Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Chicago White Sox [Print without images]

Sunday, March 31, 2013
Sox again could be better than sum of parts

By Bruce Levine

CHICAGO -- The element of human connectivity on every ball club is something baseball prognosticators forget to apply when they make their predications for a new season.

The Chicago White Sox were picked by one sports magazine to win just 69 games and finish third this season, but chemistry could be the X Factor for Robin Ventura’s club.

“Every season is different,” said Ventura as his team prepared for Monday’s home opener against the Kansas City Royals. “You are going to figure it out during the season. That will tell you if everything works or doesn’t. I would be disappointed if all the guys didn’t think that they were going to have a good year and play well together.”

Robin Ventura
Robin Ventura hopes this year's White Sox will jell as well as last year's squad.
Ventura has automatic leadership from team captain Paul Konerko, entering his 15th season with the Sox, serving as the linchpin to connect the coaches and the 25-man roster.

“I am not demoting Paul,” Ventura joked when asked about his clubhouse leader. “Paul has been here the longest and is respected. He does all the right things. We also have other guys who (lead) in different ways. To have a (cohesive ) team you want a number of guys that set an example and for other guys to follow them.”

The Sox’s diverse group of leaders include Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy and Matt Thornton. Youthful leaders on the cusp of leadership roles include Gordon Beckham and Chris Sale.

“We have quite a few guys that can lead,” Ventura said. “Have fun, motivate, criticize, get on somebody -- all the things that good teams have.”

The critics may not understand the dynamic of this group of players, who led the American League Central for 117 days in 2012.

“We are not trying to prove them wrong, just prove ourselves right is how I would put it,” said Sale, who will make his first opening day start. “We don’t really care what you write or what anybody else has to say about us. We believe in ourselves. I will drop a Florida Gulf Coast (reference) -- nobody expected them to win. They didn’t have a big bandwagon going in or fan base. If you believe in yourself as a group that can take you a long way.”

Sale, who happens to be an FGCU alum, pointed to different leaders for the different departments of the Sox.

“You kind of break it down,” Sale said. “Jake is the leader of our pitching staff. Paul and Dunner with the position players. Jesse (Crain) and Matt in the bullpen. We have good veteran guys around the younger guys in every aspect of our (team. ) What better way to go than having them teaching us the right way to be a good baseball player and teammate.”

Konerko downplays the idea that he is the main leader.

“I see a lot of hard workers who get their work in,” he said. “That is a different definition of what a leader is. It is just a question of how they want to take it with future teammates. I see this tremendous work ethic and a lot of that is who they are and because Robin and his staff demand it.”

Winning teams evolve from inside clubhouses out. Raw talent is rarely the sole determining factor as to what teams win out in a 162-game schedule.