By Chris Rongey
GLENDALE, AZ.– White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf understands that any time he has is valuable. And being 75, that makes any time he has left precious.
Consider that maybe the most important of the reasons that the signage hanging on this year’s Sox team reads “All In” instead of “Under Construction”.
“The idea of being bad for two or three years is a horrible thought when you’re 75 years old.” Fortunately for Reinsdorf, after a physical today, doctors told him that he had the heart of a 52-year-old.
“You caught me on a good day. I’m feeling really good today,” he joked, “I’ll probably get killed on the way home. Vin Scully said, ‘We’re all day to day.’ We are. But at least I know my health is very good today.”
And he’s hoping his team is also very good and he knows they can be. However, it was only months ago, during the offseason, there was a good chance they wouldn’t be.
“My first impulse was to say that we couldn’t afford –, ” Then after a phone call briefly interrupted, Reinsdorf continued, “The first thing Kenny and I decided we were going to do was to rebuild because we didn’t feel we could count on the attendance supporting the level we had to get to to spend to be better than Minnesota. But what we didn’t want to do was to just lower the payroll…without doing it in a way that would give us hope for the future.”
The chairman admitted that would’ve been the easy thing to do, but he wasn’t going to give up something (i.e. Konerko and AJ that may have brought back draft picks in free agency, or moving an established player under contract for prospects) for nothing (apparently, the potential return failed to entice). “In the end, what we would’ve ended up doing is having a worse team with a lower payroll. We’d make money, but we wouldn’t be building for the future.”
That wasn’t an option for him. So, again, it came back to beating the Twins. By increasing the payroll to around $135 million, it isn’t a secret that the organization considers it a risk but, said Reinsdorf, “It was better than getting bad for two or three years.”
Reinsdorf would not go as far as to say that his team is better than Minnesota’s, but thinks the White Sox have the talent in place to compete with the Twins and Tigers for the AL Central title. He’s been done with the predictioneer’s game since he figured the Sox to finish in the top 6 back in 1991. They wouldn’t finish 7th because, Reinsdorf said then, “Minnesota’s gonna finish 7th. They won the World Series.”
But the hope is now — as it always is — that the World Series will belong to the White Sox this year. If it does, it’ll be just another thing to enjoy while wishing he had all the time in the world to enjoy it.
“One of my friends, picture of health, worked out his whole life, never had a weight problem. Calls me up one day and says, ‘I have pancreatic cancer.’ Gone.” As his voice softens, Reinsdorf says, “I’ve lost too many friends.”
Which will hold true for all of us at some point. And it’s a reality that — when it hits us — may force us to make the most of whatever we’ve got for however long we’ve got it. Even if we’re lucky enough to have a baseball team.
“It’s too bad because just when you get to the point in life where you’ve really got it figured out, where you can really enjoy it, you’re in the home stretch.” Reinsdorf laughs at the cruelty of it. He recalls a bit of wisdom that says, “Live every day like it’s you’re last because one day you’ll be right.”
Other notables from Reinsdorf:
On the financial risk:
“We put the risk on ourselves. We put the monkey on our backs. We’re spending the money. We never expected people to go wild and buy tickets like mad. We know we have to prove that we’ve got a team worthy of winning the division. If we do, I think we’ll draw better.
(Reinsdorf says there really hasn’t been a spike in ticket sales and that it’s at about last year’s pace, but sponsorships are ahead of budget. Their goal is to draw somewhere between 2.6 and 2.8 million fans to U.S. Cellular Field this season. He also said that increased TV ratings will help revenue, as well as attendance.)
Regarding the economy’s effect on Camelback Ranch, Reinsdorf says the opening of the new Rockies facility has drawn away some fans. In addition, the original appeal of moving to Glendale was the expected buildup of restaurants, hotels, and businesses around the Camelback Ranch area by the 3rd year in. None of that is yet to happen. He still expects the projections to come to fruition, though, obviously, later than originally thought.
On the Kenny/Ozzie issues from last year:
“That was the foolishness that grew out of Oney’s tweets last year. That’s not gonna happen again.”
“Right now they’re on the same page. I don’t think they’ve ever not been on the same page, as far as the team is concerned. This was just some personal bickering. They’ve got it behind them”
On the Sox current farm system:
“Since Doug Laumann took over as scouting director, our drafts have improved dramatically. And nobody’s better than Buddy Bell in player development, but obviously it took him a couple of years to get all of his people in place. And I am really confident that we are teaching in the minor leagues and we are teaching well.”
On trying to lock up rising players to long term deals:
“It’s different for each player. When’s the right time? And you can be wrong and you can obviously make a mistake. Or sometimes the agent makes a mistake. We were prepared to commit to Joe Crede and Scott Boras wouldn’t talk about it. Look what that’s cost Crede.”
On committing too much to a pitcher:
“Even though we’ve gone more than three years with a pitcher, the odds are really against you when you do that.”
On Mark Buehrle’s idea that he might retire after this season:
“I love Mark Buehrle. He’s just a fun guy. He knows he’s made a lot of money, and the way he lives, there’s no way he’s going to spend all the money he’s made.”