Take 2: Sox a playoff contender

The White Sox’s Gordon Beckham hits an RBI single off New York Yankees relief pitcher Derek Lowe on Aug. 21 during the eighth inning of the Sox’s 7-3 win at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox’s Gordon Beckham hits an RBI single off New York Yankees relief pitcher Derek Lowe on Aug. 21 during the eighth inning of the Sox’s 7-3 win at U.S. Cellular Field.

The White Sox conducted their annual fan convention this weekend at the Palmer House Hilton, where players and coaches signed autographs and previewed the upcoming season. Columnist Tom Musick and reporter Meghan Montemurro discuss:

Musick: Baseball season must be getting closer. Another SoxFest is in the books.

We’ll get into the White Sox chances in 2013, but first I think we should let people know about our weekend. How would you describe the annual media social at SoxFest? And who dresses better, baseball players or sportswriters?

Montemurro: The annual media social is always a relaxed affair that allows players and media to mingle. The laid back atmosphere provides a great opportunity to get updates from players’ offseasons and get to know new players or coaches.

As for best dressed, I’m giving the edge to the ball players though the TV reporters gave them a run for their money. Shifting away from fashion and back to baseball, what was the No. 1 thing you took away from SoxFest?

Musick: I can’t get over how different everything feels from a few years ago. Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen were so passionate and so dysfunctional that they could have made gobs of money as reality TV stars. These days, Rick Hahn and Robin Ventura are like the human equivalent of elevator music.

I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying it’s really different. What was your main takeaway from SoxFest?

Montemurro: There certainly wasn’t much tension in the room which is always refreshing given how Ozzie’s tenure ended. I was really impressed by Gordon Beckham and how at peace he seemed. He realizes that his time may be running short on the South Side.

But Beckham told me he has finally learned to let go and ignore the naysayers. We’ll see if that continues through the season, however in what is shaping up to be a make-or-break season for Beckham, he is confident the numbers he produces will resemble his breakout rookie season.

Musick: I’ll be rooting for Beckham, one of the friendliest guys on the team. I thought he was going to become a star after he stormed through the minor leagues in 2009, but his bat has been asleep for most of the past three years.

Being friendly is great, but doesn’t every team need an instigator or two? Who is going to be the Sox primary antagonist now that A.J. Pierzynski has taken his smirk to Texas?

Montemurro: No one quite riles up the opposition like A.J. Pierzynski. Looking at the Sox’s regular lineup, I can’t picture Paul Konerko or Beckham becoming antagonizers. Pierzynski’s on-field demeanor will be tough to replace, as a few of his former teammates alluded to during SoxFest.

If anyone steps into the intimidator rule, I’d put money on likely closer Addison Reed or hard-throwing lefty Chris Sale. Both can bring the heat and neither are afraid to attack the zone or pitch inside. I wouldn’t want to step into the batter’s box if either one of them is ticked off.

Musick: I like it. That makes me think of the scene from “Field of Dreams” when Archie Graham steps into the batter’s box. “Where do you think the next one’s going to be?” “Well, either low and away, or in my ear.”

We have a long way to go before Opening Day on April 1, but what’s your early feeling about the Sox? My first instinct is that they can improve upon last year’s 85-win season and compete for a playoff spot.

Montemurro: Looking at who the Sox will be relying on to contend for a division title, I see the season playing out in two ways: They’re either fighting for a spot in the postseason like last season or they finish around .500. 

It’s hard to get a clear read on this team since they need starting pitchers John Danks, Jake Peavy and Sale to stay healthy. Considering Danks and Peavy’s past injuries and the unknown durability of Sale, it’s a legitimate concern. 

The Sox have proven doubters wrong before, namely last year, so I wouldn’t be willing to bet a Big Hurt Beer on the South Siders failing to contend for the playoffs. 

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