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Columnist
Reinsdorf: I think we'll win Central
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 4/8/2008 12:17 AM

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One week does not make a season.

And even a good one doesn't make someone as traditionally outspoken as Ozzie Guillen drop an "I told you so'' on anybody.

"The good start is for the fans and for hope and for people to believe, and it's for the players' confidence,'' Guillen said, before he laughed and added, "but it doesn't mean (bleep).''

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf would heartily agree, but standing alone in the tunnel beneath the stands only a few minutes before the home opener on the South Side on Monday afternoon, Reinsdorf could not hide his pleasure with the Sox' fast start.

"I think we're going to win the division,'' said a very cheerful Reinsdorf, even before Joe Crede hit his second game-winning homer in five days. "After that, who knows? The goal is to get in (the playoffs) and take your chances.

"I think this team can compete. You never know about injuries and all that, but I like the club.''

The Sox are 5-2 and in first place after Crede's seventh-inning grand slam sealed Monday's 7-4 victory over Minnesota, and while Reinsdorf knows you can't win anything in April, he also knows Sox fans feel a whole lot better than Tigers fans feel in Detroit these days.

"I'm glad we got off to a good start because everything is magnified early in the season, and it gives you a chance to feel good about things,'' Reinsdorf said. "It doesn't mean the season's over for Detroit because they're 0-6. It's early, but it's magnified. We started 0-2 and I'm sure people thought, 'OK, we're not going to win a game all year.'

"I thought if we came home 3-3, that would be pretty good, but 4-2 is a really nice road trip to start the season.''

It also keeps the wolves at bay, at least temporarily.

"I have to laugh when I hear that (GM) Kenny Williams stood pat,'' Reinsdorf said. "He got six new guys.

"The media buried us before the season even began, but I kind of look at that like bulletin-board material. It gave the guys something to play for right off the bat.

"But the games are won or lost on the field, not in the newspapers.''

And those have not been kind to Reinsdorf, Williams or Guillen the past 12 months.

"I got over being attacked myself a long time ago,'' Reinsdorf said. "It's funny because I'm out around town quite a bit, and I get a lot of mail, and the reaction is generally very positive, much more than the negative (bleep) I get from a couple guys.

"I don't think that reflects the opinion of most fans. I remember the days when the reaction I got from people really reflected that, and the opinion was very negative. I don't get that now. I'd say it's the total opposite.''

It's an understatement to believe it has something to do with Chicago's only baseball title in 90 years, not to mention the 90 victories the following season.

But last year was so awful that many had given up on the 2008 Sox, acting as if they're not trying to put a championship team on the field.

That's an absurd notion, as were the ones suggesting the South Siders would begin the season 0-6 and be out of the race by May 1.

Look, no one's handing the Sox anything on April 8, but assuming they stay healthy, there's no reason they shouldn't compete for an entire campaign.

"I believe that, absolutely, from what I've seen,'' Reinsdorf said. "This division might be the toughest in baseball. You have Detroit and Cleveland. K.C. is better, and Minnesota's not going away. They know how to play baseball.

"But I think the fans are really going to like this team, the way they play, and the way they compete -- and they're going to love (Nick) Swisher.

"Two things I really enjoyed the first week was the way we don't quit, like in that first game when we came back from down big and scored 5 runs to tie it.

"And (Sunday) night we added on, which is something we didn't do last year. We never built on a lead and we rarely came back.

"This team just feels different and it's really a lot of fun so far.''

Different, fun, energetic and alive. The change is palpable in the White Sox' clubhouse early on, and it's not just the winning that's different.

The Sox' most visible leaders also are the most laid-back, but Swisher has the ability to keep everyone on their toes, some fearing what the goofy outfielder might do next.

"That's something that was really missing,'' said A.J. Pierzynski, no stranger to nonsense himself. "He's loud -- all the time. We needed a bit of energy in here.''

It has all translated to a five-game winning streak since dropping the first two in Cleveland, and it's the kind of start the Sox hoped for when they broke camp.

But as Guillen continually points out, it's April.

"It's not how you start. It's how you finish,'' Guillen said. "I would be happy if we play like this in September. Then, we have a shot. That's all I want is a shot.''

Who's to say he won't get it?

brozner@dailyherald.com