Cooper analyzes series against Cubs
Pitching coach unhapy with public view of White Sox
LOS ANGELES -- The following analysis concerning last weekend's crosstown three-game sweep by the Cubs at Wrigley Field is courtesy of White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.
It's simple and to the point. It's about perspective, and it's about respect for first-place teams on both sides of the city.
"People have been saying for the last three or four days how we lost in the Cubs series and we got outplayed in every single area there," Cooper said. "That's no fun. We didn't look good and let our fans down. But it amounts to three losses, period.
"You know, we are in first place. It's unbelievable to me, and I thought about this in 2005 and 2006, how we are in first and for some reason, it feels like we are in last.
"Maybe it's because we lost to the Cubs. Maybe it's because the media has more of a negative approach to us sometimes," Cooper added. "We are in first place. Nobody in baseball picked us to be here. If someone would have said back in February would we take this spot, we would have said gladly and we still have a lot to go."
By no means is Cooper trying to rest on the laurels of being atop the American League Central for 67 days this season. He understands that every could change with a loss on Thursday in Los Angeles as the seemingly invincible Twins, at least over the past eight days, are close behind.
Cooper just doesn't understand the "sky is falling" attitude after three losses to the Cubs and a tough stretch on the road. He chooses to keep the big picture of playoff contention in focus.
"This season is going to be a mental test of toughness, who can fight through when they hit speed bumps along the way," Cooper said. "We know the challenges that come your way even going through a tremendous season. But the biggest challenge is if we get wrapped up in negative stuff and lose our toughness to compete.
"This is going to be a grind. I don't see anyone jumping away from this, but I expect us to come out every day and fight [hard].
"It doesn't matter if it's the Cubs," Cooper added. "It's about the amount of wins we get. We want to win the series. We can't lose focus on winning each series, sweep when you can and never get swept."
Ozzie Guillen was presented Cooper's concept of the negatives being stressed around the White Sox before the game, and the White Sox manager mentioned how that perception always will exist in Chicago. When asked about the overall negative attitude, with baseball nation almost expecting the White Sox to fall out of first, Guillen pointed the possible finger of blame back at himself.
"Maybe because the manager is a [bad guy]," Guillen said. "Maybe, you never know. Maybe because they don't like me, maybe because they don't like Kenny [Williams, general manager], whatever the reason is. Even when we were in first place in 2005, they couldn't wait for us to lose.
"Like I said last year, when we lost 90 games, there were a lot of happy campers out there. That's OK. That's fine with me. The only thing we can do is prove them wrong. It's a funny thing.
"We don't have a cocky team. We don't rub things in the face," Guillen added. "We have a lot of professional players. Maybe the manager is not, sometimes unprofessional. But when I say stuff, I wish people would look around and see what I say, when I say it and why I say it and start thinking about it a little bit before they start making comments about what I say."
That stuff includes Guillen's anti-Wrigley Field stance taken last weekend. As he pointed out, they weren't jabs thrown at the Cubs or the members of the organization. It was against the stadium itself, and Guillen certainly is entitled to his opinion.
Guillen also defended Williams for his "Happy Anniversary" statement directed at the Cubs when taking about the difference between the two teams before the first series, referring specifically to the North Siders' 100 years without a championship.
"They ask Kenny one question, and Kenny responded the right way and people are upset because people say we're hurting the Cubs' feelings," Guillen said. "We're not hurting the Cubs' feelings. We said what we need to say."
Forget all of the posturing, though, as the Cubs and White Sox prepare for their second round of games at U.S. Cellular Field. In Cooper's mind, the White Sox should forget about the nuts and bolts of this high-profile matchup and just worry about winning games.
Above all else, though, Cooper hopes the people following the White Sox put last weekend's three-game sweep in the rearview mirror and focus on a first-place team.
"It only annoys me that so many people wake up and the sky in their world is cloudy and they are looking for rain," Cooper said. "It irks me because I'm the opposite. The sky is blue in my world. Don't get me wrong. If we lose, it's overcast. I'm not happy.
"You have a choice. I personally look to seize the day and get the most out of it."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.