Notes: Guillen happy with team makeup
Sox keep top of Angels lineup quiet; 'Black Jack' deals praise
ANAHEIM -- Remember back to July 31, when the White Sox were in the process of sweeping a four-game series at Baltimore, they held a 14 1/2-game lead in the American League Central and all seemed right in the South Siders' world?
Do you also remember the deal that reportedly was going to bring Ken Griffey Jr. from the Reds to Chicago, in exchange for two solid Minor League prospects, and put the White Sox over the top in regard to World Series contention?
Well, it turns out the White Sox didn't need one of the more prolific sluggers in the history of the game, a source of power from the left side certainly absent from this lineup. At least, manager Ozzie Guillen believed this fact to be true in principle back in July, and he held to the same opinion prior to Game 4 of the AL Championship Series on Saturday at Angel Stadium.
"I talked to [general manager] Kenny [Williams], and I said, 'Listen, don't fix something that's not broken,'" said Guillen of the conversation he had with Williams before the non-waiver deadline. "It's not fair for my team after they played so good for me and have such a good thing to bring somebody over like we need somebody.
"But the thing was, if we don't make the playoffs, Kenny would be criticized because he doesn't bring the people we need. Well, we don't need anybody. We have people there, and they're not bigger than the game."
Guillen's comments were not meant as a dig at Griffey, who reportedly was part of a deal in place that was nixed by Reds' ownership. Instead, it reinforces the team-first chemistry fostered by Guillen and his staff from the first day of Spring Training in February.
A familiar refrain pulled out by Guillen is that he doesn't want superstars, but instead craves good players who fit the system. Aside from first baseman Paul Konerko, there really is nothing close to a superstar on the current White Sox roster. And while Konerko is as valuable to his team as any other player in baseball, he wouldn't quite be placed in the same elite category as Vladimir Guerrero or Barry Bonds.
There is no pecking order, though, on Guillen's roster. He expects Konerko to abide by the same rules as Pablo Ozuna or Timo Perez. And those same sort of rules would have applied to any big-name newcomer.
"I don't care how much money you make, and I don't care how good you are," Guillen said. "If you don't go by my book, you're not going to play for the White Sox.
"We have pretty good chemistry on this ballclub, and I don't want to change it. I told Kenny, 'I want to lose with the guys who die for me,' and they did it."
Plan B: There was a time in January, at a point when Richard Moss still represented Tadahito Iguchi, that it appeared the Japanese import had been priced out of a signable range for the White Sox. So, what player or players were on Williams' big board as a second alternative at second base?
"Well, one of them is playing for the St. Louis Cardinals," said Williams with a wry smile, referring to David Eckstein, without revealing his name. "Willie [Harris], we still are very high on Willie. But there's no doubt that Iguchi certainly was a key."
Guillen spoke of Iguchi as his Most Valuable Player during his pregame press conference Saturday, pointing again to his handling of the bat in the second spot of the order, his stellar defense and his smarts on the base paths. Williams responded to that same MVP question much as he did earlier in the season, by giving the award to the entire team.
"I don't have an answer for that," Williams said. "I can't imagine us not being here without A.J. [Pierzynski] or without Iguchi or P.K. [Konerko] or some of the other acquisitions we have on the mound. I can't find a person. Collectively, they have gotten the job done."
Quiet start: Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Bengie Molina were a combined 3-for-33 through the first three ALCS contests against White Sox pitching, a major reason for the Angels trailing in the series. But Chone Figgins' 1-for-10 start at the leadoff spot was just as important, if not holding a higher level of significance, to the team's struggles.
It's the same situation for the White Sox, who rely on Scott Podsednik as the fuel that powers the car.
"His gameplan and mine are similar," said Podsednik of Figgins. "Reach base as many times as we possibly can. It helps our pitchers and our team defensively keeping him off base."
"Figgins is a key for us," Guillen added. "This kid, he was a pain in the back against us in the regular season."
Guillen added that there's more pressure for the big hitters in the middle to come through during the playoffs because pitchers are throwing much more carefully to them.
Expert analysis: When Jack McDowell came to Chicago back in late August for the dedication of the Carlton Fisk statue at U.S. Cellular Field, the one-time Cy Young winner for the White Sox commended starting pitchers such as Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle for their fast-working approach on the mound. McDowell also appreciated the way they attacked the strike zone, something McDowell featured during his days as an All-Star hurler.
A little more than one month later, McDowell is handing out similar kudos. Only this time, the praise is being showered upon Jose Contreras, Sunday's Game 5 starter in the ALCS.
"It's what has turned him around," said McDowell of Contreras working quickly and throwing strikes. "You don't have to strike everyone out. Just get people out on your best stuff and trust the defense. I took him a couple of years to realize that, but here he is."
Enough already: As predicted by Guillen, Pierzynski was not bothered in the least by the fans' booing during his pregame introduction Friday. The only problem for Pierzynski is that the ninth-inning call from Wednesday remains a topic of conversation.
"It just makes me laugh," Pierzynski said. "A lot of people don't even know why they were booing. They were booing because everyone else was booing.
"We need to move on and talk about baseball and not talk about the play. It's over with already."
Postseason indicator: The White Sox held a 2-1 lead in any postseason series for only the third time in franchise history out of nine possible series. The other two resulted in series wins -- World Series wins, actually -- in 1906 and 1917.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.