Following up: Jerry Reinsdorf takes case for ballpark funding to Springfield

Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf
(Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

Jerry Reinsdorf made his visit to Springfield to make an in-person case with Illinois leadership for $1 billion in subsidies for a new South Loop ballpark, and if he angled for a charm offensive, he didn’t show that hand to the media.

He used the word “cordial” with regards to meetings, but he was shorter on words when the media asked about any specifics for his request:

He said he didn’t know if any legislation would be filed during the spring session pertaining to his proposal. When asked about the specifics of his request to lawmakers, Reinsdorf replied, “Come on, that’s enough fellas.”

And:

Isabel: Sir, why do the White Sox need another subsidy after being…

Reinsdorf: Oh, I don’t want to talk about that.

For those capable of cognitive dissonance, it’s tough to square up being as dismissive of the public as Reinsdorf is, while asking for all of its money (Illinois has a $900 million budget shortfall). The question is whether Reinsdorf’s blithe disregard for the general populace will end up hurting him …

… or whether a lot of this has already been generally agreed to, and everybody’s just going through the motions.

This is a good time to mention that on a special episode of the Sox Machine Podcast, you can hear Josh’s discussion with Justin Laurence of Crain’s Chicago Business. Those who support Sox Machine on Patreon were able to provide us with their questions about the proposal, and we got a boatload of them. There’s never a bad time to start supporting us, I keep telling you that.

White Sox pitcher Nick Nastrini
(James Fegan / Sox Machine)

The Uniforms are still upsetting

The greater baseball world has had several days to adjust their eyes to the new uniforms, but they’re not any closer to acceptance.

In fact, The Athletic’s Sam Blum says that the MLBPA is “frustrated” with the new uniforms and is seeking changes to them before Opening Day.

While the new uniform templates are ugly, what with the too-small lettering and colors that fail to match the signature hues of several teams, the leading concern is about the pants. Pitchers could previously customize them to their preference — to out of necessity, for those with outsized trunks — and while Nike sent tailors to the Cincinnati Reds’ spring training site for alterations, it was only for waist and inseam.

Also, this tweet featuring Cal Raleigh — he of Big Dumper fame — shows why players have been describing the material as “paper.”

Amanda Mull, who writes about consumerism for The Atlantic, says the backlash is warranted, but it’s not likely to get better anytime soon. There’s the legitimate case for a divide: Fabrics that help athletes might keep evolving further away from fabrics that look good on everyday fans, and it remains to be seen if the thinner, paper-like jerseys deliver in high temperatures like Nike claims.

But it’s also — and likely more — that jerseys are getting dragged down by the same forces that favor cheaper, more disposable fast fashion.

These changes point to a larger issue that’s driving so much dissatisfaction with team merch in general, among players and fans alike. Design and fabrication duties used to be shared by many different brands and producers; for much of professional-sports history, teams all chose their own jersey suppliers. But those duties have become more and more centralized in the past few decades, leading to a market where the aesthetic choices are controlled by a very small group of companies—Nike, Fanatics, a handful of other inescapable sports brands—that have dominion over nearly the entire market, no matter the sport.  The result: A lot of things now look sort of bad, and also sort of the same. When one of those brands duffs a new release, far more people notice because it affects a far wider swath of fandom than it would if the decision making weren’t so centralized. Nike didn’t make just one baseball team’s jerseys reminiscent of a knockoff—it made all 30 look that way. It’s no coincidence that as this collection of behemoths has executed a widespread blanding of the sports-merch market, sales of vintage sports apparel have exploded

This phenomenon is hardly limited to sports. Clothing is available in larger quantities than ever before in human history, but that quest for scale has resulted in reduced quality and an inescapable blandness all over the apparel market—in knitwear, leather goods, clothes of all kinds. Fans venting their frustrations over jerseys have likely encountered a version of these issues while trying to buy other things, but the jerseys are a bridge too far.

(Jim Margalus / Sox Machine)

The favorites for expansion

With Rob Manfred announcing that he wants two expansion cities selected by the end of his final term as commissioner in 2029, Jeff Passan identified the two current front-runners for Major League Baseball’s new frontiers: Nashville and Salt Lake City.

Passan issues a caveat that expansion is unlikely to happen until the early 2030s, and the probabilities could shift between now and then. Salt Lake City, for example, just emerged as a real player in the last six months, with their courtship of the Oakland A’s as a temporary home drawing attention to their greater ambitions.

Nashville’s status as the most likely eastern expansion city has been established for longer:

Since the formation of the Music City Baseball group five years ago, Nashville’s status as the most favorable East Coast expansion opportunity has been treated by owners as almost a fait accompli, sources said. […]

Nashville satisfies a number of characteristics MLB will seek when it expands, sources said. Because of the partnerships Music City Baseball has forged in the industry, the brand it has built with the Nashville Stars — originally the name of the city’s Negro Leagues team — and Tennessee’s existing baseball fandom demonstrated through sold-out games at Vanderbilt and the University of Tennessee, the group’s foundation is solid. Add the city’s bustling corporate infrastructure, and on paper, Nashville is a tailor-made option, according to three high-ranking MLB team officials familiar with the expansion process.

