05/11/2007 2:49 PM ET
Konerko: Battling in tough AL Central
"There will be a lot of momentum shifts and I think it will go down to the last week of the season," says Paul Konerko of the AL Central race. (Ed Zurga/AP)
It's hard to proclaim the AL Central baseball's best division because I haven't played enough against all of the other clubs, but I will say that the entire American League seems particularly tough this season from what I've seen so far.
One of the reasons our division has gotten a little tougher is because of Kansas City's improvement. Now that they're better, there's not a single team you can go out and expect to get a win against. Minnesota is very good and Cleveland has a lot of talent and is playing well, too.
That's before you even factor in Detroit, which won the AL pennant last year and brought in a hitter like Gary Sheffield in the offseason. We play these teams so many times during the season that you have to strap it on because all of these teams can play ball.
Right now, Detroit and Cleveland are at the top of our division. A month from now, you may see Minnesota and us making a run at them. There will be a lot of momentum shifts and I think it will go down to the last week of the season. All we can hope is that we are one of the teams in it then.
I don't think anyone is going to run away with this division. It just seems that it is too hard with the amount of games you play against these good teams.
Winning our head-to-head games with division opponents is extremely important. That's the case every year with the unbalanced schedule. I feel you make the playoffs -- or not -- based largely on how you play against the teams in your own division.
You might go .500 against two of the teams and maybe you go like 15-4 against one team. At some point, a team will take charge by really stepping up against one team in particular. You can't play even ball against every club. But there's no question intra-division play is where it's won and lost.
In those games, pitching will be important. Each of these teams has good quality on its staff. There will be times when you have a bad week, when you go 2-5 or something, but you can't let that stop you or get you rattled. Keeping an even keel helps you be there at the end.
We're a little over month into the season now and there are two ways to look at our club. We haven't hit at all, and we're disappointed we haven't gotten out of the gate as quickly as we would have liked. But at the same time, we're still around .500 despite not hitting well and we've beaten some good teams already. But that only becomes a positive if we get our act together. It could be a lot worse.
You never want to look back at the end of the season and regret games that we lost earlier in the year, but last year we got to 60 wins pretty quickly and ended up falling short of the playoffs. There are a lot of different ways to get there. What matters is getting up around 95 wins and doing well against the teams in our division.
Veteran first baseman Paul Konerko has played for the White Sox since 1999 and was a key player in Chicago's World Series championship in 2005. A powerful right-handed batter, Konerko has had home run totals of 35, 40 and 41 over the last three years.