In the wake of a three-game sweep of the Cubs, there's as much reason to be optimistic about the 2012 Sox as there ever has been.
They're back to .500, the starting rotation is healthy and performing well, and the AL Central looks to be up for grabs with projected powerhouse Detroit sporting a losing record.
Kenny Williams has gunned for the division crown in darker times, so it almost goes without saying that he sees a playoff opening when the Sox are the only AL Central team with a positive run differential.
The language is more ambiguous in Scott Merkin's recent piece on the direction of the franchise, and whether they'll go all-in for 2012, or trade their assets for prospects when the opportunity arises:
Williams won't go any deeper than the Twins series, though, when asked if he can wait until mid-August to see if this team can contend.
"Listen, I'm not going to talk about any of that," Williams said. "What I will say is this: You can think off the top of your head in five seconds of darn near two handfuls of games that should be under the win column for the White Sox. For whatever reason, something happened during the course of the game that got us off track and put an 'L' on the board as a result.
"You are not asking those questions if we won those games. You are asking a whole different set of questions that I wouldn't answer as well," added Williams with a wry smile. "Just let them play."
Williams' words are intentionally noncommittal toward any particular future, but since he's hardly uttered a peep in public all season save for resolving the Sale situation, there's a presumed purpose in him raising the topic at all; at least in the timing of it.
“If we’re going to stay together as a team and not have some of these pieces traded away, we’re going to have to have some fan support and play good baseball,’’ Peavy said. “I hope our fans feed off this, and with school getting out, they’ll show up at the ballpark.
“I certainly don’t want [to be traded]. This is where I want to play. I love [manager] Robin [Ventura] and his staff and my teammates.’’
Jake's implication that the long-term direction of the franchise is dependent on immediate ticket returns is troubling enough to just be off-base, but the Sox have called upon the fans to step up their financial commitment in exchange for a competitive team before; as recently as last year:
"We've really taken a chance," Reinsdorf said on ESPN 1000's "Talking Baseball." "The term all-in I think really makes some sense here. If we draw what we drew last year, we will lose a lot of money. We decided to make a bet that if we put this team together the way we have, that it'll contend and that people will come out and support it. Otherwise, we are definitely going to lose money."
A somewhat familiar, but very different appeal is being made in Cleveland by pitcher Chris Perez, who termed the Indians' combination of a first-place record and last-place attendance "embarrassing".
He also added:
"It's a good baseball town. I don't know how to get back to that. Everyone says, 'winning, winning.' Well, we were in first place for three months last year. We come out strong this year, so obviously it's not a fluke."
Perez's complaints will probably get the backlash that any critique of the consumer will draw. But his plea of 'We have a good product, why don't you want to be a part of this?', is a bit more sympathetic than 'Make it worth our while or we'll tear this all down'.
It's also lot less confusing, since the argument could be made for the Sox that a tear-down would be a wise move, now that so many veterans are looking like assets again.
Even taking the Sox claims that the 2011 payroll placed them in financial peril at face value, they followed up a call on fans to pay up front with a failure to hold up their end of the bargain, and Konerko himself admitted that the process of building back interest in the wake of that debacle will be long.
Ultimately the team will come to its own decision on whether rebuilding or staying the current course is the quickest way to bring playoff baseball to the South side. But if their looking for the fans to provide a sign in the next two months, and suddenly invest big in this fledgling contender, they'll be left waiting in vain; which could be the most telling sign of all.