Following up: It’s not the quote, and it’s not really a cover-up

I spent a good chunk of the weekend driving, so I’m late to the game on unflattering secondhand comments associated to Jerry Reinsdorf and the reaction that resulted. However, ImmortalTimeTravelMan requested a discussion, and it should be entered into the record in case this ends up having lasting resonance.

The quote, relayed by former Marlins team president David Samson on ESPN’s Miami-based Lebatard and Friends Mystery Crate Podcast, seems like it shouldn’t be that big of a deal if handled correctly:

Samson was part of a Marlins front office that was equal parts villainous and dysfunctional, and has spent his post-baseball career living his best life. He’s kinda credible because he walked among front office types, but he also seems to like the attention from being the heel. This being the case, the White Sox had multiple ways to minimize the blowback.

No. 1: Ignore it. Reinsdorf is largely invisible from White Sox proceedings, so this wouldn’t be anything new. Samson might not be worth responding to.

No. 2: Reject it/downplay it. If rejecting it isn’t possible, the White Sox could’ve said Samson mischaracterized a tongue-in-cheek observation about expectations.

But because the White Sox are both sensitive to criticism while isolated from any consequences from their lack of success, they chose:

No. 3: Issue an oblivious non-denial.

The White Sox haven’t made the postseason in 11 consecutive seasons, and they haven’t even finished second since 2012, so I’m not sure what this “No Fear” t-shirt of a statement was supposed to accomplish. It’s lack of awareness is especially conspicuous after a winter where the Sox pursued Manny Machado as if they wanted to be the runner-up, and Kenny Williams sounded proud of the way they “accomplished” that.

Ideally, the discontentment fomented by this exchange, along with the sting of coming up significantly short on Machado while insisting “the money will be spent” last winter, will inspire the White Sox to reach new heights of investment and creativity as a reward for the fans suffering through it all. The flipside is that this quote reflects the further Bullsification of the White Sox, where any lofty rhetoric is immediately negated by small-minded weirdness, and they’ll never stop.

Either way, Samson’s anecdote doesn’t strike me as a “gotcha” moment. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or false, because if you already hold low expectations for the front office, the cynicism of the quote or the flimsiness of the reaction will reinforce your pessimism.

* * * * * * * * *

In another meriting attention, Todd Steverson’s exit interview with James Fegan reflects a guy at peace with his present. He had some feathers in his cap — Avisaíl García, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and even Leury García experienced dramatic transformations after early stumbles — and that’s enough to sustain him as he looks for tother work.

The problem is that all of those stories followed a similar template, with success emerging through extreme aggression. That strikes me as Steverson working with what he’s given, by and large, but it’s hard to keep going to that well when plate discipline has a stronger correlation to lasting success.

The quote that jumped out to me dovetails with my belief about guys like Zack Collins and Yonder Alonso — that plate discipline without works is dead. Steverson seems to buy into this coming from the other direction:

“The secondary pieces, talk about the walk, the OBP and some of the other things that they’re going to be able to do throughout the course of their careers, those are going to come,” he said. “They come with the fact that they have the confidence now that they can hit at this level.

“Strike zone awareness is always going to be the top thing that’s going to control your career. Your plate discipline is going to make your whole career. That was never something that was deleted in any conversation with anyone.”

Avisaíl García’s walk column will tell you that punishing strikes doesn’t lead to recognizing balls, but I get where he’s coming from. I also get where the White Sox are coming from in seeking a different leader at the top of the hitting charts, because their combination of zero walks, lots of strikeouts and mediocre power kills them in this era.

If we were running a science experiment, we’d probably want Steverson in there for 30 seasons to better understand whether the front office could ever deliver players who wouldn’t need to swing their way to average and above. And although the Sox sometimes act like they have 30 years to get it right, there’s enough going wrong that being proactive probably won’t set them back.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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karkovice squad

Either way, Samson’s anecdote doesn’t strike me as a “gotcha” moment. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or false, because if you already hold low expectations for the front office, the cynicism of the quote or the flimsiness of the reaction will reinforce your pessimism.

The quote and PR statement probably matter less than the course they chart from here. But they’re absolutely at an inflection point for whether and how rapidly disinvested fans choose to reinvest in the team. Another parboiled ’15/’16-style flail at contention isn’t going to reignite fan interest.

