World Series. Then, the Cardinals had one of the worst records for a playoff team [in 2006], and they win it all. It goes to show it's a whole new ballgame once the playoffs start."

The bad news for the White Sox is that the schedule doesn't do them any favors during the remainder of September. Starting Friday against the Angels, the White Sox play six games against potential playoff teams but also face a couple of plus-.500 squads, such as the Blue Jays for four games at home and the Yankees for four games at Yankee Stadium.

Here's the even worse news for the White Sox: They aren't exactly operating at full strength. According to comments made by Guillen in Cleveland, Crede might not be available the rest of the way due to a recurrence of back problems. Carlos Quentin, one of the prime AL Most Valuable Player Award candidates, also could be absent for more than just this weekend series due to soreness in his right wrist.

By Guillen's estimation, a team's overall health ultimately separates pretenders from contenders.

"Keep the guys out there who can do the job every day -- that's a plus," Guillen said. "A team that's a little more healthy, that's the one in the best spot. Keep healthy and believing in ourselves, and we'll be fine."

That's Guillen's vision, with his White Sox reaching the playoffs and taking their play up to an entirely new level. As for that past lack of regular-season success against other top-tier teams, it just doesn't matter once October rolls around and your team is still alive.

"One thing I learned from Bobby Cox is to compete against the good teams and beat the [heck] out of the [bad] ones," said Guillen with a laugh.

"When we click, we are one of the top teams in baseball, without a doubt," added White Sox reliever Matt Thornton. "I read it somewhere where it doesn't matter if you lose to good teams and beat the bad teams. All it matters is that you have enough wins to get to the playoffs. Getting to the playoffs, that's what it's all about for us."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.