Everyone saw the predictions. Sports Illustrated had the White Sox pegged for 95 losses. Others projected an uninspiring finish in the American League Central, with the Sox maybe, just maybe, scraping .500.
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper knows the predictions. He also knows the Sox currently sit in first place.
"If I'm not mistaken, I think that all of you guys had us picked to be horsebleep," Cooper bristled to the assembled media in the Sox dugout prior to Saturday's game. "And we haven't come to that yet. There's a lot of good things going on."
Not everything is rosy for the Sox, though, who have lost four of their last six games since a nine-game winning streak came to an end a week ago. Third base remains an issue while Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber have struggled to keep their ERAs from climbing. But Cooper isn't having any of that negativity.
"We have two guys that we are trying to bring out of their inconsistency to more consistency," Cooper said of Floyd and Humber. "Weve seen them good before and we know what it looks like.
"With that being said, everyone likes to pick out our issues or our weak points or things we need to improve. We are well aware of them, first of all. Thanks to everyone for telling us. We are well aware of everything that is going on. Heres some news too: There are 30 other clubs and they all have issues too. We are not sitting and lamenting our inconsistency. We are trying actively to get it better. Thats all you can do."
While the Sox are trying to get Floyd and Humber back on track, they've successfully replaced their 65-million man with an unheralded Colombian rookie. With John Danks on the disabled list, Jose Quintana has posted a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings.
"He's going out there and he's making his way in the major leagues. I mean, this is stuff that's great to watch," reveled Cooper. "To see a kid go out there for the first time, get his first win, pitching well, trying to live his dream. That's good, that's not bad. I'm having a lot of fun watching the younger guys to tell you the truth."
Along with Quintana, Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Chris Sale have provided Cooper with that enjoyment. Sale has been especially good, as entering his start Saturday he led the American League with a 2.30 ERA.
"Listen, he was one of the baddest ass lefty relievers in the league, I know that," Cooper said. "Now we're trying to give him the chance to be one of the top-flight starters. He's on his way."
But Sale hasn't thrown over 100 innings in two years, when he tossed 136 23 innings between Florida Gulf Coast, the minor leagues and the White Sox. With a quality start today, Sale will surpass his 2011 innings total.
Cooper doesn't know if the Sox will impose an innings limit on Sale, instead choosing to play things by ear and do everything possible to get Sale as much rest as he needs.
We're certainly determining everything as we go," Cooper said. We already skipped him a start earlier when he moved to the bullpen. He's getting extra days now. Believe me, everything we can do to keep him healthy and strong and keep him going out there and doing what he's doing, it's getting taken care of."
The Sox haven't played their 60th game of the season yet. It's still early, and while the team is in first, there still are concerns that need to be addressed going forward. But Cooper is determined to not focus on the negative any more than he has to.
"For me it's a pet peeve, I guess," Cooper said of that negativity. "A lot of people like to moan, complain and cry about 'what's this guy not doing? What's this guy not doing?' Hey man, look what's happening here. We don't sit and cry and moan. There's no crying and moaning in baseball. You just got to keep going. And that's a good attribute of our club. Regardless of what happens yesterday, we come back ready to play today."