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Jerry Reinsdorf was always all in with White Sox’ rebuild, which is bearing fruit

A division title “means a lot,” Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said, “but now there’s a bigger prize and we hope we can bring that home to [our fans].”

Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf congratulates Tim Anderson in the visitors clubhouse Thursday at Progressive Field after the White Sox clinched the AL Central title.
Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf congratulates Tim Anderson in the visitors clubhouse Thursday at Progressive Field after the White Sox clinched the AL Central title.
White Sox TV

Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was disappointed when the White Sox settled for a wild-card berth last season when their contention window finally opened after a painful but necessary rebuild.

Through a pool reporter Thursday, Reinsdorf talked to Chicago media for the first time in years after the Sox clinched the AL Central with a victory over the Indians in Game 1 of a split doubleheader in Cleveland.

“First of all, there’s a myth they had to talk me into it,” he said of the rebuild orchestrated by general manager Rick Hahn and vice president Ken Williams. “I wanted to do it just as much as they wanted to do it. It was an easy decision because we were going to be caught in mediocrity, and that’s no fun. Going through it, it was painful watching the team lose [95 games in 2017 and 100 in 2018], but I always knew we had a plan and we were working our plan and ultimately the plan was going to work.”

The plan is to win multiple titles, Reinsdorf said. It won’t be easy.

“The real plan is we want to be competitive year after year,” Reinsdorf said. “It’s very hard to win one title, let alone multiple titles. I just want us to be playing meaningful games every October.”

Reinsdorf was criticized when he hired 76-year-old manager Tony La Russa, his friend whom then-GM Ken Harrelson fired in 1986, after last season’s wild-card series loss to the Athletics.

But Reinsdorf said La Russa’s gift for handling pitchers is what the Sox needed.

“I absolutely felt he was the best guy for the job,” Reinsdorf said. “I never had any doubt in my mind. It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen him for 10 years. I saw him, I talked to him. I knew what he had left. What I wanted was somebody that I felt could really handle the pitchers and can relate to the players, and I knew Tony could do it.”

To which shortstop Tim Anderson confirmed again Thursday, calling La Russa “a great guy.”

“I’m just pleased with the way that he handled everything and the way he just come in and be a part of the family,” Anderson said.

Reinsdorf remained close to La Russa and knew he missed the competition.

“It killed him to be sitting in the stands or sitting in a suite watching the game,” Reinsdorf said. “That’s why I went to Rick and Kenny and said we should go after this guy.”

Reinsdorf, 85, remains passionate about baseball, his first love. He has one World Series title (2005), to go with six NBA titles as chairman of the Bulls, and badly wants one more. He congratulated players and staff in the visitors’ clubhouse after the clincher.

“It’s always a great feeling when you win something,” he said.

“This is all about fans, and everybody associated with the organization. But first and foremost it’s about the fans and the fact we could win this championship, it means a lot. But now there’s a bigger prize and we hope we can bring that home to them.

“Our fans are probably the most knowledgeable fans in baseball. Much more knowledgeable than the fans of some other teams in the other league.”

Any team in the playoffs has a chance to win the World Series, Reinsdorf said, and Sox fans deserve to have their patience rewarded with another one.

“In a short series, anything can happen,” he said. “I don’t see why we can’t go all the way, but if we don’t, I wouldn’t be stunned, either.”