The headline on an internet story about Jerry Reinsdorf’s bombshell comments in Los Angeles was gobsmacking.
“Jerry Reinsdorf, why don’t you stop talkin’ for a while?”
Reinsdorf, as most Chicago White Sox fans know, rarely talks publicly — at least on the record — thus avoiding putting his foot in his mouth. His handlers told him years ago that he would be better off saying nothing rather than what’s really on his mind, and for the most part he has kept to that strategy.
The 87-year-old White Sox chairman is incapable of filtering himself, which might be why he has a soft spot for Ozzie Guillen.
But for some reason Reinsdorf agreed to be part of a seminar in Los Angeles that former ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols hosted. He knew his remarks would be available online and disseminated by Sox fans but participated anyway.
Perhaps he knew Nichols would chuckle at his sarcastic remarks, whether funny or not. Everyone likes to sound witty. Nichols was happy to placate her guest.
Reinsdorf made several eye-opening remarks, such as suggesting most of his fellow owners were dumb, insisting he allows his front-office hires to make all the decisions and reiterating he’s not in the sports business to make money.
But the one comment that seemingly has stuck to Reinsdorf was his belief that fans don’t really need their favorite teams to win championships to be happy.
“I think the important thing to fans is, while they want you to win championships, they want to know that when they get down to the last month of the season you still have a shot,” he said. “You’re still playing meaningful games. If you can do that consistently, you’ll make your fans happy.”
Perhaps he was thinking of his Chicago Bulls, who keep selling out the United Center without a team that has any realistic chance of winning a title. Bulls fans predominantly hail from the north and west suburbs, like Cubs fans, and have more disposable income to blow on watching a mediocre team.
But Reinsdorf doesn’t know Sox fans too well if he thinks they’re happy as long as the team is in contention. He has been in charge for 42 years and somehow still can’t figure them out.
Apparently Reinsdorf doesn’t look at all the empty seats at Guaranteed Rate Field as an indication they are not at all happy with the state of the team, which at last look was trying to dig out from a 7-21 start. The “Sell the team” chant at Sox Park also seems to go in one ear and out the other.
But let’s assume for a moment that Reinsdorf is right and that being in contention is the ultimate goal and would bring much happiness to the South Side. That would mean the Sox don’t have to completely dig themselves out of their hole to satisfy their fan base.
All the Sox must do is finish around .500, which should be good enough to keep them in the American League Central race into the last month of the season. With 131 games remaining after Wednesday’s 6-4 victory against the Minnesota Twins, the Sox (10-21) would need to go 71-60 to finish .500.
That’s a .542 winning percentage the rest of the way, or what would’ve translated to an 88-win season had they played at that pace from the start.
Meaningful games or bust!
But to get into their “happy zone” come September, the Sox also would need the overachieving Twins to implode, the Cleveland Guardians to continue underachieving and the Detroit Tigers to, well, be the Detroit Tigers.
If all that happens and the Sox do their job and finish around .500, they should come within a handful of games of the AL Central title.
Certainly Reinsdorf believes the Sox are on the cusp of playing in meaningful games or he wouldn’t have authorized the franchise-record five-year, $75 million deal for Andrew Benintendi, a good-fielding left fielder who among qualifying position players began the day ranked 134th in the majors with a 0.1 WAR, according to FanGraphs.
It wasn’t Reinsdorf’s fault the other dumb owners drove up the price by overpaying for free agents. That’s the price of business, and at least Benintendi’s WAR is a minuscule improvement over Adam Engel, a good-fielding outfielder the Sox nontendered. Engel is now playing in the minors.
Benintendi was one of the handful of moves made to improve the 81-81 Sox. Second baseman Elvis Andrus, the 34-year-old shortstop who signed a one-year, $3 million deal in spring training to play second, had an -0.3 WAR on Wednesday. Andrus replaced scrappy Danny Mendick, who also was nontendered while rehabbing a torn right ACL and signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the New York Mets.
Rookie right fielder Oscar Colas, who was given the job in spring training, was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday after a rough start. Left-hander Jake Diekman, whom general manager Rick Hahn called one of the team leaders before the home opener, was designated for assignment during Tuesday’s purge. Diekman made $3.5 million, with a $4 million option in 2024.
No wonder Reinsdorf sits at the owners meetings and wonders how all these “dumb” people became billionaires.
These guys wouldn’t know the first thing about how to run a successful sports organization much less play meaningful games in September.
Reinsdorf’s predicament is familiar. He has dealt with unhappy Sox fans before. In 1988, when the team finally got the funding for a new ballpark after the ownership group threatened to move to Florida, Tribune reporter Linda Kay asked Reinsdorf if he would ever be forgiven for holding Illinois hostage.
“I think eventually we will, when the stadium is built and when they see what a great stadium it is and when the team is better again,” he replied. “I have no problem at all living with the negative press because I know we`re doing the right thing and I know in the end we`ll be vindicated.”
Thirty-five years later, Reinsdorf again is in the spotlight.
The Sox are off to one of their worst starts in history. Angry fans want him to sell the team. And those dumb fellow owners are driving up the price of mediocrity.
So don’t stop talkin’ now, Jerry.
You’re on a roll, bro.