Jerry Reinsdorf gave his first interview of the season, and to the guy he usually talks to in order to express his opinions -- USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. He’s just more than a source close to the White Sox/with knowledge of the situation this time. I’ll give Nightengale credit for a riveting story, in that it had me talking to my monitor while reading it.
While Reinsdorf hasn’t come out and discussed his attitude about the rebuilding, a lot of it sounds familiar, because Rick Hahn has accurately represented the chairman’s position:
“It’s tough, very tough,’’ Reinsdorf says. “What made it hard for me was my age. I’m 81 years old. How long am I going to be around, right? So why would I want to go for a full rebuild at my age.
“The decision I made was that I can’t be a factor in this thing. As the owner of this team, I have an obligation to do what’s right for the fans. The real owner of a team is the fans, the owner is a custodian. I will be gone one day, but fans will still be there. So you got to run the team what’s right for the fans and not even think about how old I am.”
That paragraph sounds noble in theory, and later he says that the Sox don’t get the same benefit of the doubt as other rebuilding teams because there hasn’t been a change up top (“With us, we were the guys who made the team bad”).
Despite that level of awareness, he can’t help himself when it comes to managers ...
And, yes, despite the fans’ widespread criticism of Ventura, Reinsdorf insists, it was solely Ventura’s decision to leave.
“It wasn’t Robin’s fault we were losing, not Robin’s fault at all,’’ Reinsdorf says. “Robin would still be the manager if he didn’t decide he wanted to step away.’
... which makes “what’s right for the fans” ring hollow. Hell, it wasn’t even right for Ventura. Reinsdorf and Nightengale collaborated to make Ventura’s departure super-clumsy, forcing Ventura to effectively fire himself. I guess it raises Ventura’s status ever so slightly, but not enough to offset the increased doubt that the front office can make such a decision in the future.
(It says something that the contract extensions Nightengale reported for Hahn and Kenny Williams didn’t even register as worth mentioning. They are, of course, but only the opposite would be news despite the lack of success.)
Thankfully, Reinsdorf redeems himself some when asked about the other White Sox manager.
“I feel very badly for him,’’ Reinsdorf says. “Ozzie is a good manager. I’ve recommended Ozzie for several managerial positions that opened up, but his experience in Miami was costly.
“I hope he ends up somewhere. He can help somebody. He just can’t come back here. He burned some bridges when he left here.’’
It’d have to be a helluva recommendation to overcome a resume where one job ended in “burned some bridges,” and another one ended in “costly” fashion, especially there’s been no public awakening on Guillen’s end. I guess it’s not the fans’ responsibility to recognize this, but at least Reinsdorf does.
Just like with the Ventura wringer, though, Nightengale can’t leave it there, either at the start or end of the following paragraph.
Still, time has a way of healing wounds. Michael Jordan, now owner of the Charlotte Hornets, used to have public spats with the Chicago Bulls’ front office during their dynasty, but it didn’t stop him from writing a letter to support Reinsdorf’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Reinsdorf was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last year, and one day will wind up in Cooperstown, too.
Oh no. Well, 1994 didn’t stop Bud Selig from getting inducted immediately, but somebody has to be held accountable for that severe damage, right?
The interview is maddening for the mood swings, but I suppose does reflect his stewardship of the franchise. There are elements of his ownership that are admirable, and would play up a lot better if it weren’t for the other compulsions getting in the way. It’s all part of the deal, though, and the hope is that this White Sox rebuild is too talented for the pursuit of loyalty — or the desire to hammer the players’ union -- to play such heavy factors in franchise fortunes again.