I have tried to explain the weirdness that encompasses, and in some way constitutes, the Chicago White Sox. They are a unique entity, both on the field and off, and in the stands and on the airwaves and in the bars.
But it’s pretty simple to see how a fanbase can become so warped when they are tossed about like a rowboat in a maelstrom by their increasingly baffling and recluse owner, Jerry Reinsdorf. They certainly aren’t the only team in baseball, or sports, that have to live in opposition to the guy who runs the team. Fuck, they’re not even the only ones in town. But whereas shitheel owners tend to work in general ways — don’t spend this much money, everything other than that doesn’t matter — Reinsdorf swoops in from his deprivation tank in Arizona to get his fingers in the pie at the strangest times.
The usual lament from Sox fans about Reinsdorf is that his teams always have to “win” a negotiation with a player (watch how this plays out with the Bulls’ Zach Lavine over the coming weeks). It’s what kept them from Manny Machado a couple winters ago, or whatever free agent that didn’t land in Chicago this past one. The Sox can’t simply outbid everyone, they have to get what Reinsdorf considers a deal. Rarely does it work out. They’re already poisoning the water for Lucas Giolito.
But that’s not what’s on the mind of Sox fans today. Because Reinsdorf also gets his iron lung parachuted in every so often to decide who is the manager, or more to the point, which of his friends gets to be manager. First it was Robin Ventura, whom he had to convince to take the job and then couldn’t be removed. Now it’s Tony La Russa, as Reinsdorf tried to make amends for a mistake in the ’80s by making all of his customers watch La Russa watch the modern game like when you try to explain a system update to your grandfather. Which is exactly what it is.
Yesterday’s decision to intentionally walk Trea Turner with a 1-2 count in the 6th inning with the game in the balance is bad enough. There simply is no justification for waving the white flag when you have a batter on two strikes. Even if you’re that afraid of him, having Bennett Sousa try to get him to chase three pitches is an easy out. Turner is a career .157 hitter on a 1-2 count by the way.
Naturally, Max Muncy homered in the very next AB, and didn’t seem to take too kindly to being singled out as the guy La Russa thought he could take advantage of:
This was showing off your big brain for the sake of showing off your big brain, to try and convince everyone you’re the smartest guy in the park. That’s what just got Joe Maddon fired. But the truly galling thing was La Russa’s presser after the game. This is the carriage of an outmatched man who knows he can’t get fired:
The fact that he can’t get fired is all he’s hanging on to here. He knows he’s overmatched, he knows the game has passed him by, he knows he doesn’t do the things he used to. But he’s untouchable, because he’s the owner’s guy. You can tell empty braggadocio when you see it.
The Sox have been fundamentally terrible all season, which is supposed to be a La Russa staple. They make the wrong decisions all the time. They get caught napping. They can’t catch the ball. There’s nothing that La Russa is providing, though the team leaders seem to be ok with never being held accountable for any of it either.
GM Rick Hahn has his hands tied. His boss has saddled him with one of his cronies, and he just has to work around it. And Sox fans will spend their summer hoping that one of Reindsdorf’s last moments of clarity is that he can’t keep trying to make amends for something decades old that is also a mistake to his fans now.