Jerry Reinsdorf and the truth make an appearance as the White Sox struggle

The chairman says something very similar to quotes he denied making four years ago.

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White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf taking in batting practice.

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is having another bad year.

Jeff Haynes/AP

One of the most popular — and quickest — games in Chicago sports is called ‘‘What Will Jerry Do?’’

It’s usually played at least once a year, sometimes involving the White Sox, sometimes involving the Bulls, sometimes involving both teams and always involving Jerry Reinsdorf, the chairman of both franchises. Whenever one of his teams performs poorly, eyes naturally turn to him because he’s the owner, because owners are supposed to right wrongs and because a wronged fan base demands action.

But this is Reinsdorf, whose preference is not to lift a finger, not to make a move, not to fire a soul. There are 1,000-year-old bodies just pulled from bogs who would look at the Sox’ miserable start this season and say, ‘‘Boy, am I thirsty, and everybody who had anything to do with the White Sox’ rebuild needs to be canned immediately.’’

Every time one of Reinsdorf’s teams flounders, a funny thing happens: A tiny sliver of hope spreads among some fans and media that things will be different this time, that he will do something, that another outcome is possible.

This is why our favorite game takes about 30 seconds to play. Faced with another helping of poor results, Jerry rarely does or says anything, leaving Sox or Bulls fans to sink back into the boiling vat of their anger.

A not-so-funny thing happened this time around, though. On Monday, with the Sox having ended a 10-game losing streak the day before, Reinsdorf spoke to a group of business leaders in Los Angeles and passed along some of his core beliefs.

The most striking statement had to do with what he thinks the fan base wants in a team.

‘‘I think the important thing to fans is, while they want you to win championships, they want to know that when they get down to the last month of the season, you still have a shot,’’ he said. ‘‘You’re still playing meaningful games. If you can do that consistently, you’ll make your fans happy.’’

The discerning Sox fan will see in that quote shades of the advice former Marlins president David Samson said Reinsdorf once gave him.

‘‘I was 32 years old, in baseball for my first of 18 years,’’ Samson said in 2019. ‘‘And [Reinsdorf] said: ‘You know what? Here’s my best advice to you: Finish in second place every single year because your fans will say, ‘‘Wow, we’ve got a shot, we’re in it,’’ but there’s always the carrot left. There’s always one more step to take.’ ’’

Samson’s quote caused a huge stink. The Sox moved quickly to deny that Reinsdorf ever said such a thing, knowing that an owner who settles for second-best isn’t a good look for a franchise. But Reinsdorf’s comments Monday in front of a group of witnesses at the Milken Institute Global Conference sounded very much like what Samson insisted he once said.

The Sox usually do one of two things when media members want to talk with Reinsdorf about an underperforming team: They refuse all interview requests for the man in charge or choose a reporter they consider a friend of the program, so Reinsdorf can take his cuts at softball questions.

But put him in front of a crowd of smiling, nodding, lanyard-ed conference-goers, and here comes the unfiltered truth.

He told them about the importance of having faith in the people who work for him. As followers of the Bulls and Sox know, this is one of Reinsdorf’s great weaknesses. He gets comfortable with his front-office staff and does nothing when, year after year, nothing resembling a championship is in sight. This is how it has been with Rick Hahn. Since Hahn became the Sox’ general manager in 2013, they’ve had a winning record only twice.

When Hahn came to Reinsdorf with the idea of a rebuild several years ago, Jerry must have been torn. On one hand, it would go against his belief that Sox fans just want a shot at making the playoffs heading into the last month of the regular season. On the other hand, think of all the money the Sox would save from tearing it down and starting over!

Not all rebuilds work. I’ve been preaching that for years, but it’s hard to get the true believers to look up from their Baseball America Top 50 Draft Prospects articles. Just because the Cubs and Astros used rebuilds to win World Series titles doesn’t mean every team that launches a rebuild will be holding up a trophy a few years later. Now Sox fans know it. Now Reinsdorf knows it.

One of Reinsdorf’s great pleasures in life is to hunker down when things are bad, to weather the storm and then, if there isn’t too much damage afterward, to cackle at all the people who overreacted. Some owners are in it to win championships. Others are in it to prove they’re smarter than the media.

But maybe he’ll do something different this time. Maybe he’ll make changes in the hope of saving a season.

And maybe hell finally will get AC.

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