The team can take comfort from the fact that probably won’t dent their bottom line too much anymore, though.

Josh Nelson

The relationship between fans and owners is rarely smooth, but Jerry Reinsdorf and White Sox fans is unrepairable.

roke1960

He could go a long way toward repairing by getting 2 of Cole/Wheeler/Strasburg/Rendon/JD/Grandal. Winning solves a lot of problems, but going out and acting like the big market team that they are will at least get the fans excited.

Trooper Galactus

This assumes he a) cares about repairing that bridge and b) that he’d be willing to spend that sort of money even if he did. Jerry tried that once before with Albert Belle, and while Belle kicked the shit out of the ball while he was here, Jerry couldn’t wait to send him packing when he realized what it was costing him (and the team wasn’t winning anyhow).

karkovice squad

But what does that mean? Are even you going to renounce the team; quit the blog, podcast, and Sox Twitter; and, I dunno, pick a Legion ball team?

Jason.Wade17

See Blackhawks circa 2002-2007.

karkovice squad

Are you going to stop going to games, watching on TV, or change your cable package to take away the subscriber fee?

Sox fans were already at peace with the rebuild. Attendance bottomed out at post-work stoppage levels rather than White Flag or late-80s levels. And even more went to games this year despite no Machado. You really think this quote matters more than whether or not the team starts winning?

As Cirensica

I have reduced my Sox baseball watching time in recent years. That gotta hit the ratings, thus the JR’s revenue. Right?

karkovice squad

Nope. They pared down expenses. Due to that and increases in other revenue they’ve been more profitable as a loser than a winner.

As Cirensica

Nope. They pared down expenses. Due to that and increases in other revenue they’ve been more profitable as a loser than a winner.

That is nonsensical (I am not saying you are wrong). A world of economics where the succesful team is less profitable than the loser team is just the world upside down and those manipulations are bound to hit you back in the face sooner than later. The laws of economics ALWAYS win in the end.

yinkadoubledare

I don’t know that you can apply typical economics to a sports team. Different owners care about different things. Some are decent sized groups that care about making a lot of money for the investors each year. When you get a situation where it’s mostly one guy, or a near-majority one guy, they might not be in it for yearly profit, but rather winning and figure they’ll make it all back in the end when they sell given how high franchise values have gone. A vanity play to be the guy the city loves because you pay for a winner. That sort of non-monetary value doesn’t really exist in most businesses.

burning-phoneix

The world of pro sports, and especially American Sports, is completely divorced from normal economics now.

This came back to bite Arsene Wenger, manager at Arsenal, who has an economics degree. He was absolutely sure that with teams like Manchester United and City piling on absolutely enormous amounts of debt that his frugal ways at Arsenal would pay off sooner or later. But sports teams these days aren’t run as businesses but more like Money Laundering outfits.

karkovice squad

somewhat agree but I think the issue is more that sports aren’t free markets. Nor is it necessarily the case that they should be.

But doing that justice requires a doctoral thesis not a blog comment.

As Cirensica

I know they are not free markets, and there are manipulations, controls, regulations, etc…but even those, come with a cost. When a team is losing and losing, they won’t generate fans. Without fans, the ratings go down. With no ratings, sooner or later, the advertisers will notice. Other owners soon will notice that loser teams are just expensive farm system they maintain with share revenue. The stadiums will wear down. The public will not help the rich owner to build another one, thus with an old stadiums, the fan losing keeps going. The law of economics will catch up. It has always been like that.

I am not saying it will happen in 1 or 2 years…but teams that lose and lose and lose but are profitable will succumb in the long run because to survive, an enterprise needs to produce value. Losing teams produce very little value compared with the cost to run it.

karkovice squad

that’s an argument that the league is both currently in an inflated bubble and dealing with a tragedy of the commons. I’d probably agree.

35Shields

This absolutely not what a Tragedy of the Commons means.

karkovice squad

MLB has shared revenue streams dependent on league-wide fan interest, a common resource. Individual teams are extracting it rather than using it sustainably.

knoxfire30

I personally stopped buying tickets to games, I went to 2 total this season down from my usual 15-20 range. You are right though a die hard like myself is still reading blogs daily, watching the team every night im free, etc etc.

Not sure the sox can hit blackhawk level rock bottom, but its hard to act like management has given any average fan reason to spend their hard earned dollars on the product they have recently presented.

