It's been pretty well-covered that White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's celebrated opening of the pocketbook came with a corresponding plea for an equally generous response from fans. "$130 million doesn't just get printed off in a secret room in the basement, you half-wits!" they seemed to plead.
"If we draw what we drew last year, we will lose a lot of money. We
decided to make a bet that if we put this team together the way we have,
that it'll contend and that people will come out and support it.
Otherwise, we are definitely going to lose money. Fortunately over the
years we've made a little here, we've made a little there and we can
cover it if we lose. We won't be able to lose money two years in a row."
I understand that the Sox have a separate set of finances, and have an
operating budget and all that jazz, but it's kind of hard to hear about
Reinsdorf talk about finances when he also owns a Bulls team that made
bathtubs of money or a decade, and then never left the top 5 in NBA
attendance even in the horrible years after that. Transferring those
kind of revenues is probably more than a notion, but it's not like the
team will fall into the sea if things don't go right this year, they'll
just never be able to justify this type of expenditure ever again.
And if they're really depending on a big attendance explosion to save
the bottom line, maybe they've been following a different franchise.
The Sox haven't drawn 3 million fans in the last decade (maybe ever, but
I'm not going to do anymore legwork), came the closest to it in the wake of
a World Series victory, and have been on a steady slide ever since. A
2008 division title didn't stop the slide, and neither did the Jake Peavy (so much for name recognition).
The last big spike the Sox were able to create in their numbers, they
did so by winning the whole damn thing. Even then, the big dividends
didn't come until the next season when they seemed prime to repeat. You just don't fill U.S. Cellular Field without earning the hell out of it
More so, while Adam Dunn's a great player, he's also never made an All-Star team
and doesn't endorse donuts or elective surgery or whatever to give himself exposure, and doesn't
serve as a big draw to anyone who doesn't already know baseball. Anyone who's been to a Cubs, Red Sox, or
Yankees game recently knows you need more than that population to draw the crowds needed to be able to spend with gusto and remain profitable.
The speed at which front offices move is countered by fan-bases that
tend to react slowly, and respond to established sure-things (like
consistent winning). So while it's admirable that the front office has embraced
courting the bigger attendance revenues they desire by investing in
winning, the White Sox attendance is fickle, and can be sparse until
properly roused. It's something I've come to accept (I mean, who likes
waiting in lines anyways?) but let's hope the team realizes that the
nature of their fan base is to respond slowly and gradually.