There were times in recent months when White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf wondered if there would even be a season.
“I was concerned the union was maneuvering not to have a season,’’ Reins-dorf told USA Today. “I kept hoping against hope that we’d reach an agreement and get more games in this season. I just hope the clubs and the union can figure out a way to get along before the start of next season.
“I don’t think the game was served [well] by all of the acrimony.’’
But after four months of hostility — with the players’ union expected to file a grievance against MLB for not scheduling more games — the 2020 season officially commences July 23.
It’s just that a 60-game season, with no fans in attendance, is hardly the way Reinsdorf, who’s 84, envisioned he’d be celebrating his 40th year as owner.
“I remember when I first heard about [COVID-19], I didn’t think much of it,’’ said Reinsdorf, who is tested twice a week for the coronavirus. “I thought it was the flu.
“It didn’t take long to get educated.’’
The pandemic has shut down sports for four months and dealt a tremendous financial hit to Reinsdorf, who owns the Sox, the Bulls and the United Center.
Reinsdorf hasn’t calculated the exact losses but says they’re ‘‘in the nine figures.’’
“The two teams and the stadium all have expenses,’’ Reinsdorf said. “None have income. That’s a bad business model. The Bulls played 75% of the season, so the losses aren’t bad. We had a lousy season [22-43], so we weren’t going to be in the playoffs. But the baseball losses are tremendous.’’
The Sox are one of the few MLB teams who have yet to impose salary cuts or furloughs, but Reinsdorf fears that day is coming. The pandemic is imposing a powerful threat to next year’s finances, too.
“I’m very worried about next year,’’ Reinsdorf said. “There are just so many unknowns.’’
There are no teams with permission to have fans this year, and as the pandemic continues, teams are bracing themselves for a dramatic drop in attendance next year, too, even if fans are permitted.
“In the absence of a vaccine, people are going to be very, very nervous,” Reins-
dorf said. “There may not even be fans.’’
But for now, planning to attend every home game, Reinsdorf awaits a season like no other.
He believes this 60-game season will benefit teams with veterans, wonders if rookies will be afforded a longer stretch without anyone figuring out their flaws and loathes the idea of the new extra-inning rule that will start with a runner on second base in the 10th inning.
“I don’t like it at all,’’ Reinsdorf said. “I don’t like fake ways determining the outcome. I don’t like the three-batter-minimum rule, either. I was very strongly opposed to that. I thought it was too much of a jump going from one batter to three.’’
Reinsdorf has no idea how his young team will respond in a short season but is convinced it delays the progress of their prized minor-league players. He believes they have a chance to contend in the American League Central, but who can possibly predict how his young stars will perform?
“Our young players are not a finished product yet,’’ Reinsdorf said. “We feel strongly we have a great core and can have a multiyear run of being competitive, but we don’t know what we have this year. Can [batting champion] Tim Anderson do the same? Has [Yoan] Moncada arrived? Can Luis Robert live up to all of the hype and definitely go to the Hall of Fame as our fans believe?
“We’ll find out in a hurry.’’
If nothing else, win or lose, baseball at least is back, although it will look like nothing we’ve ever seen. The Sox are joining other teams and will pump artificial crowd noise into the ballpark. They’ll have cardboard cutouts of fans. It will be made-for-TV every night.
Still, no matter how it may look or sound, there will be live games with real outcomes, and no longer do we have to keep rewinding the Michael Jordan documentary and debate whether he could have played in the major leagues.
Jordan’s personality would be ideal in this short season. Sure, you’ve got to be healthy, but you’d better be tough, too, because in a challenging season like this, only the strongest will survive.
But just to assure there is a season, Reinsdorf insisted, everyone needs to buy into the health and safety protocols or it could be over in a hurry.
“If the players take this seriously, I think we can get through the season,’’ Reinsdorf said. “I know our players are taking it very seriously. I know they discussed it among themselves and pleaded not to take chances. Don’t go to bars or clubs. Just stay home.’’
Yet when asked if he’s confident the season will be played through its entirety and whether we will see a World Series champion crowned and celebrated just like any other year, Reinsdorf hesitated.
“I believe in what Yogi Berra once said,’’ Reinsdorf said. “You should never make predictions, especially if it’s about the future.’’
Read more at usatoday.com