By Adam Hoge-
U.S. CELLULAR FIELD (CBS) In his rookie season as the White Sox manager, Robin Ventura didn’t make any bold proclamations. His team just went out and competed at a high level for most of the season. They were in first place for 117 days.
But then they fell flat in the last two weeks, coughed up their division lead and missed the playoffs.
Ventura won’t be making any bold proclamations this season either, but there does seem to more urgency in Year 2. The expectations are clearly defined.
“I want to get to the playoffs,” Ventura said.
And have those expectations been expressed to the players?
“It’s been said,” Ventura replied. “I’ve been on a team where you didn’t really expect to get to the playoffs and this is not that team.”
The White Sox will get an early chance to execute those expectations as they host the Kansas City Royals for a three-game series this week. The Sox were just 6-12 against the 72-90 Royals last season, a record that ultimately cost them the AL Central.
Ventura’s club finished with just 85 wins when it was all over and many prognosticators believe this year’s team will do even worse. The manager doesn’t see it that way though.
“I don’t think looking at last year that we played above our potential or somebody had a career year,” Ventura said. “We didn’t have anybody win the triple crown or anything like that so I think there’s more in this team than there was last year.
“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 should all have better years than they had last year.”
There aren’t many people outside of the White Sox clubhouse thinking in those terms, but neither Ventura or his players are surprised about the lack of respect they are receiving this year.
“You’ll get respect when you go and you earn respect,” pitcher Jake Peavy said. “At the end of the day, what we did last year, I don’t think it warrants respect. We didn’t get it done. We had a chance to get it done and we didn’t get it done. You get respect when you do what Detroit did, when you win the division and when you win in the playoffs. And that’s what we all want to do here and until that time comes, I’m fine about not having any.”
On paper, it’s hard to argue that the Tigers aren’t the team to beat, but the White Sox believe they have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball (Peavy said they have “as much talent as any staff I’ve ever been on.”) and will see improvements from many spots in the lineup.
“There’s a little chip,” Ventura said about not receiving preseason respect. “I think you take that hit and it becomes personal, which is good for me that it happens to these guys because it’s easy to rally them together and have the motivation come after that. I think the initial hit to it is that it becomes personal.”
As for Ventura, he thinks he’ll be better this year too.
“I think any time you do something the second time around you should be better at it,” he said.
The manager wasn’t done with his thought though.
“Or you’re really dumb.”
Given how the White Sox played under Ventura last year, “dumb” is not something you should see a lot of in 2013. Wins, however? That remains to be seen.
Follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamHoge.