The Chicago White Sox parted ways with their veteran but volatile manager, ace pitcher and big hitter, and brought in a rookie manager. They are in first place in the AL Central.
Change of White Sox fits well in Chicago
The Chicago White Sox were thought to be rebuilding. Their general manager, Kenny Williams, conceded as much to the media and fans in December.
The 2005 World Series champions have missed the play-offs for the past three seasons, and that led to a shake-up after the forgettable 2011 campaign.
They parted ways with their manager (Ozzie Guillen), hitting coach (Greg Walker), ace pitcher (Mark Buehrle) and middle-of-the-order hitter (Carlos Quentin).
That left them with the designated hitter Adam Dunn, who looked done last year, and the right-hander Jake Peavy, who was slow to recover from 2010 surgery on a back muscle.
And Williams was replacing Guillen with the former player Robin Ventura, who had no managerial experience.
But those three question marks are answers now to why the White Sox are a surprise first-place team in the American League Central.
The Detroit Tigers are off to a surprisingly poor start and the White Sox have been good enough to take advantage.
They finished May on a nine-game winning streak and had won 15 of their past 20 through Friday.
They were fourth in the American League in runs scored behind Texas, Boston and Toronto.
Dunn is a big reason why. The 32-year-old slugger is back to his 40-homer form from his years with the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals. After hitting only 11 homers with a miserable .159 batting average in his first year of a US$56 million (Dh25.7m) deal with the White Sox, Dunn has hit 18 home runs. He is second in baseball only to the Texas standout Josh Hamilton, who has 22.
It is safe now for him to say that moving from the National League to the American League last year had a big impact on him.
"It's tough," Dunn told FoxSports.com. "You see the same pitchers for 10 years. You go to the same ballparks. You eat at the same places. It sounds so [silly]. Why does it make a difference? I didn't think it did, either.
"But it's that comfort level: 'We're playing the Cardinals today. OK. I know how they're going to pitch me.'
"Now, you go to a bunch of American League parks, you don't know what gate to go in. It's an adjustment. It takes time."
Peavy made only 35 starts in his previous two seasons with the White Sox. On Thursday, he made his 12th already this season. He is 6-1 with a 3.05 ERA.
And after dealing with the often controversial Guillen as manager, the White Sox have responded to the peace Ventura provides.
"He's been the same guy since Day 1, when we weren't playing too good, to where we're playing pretty well," Dunn said. "We know what we're going to get from him every day."
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