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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Reinsdorf's Motives?
by Hal Vickery

Itís time to revisit a theme this column has visited before.† That is the inexplicable behavior of The Chairman in his behavior towards Sox fans.† †

While continuing to profess that he understands that White Sox fans will come out if the club puts a winning team on the field, he seems to be doing his utmost to prevent that from happening.† This leads to the question, ďWhy?Ē†

It is possible that The Chairman wants to move the White Sox out of Chicago to greener pastures.† We suggested that about a year ago, but that was before the Sox signed their deal with U.S. Cellular to renovate the ball park.† The Sox are committed to playing at The Cell until the 2020s, and MLB, wishing to protect its anti-trust exemption, isnít about to let teams change cities at the drop of a hat, especially when they are committed by leases.†

So what is the motive behind The Chairmanís seeming stupidity?† †

The only possible explanation would seem to be that he needs to justify his cheapness, and the only way to do that is to drive the remaining fan base away.† The fans came dangerously close to calling The Chairmanís bluff last year when over 1.9 million people came out to the ball park when the Sox actually made a run for the AL Central title.† Those people came out despite the Sox horrendous play up to the All-Star Break.†

So what did The Chairman do?† Obviously since the Sox didnít make it to the playoffs, he raised ticket prices.† He did so by introducing a Cubs-like premium date policy which includes weekend games and the teams that are more likely to draw large crowds.† †

This enabled him to raise the prices of season tickets.† Of course, the Sox simply announced in a form letter to those ticket holders that some prices would be going up but others would be going down.† Then rather than itemizing on the invoice as they had in the past, those fans were simply told how much they owed and when it was due.†

Many of those holding season tickets were outraged at this treatment, and expressed their displeasure to their ticket agents.† Many longtime season ticket holders decided to cancel their accounts.† Others moved to less expensive seats.†

So exactly what are the higher prices for seats going to pay for?† Before the bills went out, Kenny Williams had already announced on the radio that his budget for 2004 salaries was a chintzy $58 million.† That extra money certainly wasnít going into paying players.†

Of course thatís assuming the reason for raising prices was to increase revenue.† What weíre proposing is that the actual purpose of raising ticket prices is to do exactly the opposite.† The Chairman wants to decrease revenue.† He wants attendance to drop, and what better way to do that than to alienate the fans even more and then tie his general managerís hands behind his back.†

With a budget of $58 million, Kenny Williams has no way of keeping his current roster intact, let alone picking up any free agents that might be left.† In fact, it appears as if Williams is going to have to dump at least one of Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, or Magglio OrdoŮez in order to fill holes in the roster.†

Konerko right now is as popular with other GMs as Osama bin Laden is with President Bush.† Ditto Thomas, as evidenced by their lack of response during his brief free agency period.† That leaves the one person who has consistently been named in trade rumors, OrdoŮez, whose salary of $14 million for 2004 is a real budget buster, at least if your budget is only $58 million.†

The Chairman knows that Williams is loath to trade Carlos Lee, so the only likely player Williams will be able to trade, barring something close to a miracle, is OrdoŮez.† And The Chairman also knows that OrdoŮez right now is probably the most popular player on his club.† Therefore, if you are trying to drive fans away, what better way is there than to trade their favorite player?†

Rumors are also going around that the Sox are planning to discontinue their popular seven-game ticket package.† Fans loved that package because they were able to purchase six regular priced tickets and receive a seventh ticket for just a dollar.† If this incentive to buy tickets is dropped, look for even more fans to stay away.†

Weíve already spent lots of time documenting the inability of the Sox to sign any of their free agents this year.† Those players obviously knew something.† What they knew is that with a budget of just $58 million, the Sox werenít going to make a run on anything except perhaps third place in the AL Comedy Central.†

The free agentsí behavior will probably be a precursor of fan behavior if something isnít done to improve the Sox, and fast.†

Many people are thinking that the Sox will make some kind of move just prior to SoxFest as they usually do.† They also usually make some kind of deal around the start of spring training.† †

Donít bet the farm that any such move will be made this year, and if there is some kind of move on the Sox part, bet that it will involve a reduction in salary.

And then consider that all of this is part of The Chairmanís master plan.† Every move the Sox have made so far has been calculated to slap their fans in the face.† This reduces attendance.† This in turn justifies a small salary budget for this year, and if attendance drops enough, an even smaller budget for 2005.†

And if attendance drops far enough, The Chairman gets to use his renovated ball park rent free.† And perhaps thatís what it all boils down to.† The Sox had to pay rent for the 2003 season for only the third time since 1997.†

You can bet the Chairman is not going to make that mistake again!†


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 not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

Have a Thought about
Reinsdorf's Motives?

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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