Jerry Reinsdorf

Behind-the-scenes details from the White Sox busy offseason

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USA TODAY

Behind-the-scenes details from the White Sox busy offseason

The quote of the White Sox offseason came back in November, when Rick Hahn was asked what kind of signings fans can expect during the winter.

Despite the internal plan of being uber aggressive in the marketplace, Hahn chose to divert attention away from the large bump that had developed in the White Sox midsection.

"People aren’t too interested in hearing about the labor," he said during the GM meetings. "They want to see the baby."

Little did anyone know that Hahn would soon turn himself into a baseball midwife, delivering baby after baby to the South Side all winter long.

“We wound up having more than we expected. We had quintuplets in the end, didn’t we?” Hahn said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast.

Roughly nine hours after the Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series, Hahn and the White Sox were open for business.

And it all started with a text.

Hahn checked the time. It was 9 a.m. Eastern the morning after the final out of the World Series, which under Major League Baseball rules meant it was go time for every general manager in the game. Teams were now allowed to reach out to free agents.

Almost immediately, Hahn would make contact with several of their targets, including one player in particular who would be the first to sign and would set the tone for the White Sox robust winter: Yasmani Grandal.

Hahn didn’t offer him a contract right away. Another team did, though. More on that in a moment. But Hahn did deliver a clear message to Grandal's agent that the White Sox would be serious bidders for the coveted All-Star catcher.

“(The text) was something to the effect of, ‘Look, once things are quieter on your side and you want to sit down and chat, we have sincere interest in Yasmani. We think he’s a great fit and look forward to explaining to you and him why,’” Hahn explained. “We were pretty aggressive early making it clear what our intentions were.”

Following the Manny Machado debacle last winter, the White Sox were not about to go down that road again, one where the whole baseball world knew they were pursuing a big-name free agent. When Machado signed with the San Diego Padres, the White Sox were left battered and bruised by the negative PR hit.

Hahn learned a lesson that he took into this offseason.

"We spent so long going into spring training with the drama of (Bryce) Harper and Machado. Both were very worthy pursuits and ones that were necessary for this organization, even though they didn’t obviously yield the player in the end," Hahn said. "But I think after that experience, all of us here came out of that thinking, 'We’ll be delivering players, and we’ll talk about it afterwards.

"'You’re not going to want to hear about this meeting or that video presentation or this phone call. We’ll let you know when we have something to announce.' And it was actually kind of nice that the Grandal deal was the first one we did and it was not rumored before that. So it truly was, 'Here’s a baby, it’s been delivered.'"

And now that the Hot Stove season is in the rearview mirror and spring training starts Wednesday in Arizona, Hahn was open to talking more about those new White Sox babies, revealing many details about this much ballyhooed offseason and how it all came together.

A few of the most interesting nuggets:

Another team offered Grandal a four-year deal, but he chose the White Sox

“We found out after the fact that we were one of two teams that reached out right away. There wound up being four or five in the mix, and he met with several of them. As proud as we may have been about reaching out early and expressing interest first, another team made him a four-year offer like right out of the gate as soon as that was permissible. We like to think we’re being aggressive and at the forefront, but there are teams out there with us.”

The White Sox were interested in a few of Scott Boras clients, not just Dallas Keuchel

“Keuchel was one of the guys who the day after the World Series, I texted Scott and one of the names on the list was Keuchel. That was in the works from the start, as well.”

The White Sox spoke internally about pursuing Boras clients Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg but decided against it

"Mentally, yes, I went down the road. We talked about it internally, but look, we’re trying to build something sustainable. We’re trying to build a well-rounded roster.

"Throughout this whole process we’ve been mindful trying to not only build a deep and productive roster, but also maintain flexibility to augment it as we get ready to win. So regardless of which player at the top of the market it is, yeah, we created some flexibility where, yes, you can entertain those ideas, but is it the right investment given where the market is at a given time based on what other options are out there and what you’re trying to accomplish over the next few years? Those factors weigh in as well.”

Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t agree to an extension for Luis Robert right away

“We previewed it to (Reinsdorf) by saying, 'There may be a chance that we come to you on a player who has never played in the big leagues yet and we want to do an extension.' He didn’t say yes in the first conversation, but I’m still looking for the room that Jerry Reinsdorf walks into and he’s not the smartest guy in it.

"He got it. He understood why. He understood the risk involved, and there is risk involved, but he also understood the real, meaningful reward of the extended control and cost certainty.

"There are times, even throughout the Luis Robert conversations, where (Reinsdorf) will say, ‘You know the amount money we have in this guy and he hasn’t even played in a big league game yet?’ Which is sort of stunning when you hear that, but he’s also smart enough to know the benefit of what we got and, if this player is even close to what we think he’s capable of doing, how good of a position we’re going to be in going forward.”

The White Sox were negotiating between a two- and three-year deal with Jose Abreu

“It’s a little more art than science, especially when you’re dealing with players as they enter their mid-30s. Traditionally, you see some level of decline. Also, traditionally with a right-handed power hitter, you sort of see a certain path where productivity decreases as you enter the mid-30s.

