Jerry Reinsdorf never forgot his Ozzie Guillen-translating glasses (Getty Images)
We're aware that this is our second consecutive day of pointing you toward signs of something that can never be fully proven, that Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf cares far more for his baseball team than his basketball one. This wouldn't be a problem in the slightest if Reinsdorf wasn't declining to pass on investing the considerable profits the basketball team has made him over the last nearly three decades, while spending freely on a baseball club with a payroll that only recently dipped below the $100 million mark after several years above it.
We're also aware that the Chicago Bulls are set to pay the luxury tax this year, and have housed their fair share of maximum level contracts (four, if you count Michael Jordan's $30 and $31 million deals from 1996-97 and 1997-98, and Derrick Rose's incoming deal; alongside Ben Wallace and Carlos Boozer) over the years, that Reinsdorf is more than generous in several Bulls-related areas that he doesn't have to be, and that we have no real business telling this man what to do with his money. Still, Bulls and even basketball fans can't be pleased to see a since-deleted tweet sent out from the White Sox's official account, purportedly quoting Reinsdorf on Tuesday, as expertly detailed by SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell:
(Courtesy SB Nation)
That's just not what any Bulls or even NBA fan wants to hear, as Reinsdorf's GMs take the axe to a rotation that helped Chicago secure the best record in the league the last two seasons. Replacing the bench unit that had treated Chicago so well was a massive whiff in the basketball department, and not even a home run in the financial department. The savings were relatively minimal, and the future flexibility trumped up.
Unlike the White Sox (apparently trying to compare apples and oranges), we're not getting into fandom. People like what they like. I've sat through three different minor-league ballgames this year in person, happily, but have watched about 15 minutes total of Major League Baseball on my TV this year. I'll go years without watching a World Series, but then again I've also gone years without watching the Super Bowl, and I rarely watch the NCAA Final Four or championship game — and that's basketball. And yet, for four days last week, I set the alarm earlier in the morning to attempt to watch every hole in the British Open because I'm a golf weirdo. People like what they like, and nothing is better than the other when it comes to opinion.
For the White Sox to release a tweet like this in the midst of this mess is callous, and though it was deleted soon after, all sorts of fingerprints of the tweet have shown up across the Internets, according to SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell. He's the one that did the legwork with this find, and following our missive on Tuesday, we'll welcome his sound take:
Doug Thonus projects Reinsdorf has made over $1 billion off the Bulls, and it doesn't seem off-base. The Bulls make money, lots of it. What's distressing for the fanbase is Reinsdorf's steadfast refusal to pay the luxury tax and help put the Bulls in the best position to win their seventh title. While less profitable teams like the Dallas Mavericks spend money to win championships, Chicago plays under self-imposed restrictions. In 2010, Dallas spent $93 million to win the title, when the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax was set at $70 million. The most recent Forbes report had the Mavs losing $3.7 million for the season.
The Bulls have never paid the luxury tax under Reinsdorf, though they are currently slated to for the first time in the upcoming season. Remember, the tax is assessed after the season ends, so just watch as the Bulls deal Rip Hamilton at the trade deadline to avoid paying the penalty.
Meanwhile, Reinsdorf's beloved White Sox continue to spend as attendance wains. The Bulls have essentially sold out every game for over two decades at this point; the Sox struggle to break the top 20 in attendance. While the Bulls annually limit their own payroll to about $70 million, the White Sox have spent at or near $100 million multiple times. In 2010, the Sox traded for starter Jake Peavy, who was set to earn around $17 million per year for the next two seasons, while the right-hander was on the disabled list. Could you ever image Reinsdorf signing off a similar deal for the Bulls?
No, and we wouldn't want him to. That's where Reinsdorf and the Bulls get clever, always pointing to the moves they didn't make with a "how bad would that be?"-retort.
Every Bulls move can smartly be argued away, in any era and in any context their repeated good luck provides. The league shifts away from them in so many unfortunate ways: Getting cap space in the "wrong" summer, building up payroll room the year the NBA develops max contracts that encourage players to stay with their own teams, picking up high draft picks in the "wrong" draft, devastating injuries, and indecisiveness from other team GMs that hamstring any boffo trades temporarily.
(Because we're not Grantland, I'll have to give you the footnote answers to the rant listed above here. In order: 1998, 2000, 2006. 1999. 2000, 2002, 2006. 2003, at Fletcher and Honore, and April of 2012 on the United Center floor. 2006 and 2007, as GMs dawdled before eventually dealing Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett elsewhere after the Bulls ran out of assets.)
It's not wrong, what Reinsdorf is doing. It's not wrong, to prefer one sport to another. It's not wrong, to rank a sport as high in your life as you rank your religion. It's not wrong, not spending into the deep luxury tax, in the years before it became much more punitive. It's not wrong, with Derrick Rose out, to consider 2012-13 a waste.
It's not wrong, I suppose, for his other team's PR department to gleefully release a tweet like that, amid much criticism. The Constitution defends all that tweetin'.
It's just frustrating. And tiresome. And disappointing.
Reinsdorf bought the Bulls because he was obsessed for a time with the New York Knicks teams of the early 1970s, and though the real estate maven was initially one of the lesser-heeled of the NBA's owners, the next few decades quickly took care of that. Those Knicks teams took chances, and paid for talent, even before they dealt for Earl Monroe to join what was worried to be a superfluous at best and chemistry-killing at worst back court combo with Walt Frazier. Bill Bradley became "Dollar Bill" for a reason. Upselling Cazzie Russell for Jerry Lucas cost some scratch. So did Walt Bellamy for Dave DeBusschere, with DeBusschere coming off time making money as a player/coach in Detroit. Big names left, and bigger ones came in. All were compensated, as Madison Square Garden rocked.
Such flowery remembrances are not how champions are made, in 2012. You have to go steady, and smart, with the current Knicks as unfortunate and continued testament to rebuilding on a whim and a prayer.
Basketball's worth praying to, though, Jerry. The courts are full, even in this heat. Go give them a look.
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