White Sox bet big on fans
The Chicago White Sox grabbed plenty of headlines in recent months with an offseason spending spree that included the signing of Adam Dunn and the re-signing of Paul Konerko. On Saturday, team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf acknowledged that with a heavy increase in payroll the team is banking on a heavy increase in attendance at US Cellular Field.
"We've really taken a chance," Reinsdorf said on ESPN 1000's "Talking Baseball." "The term all-in I think really makes some sense here. If we draw what we drew last year, we will lose a lot of money. We decided to make a bet that if we put this team together the way we have, that it'll contend and that people will come out and support it. Otherwise, we are definitely going to lose money. Fortunately over the years we've made a little here, we've made a little there and we can cover it if we lose. We won't be able to lose money two years in a row."
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The team's payroll, which will be around $130 million, will be the highest in franchise history. With the additions of Dunn and reliever Jesse Crain, and by keeping Konerko and catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Reinsdorf likes the White Sox's chances in the American League Central.
"Obviously I'm very optimistic," Reinsdorf said. "You don't know what spring training is going to bring. You don't know what injuries you're going to have and what injuries the other guys will have. But at least at this point in time, sitting here today, I have to believe we have as good a chance as anybody to win the American League Central. And if you can do that, who knows what will flow from that."
Reinsdorf said that he originally believed that after the White Sox finished six games back in the division it was time to break the team up. Upon further examination, the front office had a change of heart.
"I had a great deal of reservations," Reinsdorf said. "The thought process is essentially this. I ended the season thinking that this is a year when we should take a step backward, when we should move some payroll off and try to reload with younger players. When we took a look at the assets that we had to move, we didn't think that we could get real value for these assets. ... We looked at it and we said, well financially we could come out OK, but we're not going to be positioning ourselves for the future.
"So then we flipped it over the other way. We said OK, what do we have to do to try to win this year? Obviously it started with bringing A.J. and Konerko back, but that wouldn't be good enough. That would give us the same team we had last year and it wasn't good enough to beat the Twins. So we said what do we have to do to add on? And the key to everything was Adam Dunn. Then once we got Adam Dunn then we said we just got to go all out. We gotta go all out and try to win this year."
Both fans and ownership hold Konerko in an extremely high regard. That in some ways, Reinsdorf said, presented a challenge in negotiations with Konerko, who eventually signed a three-year, $37 million deal to stay on the South Side.
"What I tried to do with Paul is take myself out of the equation. I can't allow my emotion and my feelings for this guy cause the White Sox to do something that's not smart," said Reinsdorf. "So I basically let [general manager] Kenny [Williams] and [assistant GM] Rick Hahn handle that part of it. What happened, at the end, was they were pretty much in agreement with Paulie's agent on dollars, but the issue was the third year. They were kind of reluctant to commit to the third year. And that's where I stuck my nose in and I said to 'go ahead you might as well give him the third year.'"