Reinsdorf candid on Sox struggles
Owner throws support behind Guillen despite difficult season
CHICAGO -- Jerry Reinsdorf covered a wide array of topics concerning the White Sox and even his other team in the NBA during a 28-minute radio interview Friday morning on The Score, 670-AM in Chicago.
But one of Reinsdorf's most interesting articulations came when he was asked by the host on the team's flagship station for a personal grade to bestow on the job done by manager Ozzie Guillen during this disappointing 2007 season.
"I would give Ozzie an 'A,'" said the White Sox chairman without a moment of hesitation.
When pushed as to what grade he would have given Guillen for his managing during the 2005 championship season, Reinsdorf answered with an 'A-.' He then explained how this current situation presents more of a challenge for Guillen than past success.
"It's much harder to manage a team when the players are not performing and keep them playing hard," Reinsdorf said. "Most teams that were good teams and had high expectations, when they stink up the place and play poorly, there comes a point where they pack it in.
"This team never packed it in, and I give Ozzie credit. I don't think there was any loss of passion or effort on the part of our guys. I think they played hard.
"The thing about baseball is when your speed guys don't get on, you look like you are lethargic because our big guys don't run well," Reinsdorf added. "That's one of our problems, speed guys getting hurt, and when they were playing, they didn't get on."
Here are some of Reinsdorf's remaining responses to the more pertinent topics during the interview.
On Jose Contreras' 6-16 record, with $20 million owed to him over the next two years, and Reinsdorf's trepidations for signing pitchers to more than two-year deals:
"Well, he certainly isn't living up to his money. I've said how many times over the years, when you go more than one year with a pitcher, you are sticking your neck out. If you go more than three years, it's probably suicide.
"He got the three-year deal because he was pitching outstanding, and we tried to build this team around our pitching. We decided to take a chance. It didn't work. Every time I've taken a chance on our pitching, it hasn't worked."
On taking a four-year, $56 million chance with Mark Buehrle:
"Again, we want to build this team around pitching. Mark Buehrle, if you wanted to gamble on a pitcher, he's the right kind of pitcher.
"His mechanics are beautiful. There's nothing herky, jerky. He doesn't throw across his body. He's not a flame thrower so it won't matter if he loses a little velocity. And he's our guy.
"As much as you know you are taking the risk beyond two or three years, you also have to take into consideration the marketplace. If we always stuck to our guns on the three-year thing, we would not be able to keep our pitchers. Some times you have to take a chance, even though you know you are gambling."
On the bullpen standing as his major concern moving forward to 2008:
"It's funny, in the spring, I had lunch with Jim Leyland during Detroit's first trip in here and he said, 'You have the best bullpen in the league.' And I said, 'I think you are right.'
"So, it wasn't just us who overrated the bullpen. The last time they were in here I told Leyland, 'It's a good thing you are a great manager because you are a lousy scout.'"
On attendance and television ratings dropping during this poor season:
"First of all, we expected our attendance to be down this year. Last year was our all-time record. This will still be the third or fourth highest attendance we've ever had.
"You always spike after you win the World Series. I would like to give a medal to every person who has come to a game and had to fight the Dan Ryan Expressway. That has been a nightmare and that will be over at the end of this year.
"Walk-up doesn't exist anymore. People buy their tickets mostly online. I would say that if we don't play better next year, our attendance will be lower next year. But there's another example in this town of a team who has a bad record over the years but they still come out because they love baseball and love the ballpark. I don't know that fans are any better than our fans.
"We would have drawn 3 million if not for the Dan Ryan, so what will we do next year when people can actually get here? I don't want to test it. I want a better ballclub."
On the possibility of bringing back a fan favorite and one-time White Sox grinder to play center field, despite never mentioning the player by name:
"I'm not averse to bringing anyone in here who is a quality player and can help the ballclub. On a personal level, everyone knows how much I think about the guy you are talking about. But he's under contract to another team and we don't even know if he will become a free agent.
"We'll be active this winter, whether it be the free agent market or trade market. We are going to do everything within our power to get back to where we want to be next year."
On any untouchables amongst the White Sox roster:
"I had one player play for me who was untouchable and he wasn't that good at baseball. It was that Jordan guy."
On the possibility of Jim Thome leading off in September, in order to get extra at-bats to reach 500 home runs:
"Well, I didn't hear Ozzie say that, but if he did it, I can't imagine he would do that on a continuous basis. We still have games to win. We want to win every game, especially against the contenders. I think if Ozzie did it, it would be a game that didn't have a lot of significance."
The interview, which included moments of levity from Reinsdorf, also included a grade, of sorts, for general manager Ken Williams.
"I've told Kenny this," Reinsdorf said. "I think he had his best offseason this year. His ability to reload the system with arms, I thought it was uncanny the way he pulled it off."
Yet, even the upbeat Reinsdorf seemed ready for this forgettable season to come to a close.
"I don't like to wish days away," Reinsdorf said. "But it will be nice when it's over so we can start playing for next year."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.