Winning does cure all though, so if the whitesox show me a 140-150 mil payroll and some big additions this offseason I am sure I will be back up to buying 15 plus games, I hardly doubt i am alone in this stance.

roke1960

We’re all going to continue to be fans, no matter what Jerry says or does. It’s just in our DNA. We’ve known for years that Jerry doesn’t care a bit about us. Yet we’re all still here, discussing every move they make. All we can do is hope he and Rick really try this winter to get this team back to being relevant. What choice do we have, becoming Cubs’ fans? Not a chance.

roke1960

I haven’t been to a Sox game in Chicago for 5 years. I don’t think Jerry’s losing any sleep over that.

Gutteridge70

yep. will renew my 40 game package and get a full season it if team obtains some meaningful free agents in off season.

dwjm3

I didn’t attend a game this year or last year.

karkovice squad

That’s already baked into the cake though. Are you swearing off going to any more games while Reinsdorf owns the team regardless of how they perform?

knoxfire30

I think the biggest problem in baseball right now is their tv/radio/internet success has made it profitable to be bad. Like really profitable. Teams have gotten away with murder selling their fan bases on 3-5 year rebuilding plans when alternatively with 10 teams making the playoffs they could probably much more easily buy their way into contention. The already guaranteed revenue teams have kind of kills the effect of my small level ticket purchasing. Oh well though, its my money and I wont spend in on a bad product, especially when they are trying to be bad.

Trooper Galactus

I cancelled my cable package because the only thing I watched on TV any longer were the White Sox, and I was sick of spending money to watch maybe a game a week in the summer.

karkovice squad

And what gets you to watch more regularly again?

anthonyprinceton

I can’t believe you are honestly trying to equate Bill Wirtz and how he ran the Blackhawks to how Reinsdorf has run the White Sox. I was at the UC for many games back then and we finally gave up our Blackhawk season tickets shortly before the championship run started. I was also at Sox Fest in 2006 standing a few feet from Reinsdorf as hundreds of fans chanted his name and climbed over one another to personally thank him.

The White Sox paid their own players and maintained a top 10 MLB payroll for the better part of a decade after the 2005 championship. Bill Wirtz not only refused to put games on local TV but he refused to pay the talent he had. This went on for decades.

Jason.Wade17


It’s not equating Bill Wirtz and Reinsdorf. It’s showing an example of what happens when a fan base and an owner have an irreparable relationship.

ThisReallySox

For me anyway, I went from a diehard to moving more towards a fair weather fan. The transition is not complete, but continued half-assery is getting me there. I don’t watch as much and I don’t spend as much. Not that the Sox are going to care. I just wonder what baseball will do when the older fan base eventually goes away.

Trooper Galactus

For me, it’s the continued support of front office goons who have proven inept at competing regardless of how much money they’re allowed to spend.

GoGoSoxFan

This.

I consider myself a typical Sox fan and I have no faith what-so-ever that anything will fundamentally change until Renisdorf is gone.

MrTopaz

Under his tenure, they made the playoffs in ‘83, ‘93, ‘00, ‘05 and ‘08. His major relationship-with-the-fan base killing blunders include threatening to move the team, collusion against FAs in the ‘80s, pushing for the strike, the White Flag Trade, and letting his front office build a team so underwhelming they had to trade the arguably best pitcher the team ever had.

Maybe we can quibble about some of those (I don’t know how much fans cared about the collusion rap back in the day), but it’s just amazing to me that he can have pretty much a 1:1 ratio between playoff appearances and off the field catastro-blunders over the course of just about four decades.

burning-phoneix

Doubt it. If he can get another WS ring or two, no one will care about his penny pinching ways.

SonOfCron

The least believable aspect of the quote is the implication that Jerry would be willing to spend enough to consistently finish in 2nd place.

GoGoSoxFan

Kenny Williams mastered the model: build a team that might win 85-88 games and if everything goes right make the playoffs about once a decade.

vince

That would be an improvement over Hahn’s teams.

As Cirensica

I am trying to think about what wouldn’t be an improvement over Hahn’s teams, and I am coming with a very short list

Soxfan2

Here is what Steve Stone had to say on Twitter:

“I have met and interacted with David Sampson. He got his job because his mother married the future owner of the Florida Marlins. He had the respect of very few people in the game. I’ll be kind and say his recollection of that conversation is as accurate as his ability in baseball”

He’s trying to be a mouthpiece for the organization again. 

