Robin Ventura's expectation for the 2013 Sox is to make the playoffs. AP PHOTO
The White Sox aren't offended that most of the so-called "experts" are picking them second (at best), third or fourth in the American League Central. To a man they understand why the Detroit Tigers are the prohibitive favorite to win the division and the Royals -- who they open the season against Monday at U.S. Cellular Field -- are improved.
But a slight is a slight, and why not use it to push yourself a little harder. Manager Robin Ventura said during spring training he likes it that way, and on Monday he suggested the same.
"There's a little chip,'' Ventura said. "You take that hit and then it becomes personal. It's good for me that it happens to these guys because it's easy to rally them together and have the motivation come after that. But I think the initial hit to it is it becomes personal.''
The Tigers have Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer leading a solid rotation and they have a deep lineup. They are, however, flawed at some positions defensively and enter the season without a closer. So they're not a lock to repeat. They're just the defending American League champions and they have Victor Martinez back and Torii Hunter added to the outfield.
The Sox added Jeff Keppinger and Matt Lindstrom and said goodbye to A.J. Pierzynski, and believe they are a postseason team, Ventura said. The postseason is the goal of most teams, and the "P" word has been spoken in the Sox clubhouse.
"It's been said,'' Ventura said. "Again, I've been on a team where you didn't really expect to get to the playoffs and this is not that team. For us coming in here, there's more potential in this team than we had last year as far as the players and what they do and how good they should be this year. I think they all should have better years than they had last year.
"I think for us you should always come in feeling optimistic. I don't see it, looking at last year that we played above our potential or somebody had a career year. We didn't have anybody win a Triple Crown or anything like that. I think there's more in this team than there was last year.''
"Detroit went to the World Series,'' Ventura said. "You expect that [they're favored] but just because they don't pick you doesn't mean anything. I didn't see a lot of people picking the Giants last year at the beginning of year. So those aren't guarantees. Those are just guesses and there's a lot of people that do that. They look at it and see what they like and you go from there. There's no guarantees and that's the good thing for us is if you go in you can take care of it yourself.''
One thing Ventura can kind of guarantee is that he'll be a better manager than he was his first year when he finished third in AL Manager of the Year voting.
"I think any time you do something a second time around you should be better. Or you're really dumb,'' he said.
The Sox were in first place for 117 days last season and blew a three-game lead in the last two weeks. Ventura's expectation is plain and simple.
"I want to get to the playoffs,'' he said Monday.
Any more than that?
"I'd figure that out when we get there. But that's the first thing that needs to happen.''