Jerry Reinsdorf Went McConnell Mode
9:10 AM EDT on September 1, 2023
There is a moment during Jerry Reinsdorf's 25-minute session with Chicago-area media Thursday in which he produces the line that will be used by his critics to damn him until the day he either sells the team or is waived by this plane of existence. It is during his explanation of new general manager Chris Getz's powers to correct this gray, waterlogged driftwood of a team. Reinsdorf says Getz's powers are absolute, except when it comes to spending money, because "every owner reserves that right." Nothing to see or hear here, clearly.
But then when reminded/interrupted at that he had already said he had no interest in getting into the expected winter bidding war for Shohei Ohtani, he dropped the money quote: "No Ohtani, that's absurd ... but, but, but ... now I lost my train of thought. I feel like Mitch McConnell."
He shows he is aware of current affairs, which doddering old folks often do not, but he is also 87 years old, which would put him in that demographic. He does 25 minutes of give-and-take with reporters, which is not easy for people half his age, let alone one who mostly avoids such conversations, but he does not inspire anyone that he has come up with the bold new idea to arrest what afflicts the team he has owned for 42 years. And his team stinks, so his ability to persuade is limited by the results it emits.
He begins his remarks by claiming that the shooting inside Sox Park last Friday that wounded three people actually came from outside the stadium, which remains undetermined at this point. He also tries to deflect the controversy about his team's lease, which has six years left to run but hasn't prevented speculation about his willingness to take the team from Chicago to either the suburbs or as far away as Nashville; there is no actual denial, of course, because Reinsdorf still has his keen eye for leverage.
But soon the topic turns to the field, upon which Reinsdorf's footing is far less secure, because no matter how clever his tongue, 53-81 is always 53-81, and will remain so until it becomes 53-82, or worse.
He defends his hiring of Tony La Russa as manager three years ago, and his rehiring last month as a consultant in the wake of the firings of baseball department head Kenny Williams and general manager Rick Hahn. He invokes Jackie Robinson, claiming to have seen his first big league game in 1947 at age 11; he cites Branch Rickey, whose era of greatest achievements is older than Reinsdorf, and he says his idealized player, the one he wants Getz to find and re-create, is David Eckstein, whom he described thusly; "He couldn't run, he couldn't hit, he couldn't throw, he couldn't field. There was only one thing that he ever did, and that was beat you."
In short, he failed to talk his way back into the fanbase's good graces, not because he is just old, but because he didn't really offer the oratory Thursday to make people forget what the Sox have become. Two years ago they won 93 games, when he was only 85, but five years ago they lost 100, when he was 82. Essentially he performed the duties of an owner, which is to turn up on the day his new head of baseball operations is hired and say nice things about both him and the people he replaces, and then disappear again using the owner's prerogative of not being bothered by the proles.
He had to defend something that can't be defended by trying to infuse the hope that comes from hiring someone less than half his age, and even if that tactic could work, the people to whom he was defending it weren't keen on buying it. Reinsdorf did his duty by being available but forgot that he is held as the reason that things reached the state in which his availability was demanded, an ouroboros of blame delegation and acknowledgement that made folks happy he decided to turn up and then angry that his message pleased nobody. He did not, in short, give Chris Getz, a true GMG (Guy Made Good), the sendoff that could spring him into action with the support of the fanbase, but neither was he Mitch McConnell staring blankly into the view of the 2005 World Series parade.
Reinsdorf will be tied to McConnell to be sure, because it is the easy and cheap way to remind us all that he and his team hasn't aged well, but his invocation of McConnell isn't the thing that should irk White Sox fans. It is Eckstein, the alleged no-tool player who still managed to play 10 years in the big leagues. He didn't really do anything at all except commit the crime of being Jerry Reinsdorf's favorite player, which is plainly insufficient as a role model for the White Sox player of the future.