But Nashville’s plan doesn’t yet have a stadium site or a general partner ready for a major cash outlay, so it’s possible that they could be usurped in time by a North Carolina city or, less likely but close to my heart, Montreal. Unlike St. Petersburg in the 1980s, which had the Suncoast Dome ready for any MLB team willing to relocate there, the new markets are going to need the lead time expansion provides to get all of their affairs in order.

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vince

I feel like the biggest obstacle JR faces in Springfield is Pritzker. It’s no secret Pritzker has Presidential ambitions. He doesn’t need Jerry’s money. Telling a billionaire sports owner to pound sand would likely play well in a 2028 Democratic primary.

What’s JB’s upside to saying yes here?

zerobs

He gets naming rights for the first 25 years?

vince

Already got a Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

JazznFunk

Upside isn’t obvious. But there are always influential business and labor interests that stand to benefit from these deals. There is also the proposed effort to use this deal as a sleight of hand to hide the terrible Soldier Field deal, but no one in the financial world should buy that.

His claim to fame is trying to improve the states’ credit rating by demonstrating some degree of responsibility. Would he really be willing to throw that away.

Last edited 1 month ago by JazznFunk
ssbev

He has done more than try. Illinois has received 9 upgrades to its credit rating since June 2021. People like to complain about government but credit where credit is due. Revenue generated by gaming/marijuana is exceeding expectations. Four new casinos opened in the last year (2 temporary) and 5 massive casinos are under construction. Video gaming continues to generated unbelievable revenues for the state without the Chicago market. Credit rating agencies love REVENUE.

Bottom line is you are correct. Influential people want this deal done. This is not just about JR. Also remember, JR is not the only owner of the White Sox. Some of the wealthiest, most influential people in the State are involved.

I think you are also correct that the Soldier Field deal may be part of this. Horrible situation that is not going to resolve itself.

JazznFunk

Sure, things are better. But I use the word “try” as it has a long way to go to get to respectable

md03

I feel like he can talk it down to 300 million to make it seem like a win for him with most going to a vague expense like infrastructure. Jerry and Related pay for like another 300 plus any MLB small financing to just build the stadium. Then it takes 10 years to build nearby buildings if anything at all, and we end up with the Rate. Just two stops away in an even more potentially remote area even with the South Loop nearby. Lincoln Yards looked really nice in the pictures near to some of the most expensive areas in town, but don’t see much happening now.

Last edited 1 month ago by md03
bob

remember pritzker is a billionaire too

John

Upside is a large campaign donation from a fund Jerry controls through a shell company once Pritzker makes his White House bid.

Pritzker will bill it as no new taxes and the creation of tens of thousands of jobs. And four years from now, I don’t think it’ll be a national issue. Even a lot of people in Illinois will treat it as a minor thing. If the funding comes from taxes on hotels, that’s mostly out-of-state visitors anyway.

Billy Pierce

If Jerry doesn’t get the money, will the Sox stop signing premium free-agents like Ohtani and Yamamoto?

Greg Nix

He might even let the team go to hell and lose 101 games.

itaita

The thing thats surprising about the uniform thing to me is its one thing to cheap out on what the fans get(Still shitty, but its mordern corpo afterall) but why would you cheap out on the people that actually are going to sell the jerseys by using them from a day to day basis? Whats the say about the quality of what the fans will get?

670WMAQtheElder

These new uniforms look like the replicas. So what will the replicas of the replicas look like?

JazznFunk

As least fans have a choice – stop buying. Can be just as much a fan without wearing poor quality merch. Better yet, buy from a deserving entity like Sox Machine. And Sox fans continuing to wear paper bags over their heads is also considered acceptable fan apparel.

Last edited 1 month ago by JazznFunk
Billy Pierce

a tidbit from crain’s article:

Reinsdorf is also seeking to create a tax-overlay district surrounding the proposed stadium that would capture the state’s portion of sales taxes generated in the area — estimated at roughly $400 million over an undisclosed period — to be set aside to subsidize the stadium and back the new bonds.

670WMAQtheElder

I wonder if JR or the Sports Finance Authority is liable for the incremental tax being levied on part of the 11th Ward under the TIF to finance the Red Line extension. If it’s JR that may behind his push to leave 35th and Shields.

Joliet Orange Sox

And:

Isabel: Sir, why do the White Sox need another subsidy after being…

Reinsdorf: Oh, I don’t want to talk about that.

Clicking on the “And:” in Jim’s article links to Rich Miller’s great Capitol Fax site and in the post on the site there’s a link to the audio of the above exchange between Rich’s niece Isabel and Jerry that I think is worth spending 4 seconds to listen to.

Warren Z

I would not be surprised if MLB expansion plans fail to materialize.

The Oakland franchise’s Las Vegas ambitions already are hitting some snags, so it wouldn’t totally shock me if that team ends up in Salt Lake City on more than just a temporary basis.

Also, the struggles of the two Florida teams, particularly Tampa Bay, further show that MLB already has enough teams that lack support. So, Miami or Tampa Bay could end up moving to Nashville. Perhaps a franchise could succeed financially in Florida if it didn’t have to compete with another team in that state.

