Melky: White Sox must play like family to contend

Outfielder entering second season with the South Siders

Melky: White Sox must play like family to contend

CHICAGO -- Very little gray area exists for Melky Cabrera when judging his team's success.

If his squad reaches the postseason, then put that year in the win column. If his team isn't playing into October, then mark it down as a failure. So even though the White Sox improved from 73 wins in 2014 to 76 in '15, Cabrera knows this talented squad didn't reach its primary goal.

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But as the 2016 campaign moves closer to pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch, the veteran outfielder believes the White Sox can make a quick change to contention.

Outlook: Cabrera, LF, CWS

"Despite all the bad things that happened last year, we are going to be in a better position," Cabrera said through interpreter and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo. "All the guys that we have from last year are in better condition, more prepared, physically and especially mentally, for the challenge this year.

"All the things have to start from Spring Training, all working together for the same goal, and I think that we have that team. We have the guys to do that. But we have to also play like a team, like a family. All united, all thinking the same goal. You can't think about individuals, just about the team."

Cabrera, 31, enters the second of a three-year deal with the White Sox that pays the switch-hitter $14 million in 2016 and $15 million in 2017. He finished with a .273 average, .709 OPS, 12 homers, 36 doubles and 77 RBIs in his White Sox debut campaign, which is pretty commensurate with his career averages, although it was an uneven year at the plate for him, much like the rest of the lineup.

Cabrera's RBI double

It was Cabrera, though, who helped keep this clubhouse together with his veteran leadership and humor. Cabrera smiled when asked about his tag as the funniest player on the White Sox.

"This is a hard game. This is a very difficult sport to play. Of course, you have to be focused 100 percent on the game, but you also need to have fun," Cabrera said. "You also need to do some things to make the atmosphere relaxed or loose, and make all the guys feel that we are in a family.

"You don't need to feel under pressure. That's why I always try to keep the atmosphere loose, and try to make everybody happy. That's why I like to do the things I do."

Melky's solo homer

Although Cabrera mentioned a need to play together and as a family, he viewed that as just one of a number of issues in '15.

"This year we need to be a lot more consistent if we want to win games, and we want to reach the playoffs," Cabrera said. "We were a very inconsistent team last year in all the aspects: playing, in the clubhouse.

"We had good chemistry. But it was inconsistent, the same way we played on the field. Sometimes things are hard to explain."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.