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Reinsdorf confident in high-stakes gamble

Reinsdorf confident in high-stakes gamble

Reinsdorf confident in high-stakes gamble
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As the White Sox chairman, Jerry Reinsdorf regularly provides valuable guidance to general manager Ken Williams, manager Ozzie Guillen and others in the organization.

This offseason, Reinsdorf gave the go-ahead for Williams to go all in on the 2011 season, raising the White Sox payroll to a franchise-record $125 million. But one thing he will not do is offer predictions.

"I always go back to my famous prediction made to [Chicago Sun-Times reporter] Toni Giannetti in 1991," Reinsdorf said to reporters prior to Wednesday afternoon's game at Camelback Ranch. "She asked where I thought we were going to finish, and I said it could be anywhere from first to sixth.

"She said, 'What about seventh?' And I said, 'No, Minnesota is going to finish seventh.' And they won the World Series. So I don't make any predictions after that."

Nevertheless, Reinsdorf believes the 2011 White Sox will compete with the Twins and the Tigers for the American League Central title. The lineup has Reinsdorf enthused, with everyone from one through eight having a proven track record offensively, largely due to his offseason decision to reload rather than rebuild after finishing a game behind the Twins in 2010.

"We were going to try to rebuild, because we just didn't feel we could count on the attendance supporting the level we had to get to spend to get better to beat Minnesota. So that's where we started out," Reinsdorf said, referring to their 2010 attendance figure -- 2,194,378, the lowest since 2004. "But what we didn't want to do was just lower the payroll, which would have been easy, without doing it in a way that gave us hope for the future. Which meant the players that we were going to have to let go were going to have to bring something back for us as we build for the future."

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Free agents Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski would have yielded two Draft picks after being offered arbitration and signing elsewhere, but even first-round picks never are certainties.

"Then, as we looked at the rest of the players that we could move, without getting into particulars, it didn't look like we could get enough back, so all we would end up doing was having a worse team with a low payroll," Reinsdorf said. "We would make money, but we wouldn't be building for the future.

"I didn't mind taking a step back, because we've done it before, but I didn't want to take a step back without feeling really good that that step back was going to help us going forward. We just could not see where the players we would have remaining were going to bring us the talent we needed to get better in 2012.

"So that just left us looking into what do we have to do to get better than Minnesota?" Reinsdorf explained. "It still came back to we were going to have to spend more money. We felt if we could re-sign Paulie, sign Adam Dunn, re-sign A.J., make a couple other moves, we thought we could compete with Minnesota. But the payroll is going to be $125 million."

Taking that chance was better than the alternative for Reinsdorf, even if it meant they'd need to reach 2.6 to 2.8 million in attendance to break even.

"The idea of being bad for two to three years was a horrible thought when you're 75 years old," said Reinsdorf with a laugh.

Taking a step back would have been difficult for his manager and general manager, too, who, after a 2010 of turmoil, are back on the same page.

Reinsdorf did admit that the situation could have led to departure of Guillen when the Marlins approached the White Sox this winter about acquiring him to lead their team. The two clubs discussed compensation in exchange for the Sox letting Guillen, who at the time was signed through 2011, out of his contract. But compensation never was agreed upon, and in the end, that may not have mattered anyway.

"If we had been able to agree, Ozzie probably still wouldn't have left," Reinsdorf said. "We couldn't have traded him, and we would have tried to keep him.

"I would have gone to Ozzie and said, 'OK, the Marlins want to talk to you and we've given them permission to talk to you, but I hope to God you don't leave.' It would have been his decision, not our decision."

Reinsdorf still believes his dynamic duo will be together for many years to come, and to that end, the White Sox have exercised the 2012 option on Guillen.

"These guys have too much of a history of getting along and working," Reinsdorf said. "I also said there's a natural tension between managers and general managers and head coaches and general managers. It always exists. It will flare up from time to time.

"Right now, they are on the same page. I don't think they have ever not been on the same page as far as the team is concerned. This was just personal bickering, and they got it behind them."

Reinsdorf, entering his group's 30th year of ownership, is healthy, happy and hopeful that his offseason gamble will lead to a second World Series title in seven years.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }