The White Sox and Bulls' Problems All Stem From One Person

There is only one person fully responsible for the Chicago Bulls' mediocrity and the Chicago White Sox's ongoing failure -- that person is Jerry Reinsdorf, who owns both teams.
Oakland Athletics v Chicago White Sox
Oakland Athletics v Chicago White Sox / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages

Reinsdorf appears to be more concerned about his bottom line than putting together teams that actually win consistently. He seems satisfied with a Bulls team that is good enough to make the play-in tournament -- thus drawing fans for another game or two and in theory being a playoff contender, even if one with no real shot at a title.

As for the White Sox, I doubt Reinsdorf wanted to field a team that has just three wins so far this season, but he was also unwilling to spend to fix the failed rebuild -- or spend enough to push recent teams toward a championship. It seems like Reinsdorf wants to win, but only if he can do so cheaply and get lucky.

To be fair, sports is a business, and reckless spending is also bad. But Sox and Bulls fans aren't advocating for that. We simply want Reinsdorf to invest in competitive rosters -- as well as in the behind-the-scenes aspects of pro sports. Such as the training staff, scouting and analytics departments, and player development. We'd like to see Reindsdorf spend, but spend wisely.

We'd also like to see him not sabotage his baseball team by hiring an out-of-touch, aging manager to lead a team on the cusp of contention, simply because that man is his friend. We'd have loved to have seen him cast a wide net for the next White Sox general manager instead of promoting Chris Getz from within with virtually no search. Even if Reinsdorf truly believed Getz was the best candidate to lead the front office, he could've learned a few things from interviewing other candidates from other organizations.

Let's also not forget that Reinsdorf's logic for hiring Getz -- that an outsider would need at least a year to fix the team's problems -- makes no sense. Given the post-2023 roster overhaul, the Sox were almost certainly going to need a full season to reset, no matter what.

Reinsdorf also angered more than a few fans when he said this last year: "Sports is a business of failure. Only one team is going to win every year. But the fact that you finished second or third or fourth, it doesn’t mean you had a bad year. I think the important thing for fans is, while they want you to win championships, they want to know that when you get to the last month of the season, you still have a shot. You’re still playing meaningful games. If you can do that consistently, you’ll make your fans happy.”

On the surface, one could suggest that he was saying that a team needs to be in the mix for a title every year -- the more bites at the apple, the better chance you'd have at a title. But when you factor in Jerry's choices over the years, it's easy to interpret that statement as him settling for playoff teams that won't finish with a trophy.

I think we all understand that sports is a business, and again, we don't want to Reinsdorf to spend recklessly to win. We just want him to invest in his product -- the White Sox still haven't signed a player to a $100 million contract -- and to do it smartly (the Sox did have the seventh-highest MLB payroll in 2022, yet the team still fell far short of expectations).

I also would suggest to Reinsdorf that investing intelligently in order to win will pay dividends. Look at how the Chicago Blackhawks sold tons of merch and gained tons of new fans by winning three Stanley Cups in six seasons. Or how his own Bulls became an international phenomenon after Michael Jordan showed up and led the team to six rings in eight seasons.

Instead, we get an owner who seems to worry more about making money than winning, despite the fact that winning would actually likely earn him more cash. We also have an owner who meddles in team affairs at the wrong times, such as with the hiring of Tony La Russa.

Evidence of Reinsdorf's (arguably misplaced) priorities goes back decades. Reinsdorf supposedly helped drive baseball toward the 1994 strike that killed the season -- during a year in which his team was on track to make a run at the World Series. He engineered the so-called "White Flag" trade when his team was just 3.5 games out of first during the 1997 season. He's been credibly accused of delaying the inevitable cancellation of games during poor weather so that he can get as much money from the concession stands as possible.

Jerry Reinsdorf has escaped the same sort of scrutiny that's been aimed at owners like Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones for a few reasons. He's avoided major scandal. He's been loyal towards certain employees. The Bulls' run in the '90s and the Sox's World Series win in 2005 took some heat off of him. The fan experience at both the United Center and Guaranteed Rate Field is usually fun, even if the product on the court or on the field is putrid.

So Reinsdorf isn't the worst owner in sports. So what? He is, through the choices he makes, not allowing his teams to truly fight for titles. The Bulls seem stuck in NBA limbo, destined to be a .500 team for the near future. The White Sox rebuild fell apart, in part because of his handpicked manager and in part because of poor investments in behind-the-scenes aspects like analytics, player development, and athletic training -- and now the Sox are stuck in baseball hell.

Reinsdorf and company won't say the team is rebuilding, but the Sox also made no true attempt to retool on the fly, instead choosing to build a roster full of prospects and washed-up veterans who were fringe Major Leaguers at best. Reinsdorf chose Getz, who oversaw the failed player development during the rebuilding years, to fix this roster.

Finally, a Chicago Sun-Times report suggested that Reinsdorf might have fired ineffectual White Sox manager Pedro Grifol last season but he wasn't willing to pay for two managers at once. Reinsdorf denied the report, but the fact that it's so easy to believe speaks volumes.

The White Sox are a mess, and the Bulls are stuck. And only one man bears most of the blame.