There are many issues restraining the White Sox front office and how they have affected the team, fans and the state of Illinois. It begins with Jerry Reinsdorf.
In some cases, it is easy to blame the person in charge for letting things fall apart, but in some cases that is unfair. Like in the case of the 2014 Chicago Cubs. They finished 73-89 placing dead last in the NL Central. Who was given the blame? Manager Rick Renteria.
He was not even given a chance to show to the extent of what he can do with a contending team as he was fired after that season. Many can agree that Renteria was not the problem of the 2014 Cubs. But in the case of the Chicago White Sox and their decade of struggles, you can blame the person in charge: owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
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This begins a three-part series explaining the situation and why it is in the best interest for the team if Reinsdorf sells it. We will look at three topics, the stadium agreement over the lease of U.S. Cellular he signed in 2008, the departure of beloved manager Ozzie Guillen in 2011, and the missed opportunity with Manny Machado just this week.
The problems Reinsdorf has put on the team, fans and state have been here all along, unfortunately, it took yet another missed opportunity for it to be revealed to most.
U.S. Cellular stadium agreement of 2008
Way back before Guaranteed Rate, Reinsdorf signed a stadium agreement when the White Sox home ballpark was named U.S. Cellular Field. I will not bore you with the details, but when it comes down to it, the annual rent and ticket tax were the key headlines in the deal.
The year 2008 marked the end of the organization’s 18-year rent-free agreement with Illinois. The team would only pay a standard clear-cut $1.5 million in property taxes. Reinsdorf was allowed to keep all money grossed in concessions, parking, tickets and so on. This new deal negotiated the terms that the White Sox would begin to pay a base rent to the state of Illinois. The amount they would pay was agreed to be based on annual attendance number. If 1.9 million fans or more attended, Reinsdorf would have to pay somewhere between $3-9 per ticket sold that year.
"According to Shia Kapos of chicagobusiness.com, “the paid attendance (in 2010) was 2,074,011, exceeding the trigger by 149,011. So Mr. Reinsdorf paid $455,974, or about $3 per ticket.”"
Adding that to the $1.5 million, it barely seems like anything. Most of the 40-man-roster if not the eternity was paid more than $2 million that year.
The last time the White Sox hosted more than 1.9 million fans was 2013. Reinsdorf has not paid a ticket fee in six years. Meanwhile, he keeps all the money grossed in concessions, merchandise, parking, and even tickets.
Most teams pay anywhere between $10 to 20 million for their lease, but not smart businessman Reinsdorf. He can save a couple million by not allowing the team to essentially get better. Because the better the team gets, the more tickets they sell. The more tickets they sell means a higher attendance rate, higher than 1.9 million. That means Reinsdorf has to go into his own pocket to pay the state of Illinois for his franchise to play on the south side of Chicago.
This is why it took so long for the team to finally strip down and start over in 2016.
Despite how long it took to start the rebuild, I believe the White Sox could have been contenders with their team in 2015. With a few minor tweaks, some free-agent signings and maybe a year or two of getting comfortable, the Sox would have definitely been contenders. Maybe Reinsdorf saw this and decided it was time to gut the team, allowing for maybe four to seven more years of not having to pay the ticket fee.
The only move he had to make in 2015 was to sign a big name free-agent or two. But doing so would be costing him the salary he would have to pay the player and the ticket fee as the contending White Sox would have more than 1.9 million in attendance.