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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

An open letter to Reinsdorf

Dear Chairman Reinsdorf:

It does not please me to have to write this letter, but as a lifelong Sox fan of forty-seven years, I feel that it is my duty to do so.  Are you actually aware of what fans of the White Sox feel about you and the way you’ve run this baseball club for the past twenty-one years?  To begin with, some would continue the phrase, “run this baseball club” by adding “into the ground.”  Have you ever stopped to wonder why fans don’t show up to Sox games anymore?

There are a number of reasons, and I think it’s time you pay attention to them: 

•A sense of betrayal:  Sox fans really did think this team had a chance to win the AL Central in 1995 when you and your cronies among baseball’s ownership decided to pull the plug on the season by forcing the players into a strike.  Fans really thought the Sox had a chance a few years later when you pulled the plug on the season with the White Flag Trade when the Sox were just 3.5 games out of first place at the end of July.  (I must admit, though, that we were warned of your intentions when you had Harold Baines traded a few days earlier, just after Robin Ventura had come back from a devastating injury.  Fans don’t feel that we can trust you anymore.  They have the feeling that whenever the Sox are on the threshold of greatness, you or your cronies will do something to screw things up. 

•Uninspired leadership:  Who was the last real manager you had?  It seems as if the primary qualification you have had for the past decade is that any managerial candidate be willing to work cheap.  So after Jeff Torborg was fired, we’ve seen Gene Lamont, Terry Bevington, and Jerry Manuel, three of the most uninspiring leaders one could imagine.  It is amazing that two of these guys have actually been named AL Manager of the Year.  Lamont is out of managing after not being able to do anything to turn around the Pirates, and Bevington hasn’t had an offer to manage since.  Manuel talks a great game, but he’s had one division title.  The 2001 season was notable for a comeback from a terrible start, but a lot of that start was due to his own blunderings trying to find a regular lineup until June.  Other than the 2000 season, Manuel has been a .500 manager. 

Of course that sort of thing comes from the top.  Are you aware, sir, that your GM, had to tell Manuel a few weeks ago that he could bench players who weren’t performing?  Of course, the players in questions were those who were brought here by that GM.  Some apologists for Mr. Williams would argue that he hasn’t made a trade that he didn’t think at the time would help the ball club, but I would remind them and you, sir, that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 

I need cite only the latest example of a stupid trade by this GM in which he traded three good arms for one starting pitcher who had a lifetime record of about .500 and a mediocre career ERA.  This is the GM who thought he was trading for one minor leaguer but instead received another with a similar last name and only found out when your own PR department released the name of the player your GM had thought was obtained.  Is it any wonder, sir, that many fans have taken to calling your GM “Lenny” after the character in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men

Mr. Chairman, I really don’t know what to do.  We haven’t had a true third baseman since you allowed Robin Ventura to sign with the Mets without making him a legitimate offer.  Yet the one person in the farm system who seems to fill that role and who has been ready to play at the major league level is allowed to languish in Charlotte by your GM.  Is there any legitimate reason why this is allowed to continue? 

A decade ago you told us that you were firing your GM at the time because he had brought the team from Point A to Point B, but you felt that Ron Schueler was the man who would bring the club to Point C.  Unless Point C has nothing to do with the World Series, neither Mr. Schueler nor his successor has reached that point.  Is this because your philosophy of whom you will hire as GM is the same as for the person you’ll hire as manager, i.e. the one who will work dirt cheap?  If so, maybe then you need to rethink this philosophy.   

•Uninspired play:  Before spring training your manager said that he didn’t care if the Sox were the worst defensive team in baseball, that he thought they could win without defense.  Your players have apparently taken that to heart.  The defense is the worst in the AL, and we are hovering around .500 in a bad division.  Our offense has also floundered for several weeks.  This team has only come back once after the eighth inning as I write this, and that was a rally of one whole run to tie the game.  They won the game by three runs, but they only scored a total of six runs when the opposing pitchers had walked fourteen batters.  Not one of those walks scored until the twelfth inning!  This team looks as if it is sleepwalking its way through the season.  Some friends of mine have called this type of play, which we’ve seen too much of over the past six or seven years, “corpseball.”  It’s an appropriate name. 

Has it occurred to you or your employees when you site lack of attendance for your inability to spend money on first-rank free agents that one of the reasons people don’t come to the ballpark is a combination of all of the above perceptions?  You and your management team expected a major increase in attendance, but a combination of bad trades (see Clayton, Royce) and poor play (a 14-29 start) kept fans away in droves.  This year the team has tanked just when your fan base is considering what to do with their entertainment dollars for the summer.  The first weekend in June is usually a good indicator of what will happen with attendance through August.  Well, your players were in the midst of a slump then, a slump which has continued into this past week.   

Do you really think fans will want to go out and watch the kind of play we’ve seen so far this year, or do you think that the fans will stay away because they can see more inspired play in Geneva, Schaumburg, Crestwood, or Joliet? 

•Your own denial:  You say you know that Sox fans will come back when you’ve built a winner, but your actions indicate that you seem to think that some cute marketing slogan and a couple of cosmetic moves to the ballpark, and unfortunately to the roster, are all that it will take to bring back the fans.  You picked up Albert Belle when the fans knew you needed starting pitching.  You made cosmetic changes to the lower deck when the issue that needed to be addressed first with the ballpark was the upper deck.  You hire a marketing head who comes up with great one-shot ideas but can’t sell the number of season tickets you need to keep the club afloat.  And worst of all, you put all of the onus on the fans who are not coming out to the ballpark, even though your track record of having people competently run this ball club is spotty at best. 

Sir, it is time for a housecleaning, much as you say you are loyal to those who work for you.  Your GM is incompetent, and the leadership of your manager is uninspired and uninspiring.  Your marketing department finds ways to get 250 to 500 extra people into the ballpark while what you need is an extra 15,000 there.  

If you are unwilling to let these people go and replace them with people who are competent in their jobs, then perhaps it is time for you, sir to step down as chairman and appoint someone who will. 

Sincerely, 

Hal Vickery
White Sox fan since 1955


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at nsmf@aol.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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