Reinsdorf's dream takes shape
Team chairman envisions White Sox-Cardinals matchup
DETROIT -- Jerry Reinsdorf has a baseball dream, a dream actually in its very early stages of becoming reality in 2005.
In this vision, the White Sox not only reach the postseason but they advance all the way to the World Series. If you are going to dream, you might as well dream big, right?
At that point, the South Siders face off against the St. Louis Cardinals, with baseball's ultimate prize on the line. The White Sox chairman briefly explains the focus of this dream from there.
"I want to either congratulate [St. Louis manager] Tony La Russa or be congratulated by La Russa," Reinsdorf said. "I think we have as good a chance to win as anyone."
The connection between Reinsdorf and La Russa goes well beyond the employer-employee status from 1979-1986, but that connection will be explained a little more precisely later. Before Reinsdorf's dream plays out, the White Sox have a little matter of winning seven games to reach the World Series for the first time since 1959.
And call the White Sox crazy, but they believe this team can get the job done. Nobody else seems to believe in them, but that lack of support hasn't fazed the White Sox since Spring Training.
"Even if we are in Game 7 of the World Series with a 10-0 lead, there are still going to be people who say, 'They will never win it,'" said White Sox general manager Ken Williams of his 96-63 squad. "But the day I got hired for this position, I made the statement then that without a World Series title coming to Chicago on the South Side, it would be considered a failed effort.
"We are at Stage 1, but unless we can finish it out, personally, it will only mean a job unfinished and an opportunity lost. Everyone enjoy yourself. Celebrate the division [title], but we have work to do."
After watching their American League Central lead shrink from 15 games on Aug. 1 to 1 1/2 games entering last Sunday's regular-season home finale against Minnesota, the White Sox seem to be playing with a renewed sense of enthusiasm or a "20th wind," according to Paul Konerko. This new tone begins and ends with the starting pitching, a group of hurlers who have been virtually untouchable since Brandon McCarthy matched Johan Santana pitch-for-pitch over eight innings one week ago Thursday.
Even White Sox losses to Detroit on Monday and Tuesday at Comerica Park featured quality starts from Jon Garland and McCarthy. The South Siders believe that instead of doubting their chances to succeed, pointing to a little more than sporadic lack of necessary offense, take a look at their strong pitching, outstanding defense and ability to manufacture runs as a reason to believe.
"It celebrates old-fashioned baseball," Williams said of the repurposing of his team. "We didn't try to re-invent the game when we set out to put this team together. What we wanted to do was basically go back to what has worked in baseball history. And stand firm on those fundamentals. Catch the ball. Pitch the ball. And give yourself a chance to be in and win every ballgame."
"We had a good feel in Spring Training, and we thought we were a playoff team," added Eddie Einhorn, the club's vice chairman. "I told Kenny early that no matter how it turns out, you did all the right things. You changed the focus to be more like the guys who have beat us three years in a row."
As Reinsdorf astutely pointed out, this current team still has plenty of power hitters. Six of the starting nine Thursday had at least 16 long balls entering the game, with Aaron Rowand checking in at 13.
The White Sox chairman added that Ozzie Guillen's crew still isn't blessed with an abundance of team speed, although they have a top-notch basestealer in Scott Podsednik, but they currently catch the ball better than the past. This group also as a special chemistry, an intangible many people scoff at, but a bond holding the White Sox together since back in February.
There's also a little chip on their collective shoulders, as the White Sox seem to perform at their best when the doubters are the most vocal. Unlike 2000, the White Sox have a healthy pitching staff featuring four hurlers with at least 14 victories.
Unlike 1993 and 1983, there's no clearly dominant team to beat as was the case with Toronto and Baltimore, respectively. This White Sox squad appears to be as good as any other postseason contender.
"That's a good way of putting it," Reinsdorf said.
"I see this team being very hungry," Konerko added. "I see this team being very [ticked] off. That's a good thing."
Konerko was asked why his team was upset, and he paused before adding, "That's what I see."
Playoff action begins Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field, with an opponent yet to be determined. Jose Contreras will pitch Game 1, probably followed by Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia for the first game on the road.
It's the beginning of Step 2 for the White Sox, in search of an elusive World Series crown, which has been absent since 1917. It's also the second step toward fulfilling Reinsdorf's ultimate dream.
As for that dream, why does Reinsdorf want to face La Russa and St. Louis in the World Series?
"Because I love Tony like my brother," said Reinsdorf, getting a bit emotional when talking about La Russa and the White Sox reaching the playoffs. "There is nobody who I'm not related to who I love as much as La Russa. We talked about how great it would be to play each other in the World Series. That way, nether one of us would lose."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.