Just guessing, said Sparky Anderson, who guesses very well, but there is a team everyone outside baseball tends to vastly undervalue. Like the change-up. Pitching-rich, and powerful. Built for today, and years of tomorrows.

No, it ain't the Orioles.

It's the team clogging their path to the World Series.

"Anyone who thinks the White Sox are having One of Those Years, I got news for," the Tigers' manager was saying. "I believe we're seeing a team people'll have to shoot at for a lotta years. The one thing they have is the only starting pitchers who can match the Dodgers.

"So many fans have never heard about (LaMarr) Hoyt. To me, Richard Dotson is good as any pitcher in the game, and even fewer people have heard of him. This kid has everything you have to have to be a great pitcher. And they got (Floyd) Bannister and the young kid (Britt) Burns, who is great sometimes and not so great.

"You get starters like that, you don't have to have much."

The much missing for so long is a shortstop, second and third basemen.

"The way you beat the Sox before," Anderson said, "was to wait till they eventually beat themselves. The kid (Scott) Fletcher (at shortstop), (Julio) Cruz (at second) and (Vance) Law (at third) really shored things up. Left field (with rookie Ron Kittle) is a very mediocre position. But they hit out of there."

They hit for distance out of lots of places. For the first time in their history, the White Sox could have three players (Kittle, designated hitter Greg Luzinski and Carlton Fisk) with more than 30 homers. With the very good Harold Baines, they also have four players with more than 80 RBI.

So Anderson will not bet so much as a refill on the pipe he just laid on his desk before the Tigers-Orioles game tonight on the American League playoff. For the record, at least.

The Orioles' playoff experience will be helpful, said the driver of the Big Red Machine at Cincinnati in the '70s who has driven the Tigers to contention in the '80s. Up to a point.

"You can't tell me that once the game starts that both teams won't be tight," he said. "I was as tight my fifth playoff as my first. I think Earl Weaver explained it best. Somebody asked him when he started to get nervous and he said: 'At the first pitch.' "

The Orioles have a 7-5 advantage in their series this season; the White Sox won four of the last seven, home and away in August when both teams were were at full throttle. Of those seven games, four were decided by one run. And, in Chicago's mind, by one fan.

In the last game, a 2-1 Oriole victory in Comiskey Park Aug. 14, Fisk's fan-flicked fly was ruled a double instead of a homer. Later, in the sort of dramatic way that has become routine, winner Scott McGregor loaded the bases in the ninth and Tim Stoddard struck out Fisk and Tom Paciorek and got Luzinski on a fielder's choice.

Being complimentary, Anderson said he had five Tigers who could play regularly for the Orioles. With equal admiration, he added he never has been "in awe" of Baltimore. He starts to escape this squeeze situation by saying:

"I don't believe anybody in baseball has two players like (Cal) Ripken and (Eddie) Murray. They're both great, they're hittin' back to back and both have sound minds. Lotta times guys who are very talented also are whacko. These guys come and play every day.

"That's a big thing now: two stars who give nobody no trouble. They're so good, and so disciplined, they make everyone else (the platoon of platoon players) fall in line."

Meaning that John Lowenstein is content being John Lowenstein.

"What makes the Orioles special, so great, is discipline," Anderson said. "Every time I watch 'em play, I'm never awed. Now Pittsburgh (in the early '70s) actually awed me. You looked at them and, my God: (Willie) Stargell in his prime, (Roberto) Clemente, (Al) Oliver, (Manny) Sanguillen. And so on down the line.

"They would awe you.

"This club don't awe you; this club beats you.

"I respect 'em so much. I think they teach other clubs in professional sports that you don't have to have 25 stars; you do have to have a bunch of people willing to work together, willing to overlook somebody else's faults. They aren't total angels."

Neither were Anderson's Reds.

"Lot of 'em didn't like each other," he admitted. "Don't think for a second it was all goody-goody off the field. But they were able to tolerate each other (in the manner of Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes with the championship Bullets). And that's the great thing about Baltimore."

So the nicest thing that can be said about the White Sox, and Anderson kept repeating it, is that for most of one season they've showed what the Orioles have displayed for most of 27.

"A five-game series," Anderson insists, "unless the ball bounces funny."