It’s time. It’s time the White Sox stop acting like a mid-market team in a major market. It’s time the White Sox start becoming a major market behemoth in a division that doesn’t have anyone else close to them. It’s time the White Sox start crushing these little piss ants that have controlled this division for the last decade. It’s time Jerry Reinsdorf commits to winning at whatever the cost…or it’s time for Jerry Reinsdorf to rid this city of his existence and get the hell out of the way for an owner that will do whatever it takes to make the White Sox a powerhouse. I know as a card carrying member of “I hate Jerry Reinsdorf Twitter,” I’ve spent a lot of time taking him to task for what he’s done, or better yet, hasn’t done to put my favorite team in position to win as much as possible but there are no more excuses and the time is now!
I’ll admit, I’m a glutton for punishment. Once the Sox embarked on this rebuild, I knew there were going to be some very dark times ahead as they strip the big league roster down to the studs in an effort to build this thing back up from the foundation. Knowing that they were going to lose a ton of times in the early phases of this process, a lot of people have tuned out to the day-to-day aspects of this team. I can’t do that. I love baseball and this team too much to not pay attention. But seeing the losses pile up in 2018, which was the worst season this team has had in my 34 years of life, I didn’t lose sight of the big picture. I admit to being overly optimistic about the progression of players like Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito coming into the season. Even with the trainwreck that this team was in 2018, I’m still a believer in the process. That brings us to today and what has to happen from this point forward in order for this process to bare the fruit we are all expecting.
Be The Big Market Team That Controls the AL Central
I said it above and I stand by it when I say that the Sox are in a division with a bunch of little piss ants. Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Minnesota have NO BUSINESS controlling this division. The Sox are in a huge market that loves baseball. Yes, I know the Sox are the smaller fish in this big pond, but that doesn’t change the fact that they can absolutely squash every other team in this division because they have resources that the others don’t. They must start taking advantage of this. The Sox simply don’t get the advantages of acting like a small market team that their division rivals do. They don’t get supplemental draft picks the way their division rivals do for being in small markets. They don’t get additional international spending money like their division rivals do for being in small markets. They don’t get revenue sharing dollars like their division rivals do for being in small markets. Notice how I keep mentioning the small market parts? The other teams in the AL Central, minus Detroit for the last decade (and one has to wonder if that will continue now that Mike Illitch is gone), play the small market card. They don’t push their payrolls to high levels. They don’t play for top tier free agents. They don’t typically trade for large contracts of established players. The sad part of all of this is…the Sox act just like them when they shouldn’t.
When this rebuild began, it was very clear any valuable piece on the big league roster would be moved for players making the league minimum salary and the highest level of cost-control for the greatest number of years. The Sox have done a great job of limiting their financial exposure through the first two years of this process. Cot’s contracts estimated the Sox to have an Opening Day payroll of just over $71 million. Accounting for projected arbitration raises and players earning close to or at the league minimum, they have a projected payroll of just over $50 million for 2019. This is the position where you want your rebuilding team to be. It is time to strike. The limited long-term financial exposure puts the Sox in a tremendous position to be a major player this winter. That fact coupled with one of the top farm systems in the game, essentially means the Sox can bring in any player they want to push this process forward.
I’m not going to take this opportunity to talk about specific targets, that will come in future columns, rather I want to talk about bigger picture concepts. The Sox must start shopping at luxury stores when it comes to free agency and not at discount stores. The days of settling for Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche must be over. No longer can they claim they don’t have the financial resources to reel in the big fish. The AL Central rivals the Sox need to defeat to have a sustained run of success, can’t compete with Chicago as a market. The Sox have to capitalize on this. Their local TV deal with NBC SportsNet Chicago expires after the 2019 season, and they figure to have a large windfall of cash coming their way with a new TV deal (largely thanks to being tied to the Bulls and maybe the Blackhawks). No other team in the division will be able to match a TV deal that comes from having Chicago as your market. With this in mind, Jerry Reinsdorf must open up the check book and take advantage of this leverage. As an owner of an MLB team you have a choice. You can play the small market game and take advantage of extra draft picks and international spending money to build your team that way, or you realize you’re a large market team and you use your financial might to bring in the best talent you can via free agency and take on large contracts via trades. There’s no third direction. For too long the Sox tried to operate as if there was another choice. That time must end, and it must end on November 1st when the 2018 season is officially in the rear view mirror.
I’ve taken a lot of heat on Twitter dot com for saying that I believe the Sox will have to overpay to lure their first top-level free agent since Albert Belle after the 1996 season. The fact is they don’t have a long history of success, a national brand, or a reputation as being a team premium free agents want to play for when given the choice in the free market. With that in mind, if the Sox are to break through this barrier as a mid-market team playing in a large market, they will have to pay more than other large market teams would. But you know what? The Sox will have the resources to do it. Remember that new TV deal I referenced above? There’s no better way to drive up the cost of that deal than by having a superstar player on your roster that fans will want to tune in and watch on a nightly basis. A new local TV deal is what pushed the Dodgers to being the strongest financial players in all of Major League Baseball. Now, I know the Sox won’t come close to that level, but a new deal with a superstar anchor will allow the Sox to be one of the biggest financial players on the block.
Bringing in premium on-field talent will be the biggest piece of this puzzle, obviously. Another aspect the of this process that the Sox must act upon is bringing in the top management talent available. If that means separating yourself from nice guy Rick Renteria after 2019 and paying $6 million a year for Joe Girardi, you do it. Girardi is a proven commodity that has managed a World Series champion, and the opportunity to bring in a manger of this caliber doesn’t come around often. I advocate that the Sox strike now knowing that he is available instead of waiting another year, because that’s what serious organizations do. Say what you want about hipster Joe Maddon, but when the Cubs saw an opportunity to make an upgrade with their manager, they took it. That is what serious, big boy organizations do. If it means spending more money to build your scouting and analytics infrastructure, that is what you must do. Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and, yes, the Cubs, do everything in their power to win in all phases of the game. If we are to enter the Golden Age of White Sox baseball, this organization and specifically Jerry Reinsdorf, must spare no expense in any phase of the game to do so.
There is no time like the present. The Sox have limited their financial exposure, built up a top-level farm system, and have a lucrative local TV deal on the horizon. It is imperative that they act upon these factors and spare no expense when it comes to on-field talent, managerial talent, scouting talent, and front office/analytical talent. They have an opportunity to begin crushing the other teams in the AL Central and put a stranglehold on this division for the foreseeable future. It will require them to be bold and to be more aggressive than they have ever been since Jerry Reinsdorf assumed ownership of this team in 1981. The days of acting like a mid-market team must end, and they must end now. For there is no time like the present and there will not be a better opportunity to strike and build a sustained winner than what is facing us now. And call me crazy, but I think a sustained White Sox winner would make this team and Jerry Reinsdorf a lot of money. It’s time…
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