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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

It's Time!†

(to solve the issues & problems)

By Mark Liptak

The late scientist, Dr. Carl Sagan, the author of the brilliant book and TV series "Cosmos" used a "spaceship of the imagination", to travel through time and space and explore the wonders of the universe. With respect to his memory I ask you Sox fans, to come with me through time and space to Friday March 29th, to the new conference and learning center at Comiskey Park where White Sox management, front office officials, a hoard of media and local city leaders have assembled to determine the long term future of this franchise. Please allow me to act as "on site" reporter and set the scene for this monumental gathering.....

Thanks George, this is Mark Liptak, here for the WSI Network, at the conference and learning center in Comiskey Park. For the past two weeks speculation has been rampant about what may take place here this afternoon. Depending on who you listen to or read, it could be anything from an announcement that this franchise is going to be moved, to plans being revealed for a brand new retro style park in Armour Square, to owner Jerry Reinsdorf selling after 21 years of ownership.

The center is completely jammed with media members, some of whom have been very vocal in their criticism of the club in the past. Iíve heard unconfirmed reports that Jerry Reinsdorf, or his upper level staff, have personally called every top media member in the city with an invitation and request to come out today. It looks like those requests have been answered. Jay Mariotti is here, I see beat writers Paul Sullivan, Joe Cowley and Teddy Greensteen. My friend Ron Papoport is in the audience. The TV anchors like Mark Giangreco, and Dan Rohn are here. Radio personalities such as Mike North, Doug Buffone and Dan Jiggetts have shown up. Itís an amazing site.

Everyone is waiting for Sox management to arrive. Whatís odd about this scene is that a long table has been set up at the far end with individual place cards and microphones for a number of people. The place cards represent everyone from Chairman Reinsdorf, to special executive assistant Roland Hemond, to General Manager Kenny Williams. Field Manager Jerry Manuel is apparently going to be here despite the fact the Sox have an exhibition game today out West. Some other names you might not recognize are here, like Marketing Director Rob Gallas. Thereís a spot for Tim Buzard, the Sox Finance Director along with Vice President Howard Pizer.

Iíll say this, that list of name cards indicates something very important is about to happen.

And it looks like Sox management has arrived. I see Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn leading the way to the table. The TV cameras and lights have been turned on and in a moment or so all the speculation will come to an end. I also see a large clock being set up on the table. It almost looks like a stop watch with 60 minutes total showing on the dial. I wonder what thatís all about?

Anyway Reinsdorf is clearing his throat so letís hear what he has to say...

"Good afternoon ladies and gentleman. First off Iíd like to thank all of you for attending today. I especially appreciate the Mayor of the City of Chicago, Richard Daley for taking time out from his schedule to attend, along with the members of the Illinois Sports Stadium Authority and a representative of the Governor of Illinois.

The purpose today for this gathering is to outline what the members of this organization have decided, is the course of action that we are going to take with this team. It will cover the period from the 2002 season through the 2006 year. At times you may feel that what I have to say is arrogant. You may feel thatís itís trying to place blame. I can assure that it is not. It is a complete and plain statement of fact about where this team is, and where it is going.

You see up here a number of members of the White Sox organization. After I have made my report, I and my associates will be available to take any and all questions, from you the media, for a period of one hour. Thatís why we have this clock up here with us. When Iíve finished, Iíll start it and you may ask anything that you choose for that period of time. We will answer any and all questions regardless of the subject After the hour is complete, neither I nor any member of the organization will address the issues that we will discuss today ever in the future. Basically we are going to lay the cards on the table today and see what happens.

Since I and my partners took over the team back in 1981, we have had problems and issues that have almost constantly beset us. Some have been of our own making, although at the time we only tried to do what was best. Frankly though, some have been outside of our control. Issues have taken place that have been fueled by misinformation and in my opinion, shoddy journalism. Be that as it may, for whatever the reason, the White Sox still have not won a World Championship nor even appeared in a World Series during my stewardship..

For that I take full responsibility.

As of today that is all behind us. I and my partners have decided on this course of action starting this opening day in Seattle.

At that time and for the next five years, we are going to do everything we can to bring a championship to White Sox fans. We are going to aggressively go after the best and brightest front office people. We are going to be evaluating and making offers to the top free agents that are available in the baseball market regardless of cost. Our payroll is going to go up. Itís going to reflect that fact that Chicago is the 3rd largest market in the country both from a population and media standpoint. We are going to stop being afraid to be proactive. We arenít going to wait for an injury for example and then try to fill the void. If we feel that a position could be a problem we are going to shore it up ahead of time, with top quality major league players. We are going to upgrade and expand our minor league operations. We are also going to start going after the top worldwide talent that becomes available. For to long the White Sox have ignored the talent coming over from the Far East, from Cuba and from Latin America. As of today this stops.

But what we are about to do comes with a price.

I want to be perfectly clear with out fans and assembled media about some things.

First off, we are not going to build a new ballpark. The cityís political leaders as well as the Illinois Sports Stadium Authority have told us in no uncertain terms, they will not support nor pay for a new "retro" style park. The New Comiskey Park is only 11 years old and while I admit it has problems it is going to remain. For want of better language "like it or not, get used to it. " It is going to remain and in itís current location. We will try to change the configuration and appearance to make it more desirable for our fans and players alike, but it will not be torn down.

For those of you concerned about the neighborhood, we and the city are going to upgrade and increase the lighting and security in the area. The cost of this upgrade will be split by us and the city. We will do everything humanly possible to make it safe for the fans to attend and enjoy baseball on the South Side.

A word to our media friends. In the past I and members of our organization havenít been available to discuss our franchise. From this day forward we will make ourselves available to you to discuss any and all issues outside of what we are talking about today. In other words, weíll gladly talk about our team and its players as well as their performance and strictly baseball issues. We will not talk about anything else.

Now to the main point.

In return for increasing dramatically the on field talent, in return for increasing the security of the ballpark, in return for increasing for visibility of this franchise and in return for making an all out effort to win a championship, we are expecting to average between 2.3 and 2.6 million fans per season for the next five years. If this request is met, Iíll call another press conference in the Spring of 2007 and regardless of whether or not weíve won a title, renew our pledge to our fans to continue this agreement for another period of time.

If however, and I want to make this very clear, we do not average between 2.3 and 2.6 million fans for the next five years, on the day after the World Series ends in 2006, I will formally announce to the city, and the baseball commissioner that I am requesting either contraction of the Chicago White Sox or selling to team to out of city buyers with the stipulation that whoever purchases the team will move it.

The time for posturing is over. We will no longer allow egoís, infighting or personal†vendettas to affect the operation of the Chicago White Sox. I and the organization pledge to you a sincere, honest and complete effort to win on the field and in the stands.

But if we donít get that support, despite spending millions of dollars and a honest effort, you donít deserve a team and the hell with all of you.

Youíve got five years, and the clock here on this table is now ticking....."

Fans, this is just my opinion of what needs to be done to solve the deep and difficult issues facing the team. An apology has to be made by ownership for what has occurred in the past and it has to show an effort to win. By the same token, the fans would have to commit money, time and energy to the Sox but only after ownership has made the first move.

If the following scenario or "spaceship of the imagination" were to take place in some form, a successful partnership between the owners, fans and city would be ahead. Naturally this canít possibly anticipate all of the problems that would come up but at least it would be a start, an honest effort by all concerned, a framework for cooperation and perhaps ultimately a World Series appearance and respect for this charter franchise.

As always comments, questions and opinions are always welcome. Feel free to contact me at mliptak1@ida.net.


Editor's Note: †Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work. †He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper†organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana)†and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years. †"Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population. †

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