As Cirensica

That’s the strongest comment Stone has ever made… I am sure Sampson will be very happy to read it.

Trooper Galactus

Stone also referred to the A’s organization as a failure during Billy Beane’s tenure, despite making it to the postseason nine times since 2001 versus the White Sox’s two,and with far more limited resources. So I’m really not too concerned about what he has to say on the off-the-field matters.

lil jimmy

so you don’t think is mommy got him the job?
For myself, everything about the Marlins smells fishy.

Trooper Galactus

Regardless of the veracity of Stone’s comment, he’s proven to be little but an organizational shill on social media. For a guy who got ousted from the Cubs booth for being analytically critical of the team and Dusty Baker in particular, this is pretty surprising.

karkovice squad

Learned his lesson.

lil jimmy

he speaks well of you!

karkovice squad

He’d better for what he charges.

karkovice squad

Samson’s Marlins won a World Series. So his competence rivals that of the Sox.

For what it’s worth, the 108 crew had a screencap of a Jack McDowell post saying Reinsdorf gave him the same advice in the 90s.

Amar

Steve Stone is better at selling used cars than being the mouthpiece of the organisation 

PauliePaulie

I’ve trusted that the $100mil+ banked since 2016 years would allow the Sox to run at least 3 seasons with a payroll over $150mil, when it was time to spend, whether they made the playoffs or not.
If they claim that $120mil payrolls mean “the $ is being spent” they won’t be getting any more of mine.

Trooper Galactus

Yeah, for a team that as recently as 2011 was something like fifth in overall payroll, it’d be ridiculous if their idea of spending in the next several years didn’t even get them into the top half of the league.

hitlesswonder

I know arbitration will eat up some money over the next few years…but not much because there’s not that many players on the Sox that can win their arbitration case! You know that stat has been on an org powerpoint presentation that views this as a good thing.

Even given arb raises, the Sox have so, so far to go to spend at a reasonable level. The Sox were $30M short of the #15 Brewers and that includes the Sox essentially lighting $25M on fire this season for Jay, Alonso, and Herrera. So..they could have invested $55M in quality FAs this season if they chose to….

If this organization was trying to win and willing to spend at the median level, it would have significant cash to work with. I have no faith the Sox will spend in the top half of the league unless ownership changes.

asinwreck

Forced to choose between malice and incompetence as an explanation of his actions, Jerry Reinsdorf chooses the latter.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

https://twitter.com/TheM_L_G/status/1162460984797290496?s=20

I first came across this in the context of Sports Illustrated being turned into a click farm but it also 100% applies to pro sports. Plus it works way better since sports fans literally have generations of time invested in their fandom and will not be easily divested. 

Yeah, the leveraged buyout model is increasingly common. 1 of the reasons a new owner for the Sox isn’t a guaranteed improvement.

On the other hand, there are ownership groups that do operate in a less, or at least differently, parasitic fashion.

iowasox1971

It’s kind of disappointing that Stone apparently feels he has to be a shill for the organization. I didn’t agree with Stone’s Twitter tirade against fans after the Sox were swept in Kansas City in July, and I don’t think it was necessary for him to step into this Samson thing either.

All the PR department for the Sox had to do was show a photo of Reinsdorf with his seven championship rings from the Bulls and Sox and point out that no Chicago owner has won more. I’m not a Reinsdorf fan at all, but he did get emotional in 2005 when the Sox won the title and he received the ball from Paul Konerko, so you could tell that winning did mean something to him.

As for the Steverson interview, the guy seems to be too much of a class act for this organization. He probably didn’t fit in with an organization featuring constant liars like Hahn and Kenny Williams. Yes, we all would like to see more walks and more runs scored by the Sox, but at least some key pieces to the rebuild progressed this past season. It’s odd that the GM is allowed to have seven consecutive losing seasons but the hitting coach is held to a much higher standard.

texag10

GUYS GUYS GUYS!!!! ESPN actually remembered the 2005 Sox existed this time! The future is bright!!!!

karkovice squad

2005 happened, was an error.

GoGoSoxFan

Clearly something went wrong in 2005. The plan was to finish second.