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Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Jerry Reinsdorf hopes for hot start

By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said his first instinct in the offseason was to rebuild, but after determining his tradeable pieces wouldn't bring enough back to improve the talent level moving forward, Reinsdorf decided to spend.

Reinsdorf We spent the money. We never expected people to go wild and start buying tickets like mad. We know we have to prove that we have a team worth of winning the division. If we do I think we'll draw better.

-- Jerry Reinsdorf

So Reinsdorf signed Adam Dunn to a four-year, $56 million deal in December; re-signed Paul Konerko to a three-year, $37.5 million contract; re-signed A.J. Pierzynski to a two-year, $8 million deal and signed Jesse Crain to a three-year, $13 million contract.

"The question really was how do we get better than Minnesota and stay ahead of Detroit?" Reinsdorf said during a Q&A with reporters. "The first thing [general manager Ken Williams] and I decided to do was rebuild, because we just didn't feel that we could count on the attendance supporting the level we had to get to to spend to be better than Minnesota.

"As we looked at the rest of the players that we could move, without getting into particulars, it didn't look like we could get enough back. All that we would end up doing is to have a worse team with a lower payroll. We'd end up making money but we wouldn't be building for the future. I didn't mind taking a step back because we've done it before, but I didn't want to take a step back without feeling good that the step back would help us going forward."

Williams first mentioned over the winter about the White Sox facing two options: Rebuild or spend big. But Reinsdorf went into greater detail Wednesday, including an explanation of how the club expects to pay for it all.

Despite the additions, Reinsdorf said season ticket sales are about the same as they were last year at this time, which is why it's important for the White Sox to get off to a hot start.

"If we do get off to a good start and we do draw, we can probably cover the payroll," he said. "If we can't, we still had the resources where we could sustain a loss this year if we had to.

"I think our fans, while they're enthusiastic and optimistic, I think they want to see it out on the field. I think it's important to get off to a good start."

Reinsdorf said the White Sox need to be in the range of 2.6-2.8 million in attendance to cover the payroll.

"We put the risk out ourselves," Reinsdorf said. "We put the monkey on ourselves. We spent the money. We never expected people to go wild and start buying tickets like mad. We know we have to prove that we have a team worth of winning the division. If we do I think we'll draw better.

"Last year's attendance [2.2 million] was the lowest in a long time. It's obvious we have enough fans to come out and draw 2.6, 2.7 or 2.8 if they like what they see."

Another factor in the club's decision to spend might have been at least slightly influenced by the fact that the chairman turned 75 earlier this spring.

"The idea of being bad for two or three years was a horrible thought when you're 75 years old," Reinsdorf said with a chuckle.

The good news for Reinsdorf on Wednesday was the results from a recent medical exam.

"You're catching me on a really good day because I just finished my annual physical that included a stress test, and they told me the amount of time I was on the treadmill was normal for a 52 year old," Reinsdorf said. "I'm feeling real good today. Now I'll probably get killed in an accident on the way home."

Among other subjects Reinsdorf touched on was the relationship between Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen; Mark Buehrle's career; the chairman's chances of being granted entry to baseball's Hall of Fame; and an explanation on Guillen potentially leaving to manage the Marlins.

On the Guillen-Williams rift that erupted last season and was patched up over the winter, Reinsdorf doesn't expect the two to revisit those issues any time soon.

"That was foolishness that grew out of Oney [Guillen's] twitters or tweets or whatever they are called," Reinsdorf said. "That's not going to happen. "These guys have too much of a history of getting along and working. I think I also said there's a natural tension between managers and general managers and head coaches and general managers. It always exists. It will flare up from time to time. Right now, they are on the same page."

Buehrle, who started Wednesday against the Giants, is in the final year of his contract and not even Reinsdorf knows what the left-hander will decide to do next. Buehrle has talked about staying, going elsewhere if the White Sox decided to move on and has also considered retirement.

"I love Mark Buehrle; he's just a fun guy," Reinsdorf said. "[He] knows he's made a lot of money, and the way he lives there is no way he will spend all the money that he made. When I was younger, when I sold my business, friends sold theirs, we said now we have [expletive] money. He's got [expletive] money. Let's just say he has enough money to be independent. "Mark Buehrle is not going to want to play if he can't be up to his standards. He's not going to want to be a 5-12 guy. As long as he enjoys playing, I think he'll want to keep playing. When he wants to quit he knows he's got enough money."

This offseason Reinsdorf was thrilled to hear the news that former White Sox GM and special assistant Roland Hemond was granted entry into the Hall of Fame as the Buck O'Neal Award winner. But what are his own chances of being enshrined?

"I don't know, we've only won one World Series and that seems to be a significant thing," he said. "I haven't moved a team out of Brooklyn. I don't know. Not in my lifetime. Maybe after I die."

To clear the air, Reinsdorf also discussed the rumored "trade" where Guillen, a person he has loved like a son, would be shipped off to the Marlins for a prospect. It wasn't a trade, at least not in the traditional sense.

"There wasn't going to be a trade," Reinsdorf said. "The Marlins approached us about wanting to talk to Ozzie. OK. We couldn't trade Ozzie. He has a contract to manage the White Sox. We could let him out of his contract. I love Ozzie, but if Ozzie didn't want to be here, I would consider letting him out of his contract, but not for nothing. "So, I said to the Marlins, 'If you want to talk to him, we have to agree on what we get if he decides to leave.' We couldn't agree on that. If we had been able to agree, Ozzie probably still wouldn't have left. We couldn't have traded him and we would have tried to keep him. I would have gone to Ozzie and said, 'OK the Marlins want to talk to you and we've given them permission to talk to you, but I hope to God you don't leave.' It would have been his decision, not our decision."

Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.