Jerry Reinsdorf has owned the Chicago White Sox since 1981 and has fielded a division-winning team just five times in that span.
There may be an explanation for that — if you choose to take the word of a disgraced baseball executive.
According to former Miami Marlins President David Samson, Reinsdorf is more interested in almost winning than adding new banners to his ballpark.
Samson joined the Le Batard and Friends “Mystery Crate” podcast in late September and told a story about Reinsdorf that has now drawn a strong denial from the 83-year-old Sox chairman.
“I was 32 years old, in baseball for my first of 18 years,” Samson recalled. “And [Reinsdorf] said, ‘You know what, here’s my best advice to you: finish in second place every single year because your fans will say ‘Wow, we’ve got a shot, we’re in it,’ but there’s always the carrot left. There’s always one more step to take.’”
Whether or not Samson is the most reliable narrator here is certainly up for debate as his time with the Marlins has been less than well-received. But the comments on “Mystery Crate” were at least rousing enough to force a response from Reinsdorf’s camp.
“Jerry said he has absolutely no recollection of ever having said that, that it is certainly not his philosophy for how to run a Major League Baseball team and that he has always considered the second-place team to be the best loser,” the White Sox said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune.
That’s certainly quite the rebuttal, but while we’re here, we might as well check the numbers:
The White Sox have finished in second place in their division 11 times since Reinsdorf purchased the team — including during four straight seasons from 1996-1999
Only two of those 11 finishes have come since the Sox won the World Series in 2005
Chicago is currently enduring an 11-year postseason drought during which the crosstown rival Cubs have won the World Series
Reinsdorf is currently rebuilding his roster again after failing to win with the likes of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu and Jose Quintana.
He went all out celebrating Abreu for hitting for the cycle in 2017, even giving him a championship-style ring.
While that still doesn’t add up to a conspiracy to always finish in second place, it doesn’t show an extreme urgency to win. Especially considering how narrowly the Sox were outbid for Manny Machado last offseason.
But there is an opportunity for Reinsdorf to bury those notions once and for all this winter. With the emergence of AL batting champion Tim Anderson along with breakout seasons from Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Eloy Jimenez, the Sox are in a prime position to take advantage of a weak AL Central. Not only is the team expecting to get a boost from prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal in 2020, but as of now the Sox only have $23.8 million on the books — less than what the Yankees will pay for Giancarlo Stanton next year. That would be the lowest payroll in baseball if the team did absolutely nothing this offseason.
There has never been a more opportune moment for Reinsdorf to prove that he expects to finish above second place for years to come.
As for the Marlins, the team finished in second place or better three times during Samson’s run including a World Series title in 2003 shortly after taking over the club.
Both the White Sox and Marlins have struggled with attendance for years which might mean it’s either time for a new carrot or a shorter stick.
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