CHICAGO -- Maybe Cubs manager Lou Piniella has been reading recent comments made by White Sox general manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen, preaching for equal recognition to be given to the American League Central leaders in their own hometown.
Piniella simply could have been impressed by what he's witnessed on the field from the White Sox this weekend at U.S. Cellular. Whatever the reason, Piniella heaped praise upon Guillen's crew after Saturday's 6-5 Cubs loss and switched Chicago's focus of baseball attention to the South Siders.
"The White Sox should win that division by half a dozen games or more, if you want to know the truth," said Piniella. "They've got everything that's needed. They have power. They've got a good defensive team on the field. They've got a heck of a bullpen, good starters. Everybody looks at the Cubs -- look at the White Sox. They're a pretty good ballclub."
So how did the White Sox respond to Piniella's kudos? They collectively appreciated the compliment but weren't ready to start posing for their AL Central-champion team photograph quite yet.
"I think he underestimates our division a bit," said White Sox reliever Matt Thornton with a laugh, after picking up his fourth victory with four strikeouts over 1 2/3 perfect innings. "Minnesota has a great team. Detroit and Cleveland are playing great ball."
"Apparently he hasn't seen the rest of our division, because they are pretty darn good," added White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, echoing Thornton's sentiment. "It's a compliment from Lou, but they are leading by [4 1/2 games], so he might be looking in the mirror and confused by what team he's talking about."
Guillen had heard Piniella's comments before entering his own interview session. After thanking Piniella and praising him for his baseball acumen, Guillen pointed out how he predicted the Cubs to win the NL Central by 10 games last year. He also mentioned how when he makes predications, he's perceived as a crazy man.
When Piniella says something, it's taken as the gospel truth.
"Hopefully, we can win by two," Guillen said. "As long as we win, I don't care how many games we [are] up."
Ultimately, both sides have a great deal of respect for the other. Their Interleague action comes to an end on Sunday night, but, as Thornton indicated, their head-to-head competition might not be done for 2008.
"They have a great team," Thornton said. "They have a lineup similar to us -- power hitters, clutch hitters, good pitching and they aren't healthy. Throw [Alfonso] Soriano and [Carlos] Zambrano in the mix and the whole dynamic changes.
"It would be fun to see what happens if we see them later in the year."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.