If the Florida teams both stay put, though, and the Sox stadium deal in Chicago falls through, then I could see the Sox possibly moving to Nashville.

We should not get complacent and think that there is NO WAY the Sox would move.

StockroomSnail

But…that franchise fee

Dirt

I just want to point out that King Homer is the best avatar

David

On the positive side, those tiny letters are MUCH easier for the 11-year-old Cambodian factory girls to handle.

FishSox

The new America, creating a world of efficiencies…

What could go wrong?

Last edited 1 month ago by FishSox
bob

made in the USA, HELL YEAH BROTHER

DocGreedo

Oh my, Crochet & DatAss are going to destroy those trousers.

Dirt

Would you say he needs to, ahem, crochet some new pants?

*crickets and a tumbleweed*

I’ll see myself out

670WMAQtheElder

Funding a new stadium for billionaires shouldn’t be on anyone’s list of the proper use of public funds. We’ve seen time and time again it is a big con by the rich to get richer. Simply put, public money gets extracted from the public and moved into the pockets of the billionaires.

This is especially true of this owner who extorted the State 35 years ago and then has spent those years mismanaging both the Sox and the Bulls and then blaming the fans for all his failures.

Warren Z

The state was not extorted. It could have said “no” to a new stadium 35 or so years ago … and very nearly did.

I am glad that the state said “yes” back then and that Chicago could eventually enjoy a White Sox championship in 2005, instead of seeing such an accomplishment achieved by a team based in Florida. And I have appreciated over the past few decades the opportunity to go to a game several times a year to see my favorite team in person.

This franchise is in a down cycle again, but such cycles don’t last forever.

We don’t live in a perfect world. In many cities, not just Chicago, money “gets extracted from the public and into the pockets of the billionaires.” This happens in numerous projects, not just stadiums, and just sports. It’s very rare when a project, any project, does not benefit a very rich entity.

The Atlanta area has had TWO new stadiums built for its baseball team since the Sox had their ballpark constructed in 1990. Same for the Dallas area. I am sure that those cities also have problems that “should” be corrected. I am sure that the schools in those areas are not perfect and that there are areas of urban blight, etc. Yet, they still have found a way to fund stadiums that weren’t necessarily needed.

Obviously, quality of life factors influenced leaders’ decisions in those metropolitan areas. Having a state-of-the-art facility is a big draw for residents and tourists. It’s a nice/better entertainment option for people in those cities, and the more such options that a metropolitan area can offer, the more its people benefit.

About 20 years ago, my city, not nearly as big as Chicago, had a rare chance to attract a Class A affiliate, even though our area had not had minor league baseball for decades. A reputable owner was willing to move his Class A team to our city if we built a $16 million stadium that also could host concerts, high school tournaments, etc. This project would have increased residents’ property taxes by something like $16 per year. Voters used your line of thinking, however, and a referendum on the proposal was rejected overwhelmingly. Now, however, city leaders and others are complaining that our area lacks enough quality of life amenities to attract and keep young workers in the area.

Sometimes, an investment made now can pay off in a big way in the future.

Billy Pierce

I really don’t understand this:

We don’t live in a perfect world. In many cities, not just Chicago, money “gets extracted from the public and into the pockets of the billionaires.” This happens in numerous projects, not just stadiums, and just sports. It’s very rare when a project, any project, does not benefit a very rich entity.

The Atlanta area has had TWO new stadiums built for its baseball team since the Sox had their ballpark constructed in 1990. Same for the Dallas area. I am sure that those cities also have problems that “should” be corrected. I am sure that the schools in those areas are not perfect and that there are areas of urban blight, etc. Yet, they still have found a way to fund stadiums that weren’t necessarily needed.

are you arguing that because many cities, like Atlanta and Dallas, have neglected things like their schools and urban blight so they can fund stadiums for billionaires, we should do it too?

katiesphil

I mean, hey, as long as I get to go to some games…

Ceverettsdinosaurs

Sports owners always want to subsidize the costs and privatize the profits. I really don’t think Reinsdorf and the ownership group have much leverage to demand public money, but I typically don’t think any owners have such leverage. Nashville (or insert other mid-sized city without a current team) doesn’t seem to have a comparable fanbase, media market, or other benefits over Chicago. The media rights deals alone for the Chicago market will be much more lucrative in Chicago than anywhere else. We’re seeing this play out in Oakland right now, where their media deal with local tv pays them $70 mil a year.

I know they won’t, but the politicians should tell the Sox to pay for the stadium. However, I do understand if the City foots the bill for actual public goods like an extra CTA stop, shoring up the river bank, etc. That should be the extent of any public financing contribution.

bob

tbf about the jerseys being thin, it’s not the worst idea. if you ever put on a real 90s or 2000s era jersey, those things are gd stifling

John

Ok, but I still have absolutely no desire to see through these guys’ pants. You can make a breathable fabric that isn’t partially transparent. Also, as thin as they are, are they really going to hold up to guys sliding into 2nd or making a dive in the OF? We should call these things athletic pantyhose.

bob

true, theres definitely a line. balance needs to be achieved