GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Paul Konerko arrived at spring training on Tuesday with his typically reasonable view of the state of the White Sox. Talking on a wide range of subjects, including the Sox' retooling with younger players and how strange it seems without Mark Buehrle around, Konerko dropped one sound byte that might not resonate well with Sox fans:
"I hope I don't throw anybody off with this, but this can be a very successful year without making the playoffs," Konerko said.
That said, Konerko made it clear that the Sox are not shooting for second place in the American League Central.
"I think you can start building something now,'' Konerko said. "Teams the last handful of years, it's been try real hard to win and you fail then come back next year and try again from a totally different angle. I think what is happening here is they're trying to build something that's a little more sustainable. My point is, if we go out there and compete this year and it doesn't happen that you see this with some other teams in the league that they kind of pick up the next year with that momentum that they built from the year before. That's why I said it could be successful. I'm not conceding anything. In today's game, there's way too many teams especially now there's another wild card spot.''
"There's a lot of 'ifs,' " Konerko said. "But again I don't think you have to sit there and say 'we're trying to win, we're trying to rebuild.' Who knows. Cleveland last year, not that they won the division, but all in all I think it was a very successful year. Cleveland just came in looking to see what they had. But I think this year, this team is different than a lot of teams we've had recently.''
Konerko and catcher A.J. Pierzynski are the two remaining players from the 2005 team. Mark Buehrle signed with the Miami Marlins during the offseason. When talking about Buehrle, Konerko appeared to be somewhat emotional.
"You know I've been here for an hour and a half but definitely not seeing Mark that's not ... I don't know what to say about that other than it doesn't seem right."
Buehrle joined manager Ozzie Guillen in Miami. Guillen left the Sox with two games to go last season, and Robin Ventura was a surprise hire as the Sox' new manager.
"There was definitely some times late in the year last year where there was probably games and days given away because of people worrying about things that were not related to the game of baseball,'' Konerko said. "I don't see that being an issue. I have a good feeling that no matter what happens this year, whatever our records winds up being, I think you can look at that record and say that's what this team did. That's the true measure of this group of guys.
"The last couple years and especially towards the end last year we were just giving away games. Big league players, you should be mentally tougher than to have that stuff bother you. And I think for the longest time we were as a group. And it's not the same group every year. I think it just all came to a head. But that's how things end. If it didn't go like that then no one would see a need to make a change. Some stuff like that has to happen to make a change.''