The Chicago White Sox have a division title in their sights, though they have already reached one benchmark of note. Following Tuesday's win over the New York Yankees, manager Robin Ventura's club can begin distancing itself from the lowest of expectations.
Before the season, several national prognosticators did not envision a successful season for the White Sox. The most dire of predictions came from Sports Illustrated, which predicted on its website that Chicago would finish dead last in the AL Central.
Not only would the White Sox finish near the bottom of the American League, but they would do so with a record of 67-95. Even for a team in a state of transition following a disappointing 2011, it seemed a bit low.
Following Tuesday's 7-3 victory, Chicago improved its season record to 67-55. With 40 games remaining on the schedule, the White Sox have the opportunity to begin their rise over the "SI Line."
SI.com's Tom Verducci forecast via video that the White Sox might show signs of life if players like Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy live up to their huge contracts. However, he thought that scenario to be unlikely.
The time to watch Chicago would be July, when GM Kenny Williams would start to trade off pieces at the trade deadline.
Verducci was correct when he hinged Chicago's chances on its big contracts. Dunn leads the majors with 36 home runs. Rios is one of the league's hottest hitters over the last few months. With better run support, Peavy might be neck and neck with Chris Sale as one of the AL's top arms.
The White Sox have also parlayed a burst in power from A.J. Pierzynski and surprising production from young players like Sale and Alejandro De Aza into several extended runs on the top of the division.
SI.com's Ted Keith pronounced Detroit as the class of the AL Central, but going into Wednesday's action, Chicago has a two-game lead on the Tigers.
It's up for debate as to whether the crew on the South Side can hold off the division favorites in the final six weeks of the regular season. One thing seems likely, though. The White Sox will exceed the expectations of Keith, Verducci and the folks at Sports Illustrated.