"You have to augment that a little bit by knowing Jose the person and his work ethic and his approach and the pride he takes in his preparation and performance that makes you feel a little better about the potential to avoid that traditional decline curve, and you also need to understand the impact he has in the clubhouse and what he means to this organization.

"I think both of those things, in the end, had a rest on a three-year fit. Certainly we knew that one was too short, and it felt like four was too long, so it was really a matter of figuring out two or three in the end to make it work.”

Hahn also spoke at length about how the Edwin Encarnacion deal came together, how close the White Sox were to signing Zack Wheeler, the team's relationship with Boras, if Robert has the most upside of any player in the organization and much more on the latest edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast. Take a listen!

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Adam Silver discusses relationship with Chicago, Michael Jordan and the Reinsdorfs

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USA Today

Adam Silver discusses relationship with Chicago, Michael Jordan and the Reinsdorfs

This is the latter half of an exclusive two-part sitdown between Bulls Insider K.C. Johnson and NBA commissioner Adam Silver. In Part 1, which published Monday, Silver discussed All-Star weekend in Chicago and the ways the NBA will continue to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant.

NEW YORK — When the Bulls last hosted the NBA All-Star game in 1988, Adam Silver, then a student at the University of Chicago, attended the festivities at the old Chicago Stadium as a fan.

On Feb. 14, All-Star weekend begins at various venues around the city, culminating with the Feb. 16 All-Star game at the United Center.

“I’m looking forward to better seats,” Silver deadpanned.

Long before he succeeded David Stern as fifth commissioner in NBA history in 2014, Silver was a basketball fan. He grew up in New York as a Knicks fan and cheered for the Blue Devils as an undergraduate at Duke University before arriving in Chicago.

While studying law at the University of Chicago, where he called future Mayor Lori Lightfoot a classmate, Silver and friends used to catch Bulls games at Chicago Stadium and White Sox games at Comiskey Park.

Back then, you could walk up to the ticket window on game day and secure seats to watch a young Michael Jordan in action.

“There was a particular energy around the league at that time,” Silver said of Chicago Stadium, circa 1985-88. "You felt when you were at games that you were on to something that hadn’t gone mainstream. You felt like you were discovering something.”

Now, the NBA is a global behemoth. Many of its players have achieved one-name recognition status in all corners of the world.

But the league is also hurting emotionally. Stern passed away January 1 at age 77 after suffering a brain hemorrhage in December. And Kobe Bryant died tragically at age 41 on January 26 in a helicopter crash that claimed nine victims, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Against that backdrop, Silver sat down with NBC Sports Chicago for a 40-minute interview at the NBA’s midtown Manhattan office. Here is Part 2:

NBC Sports Chicago: You attended the University of Chicago as a law student. What was your sporting relationship with the city? Did you begin cheering for any Chicago teams?

Silver: I was always a fan of New York teams. I’m a New Yorker. I never transferred. Prior to working for the league office, I grew up a Knicks fan in New York. I loved watching the Bulls and Michael Jordan. But I also attended Duke University. So I was very much a Duke fan over North Carolina fan. I enjoy seeing great basketball. But I never transferred my fandom even though I was temporarily a Chicago resident.

Prior to that 1988 NBA All-Star Game, over the course of my time in Chicago I attended lots of games with my friends in law school. My recollection is it was not difficult to get tickets. Even for the great Michael Jordan, you could go to the ticket window before the game and buy tickets. I certainly was not sitting courtside. This was pre-championships. But I remember having great experiences in the old Chicago Stadium. I certainly was always there when the Knicks played the Bulls. Michael Jordan was not superstar Michael. But he was a bourgeoning star, attracting a lot of attention in the league. Even though they weren’t winning championships, everyone enjoyed watching those teams.

I lived on the South Side, so I went to my fair share of White Sox games too. I don’t recall attending Bears games. But I loved the experience. I grew up an NBA fan, a college fan as well. What’s most memorable was it was a great experience going to Chicago Stadium. The league back then had a fraction of the popularity that it does today, especially globally. It still felt big-time to be at those games.

When All-Star weekend came in 1988, that was my last year at the University of Chicago, I attended both All-Star Saturday and [Sunday’s] game. What I remember about the dunk contest with Dominique [Wilkins] was when Michael did that dunk, that now iconic dunk, where he took off from the free-throw line. I remember him going to the opposite end of the court and clearing away the photographers or whoever was in his way. I remember the sense of anticipation was incredible. People didn’t really have a sense of what was about to happen. But he had that special sort of “Michael” look in his eyes of complete determination. And I just remember when he took off and ran the length of the floor, the flashbulbs going off back in those days.­ What a spectacular moment it was.

I remember the game. Michael had his 40-point game and what a big moment it felt like in the Stadium. I remember being in the player hotel, I think it was the Hyatt, and there wasn’t the same kind of security in those days. You could just walk in the lobby. And I remember just being mesmerized. I was there with a friend. We found a place to sit, pretending as if we belonged in the lobby on one of the couches, just watching the legends walking by. It was a different time. There was no social media, no way to have a more in-depth understanding of players. Even just to sit there and see how they were dressed, who they were talking to, I would’ve never for a moment predicted that I would one day end up working at the NBA, let alone being the commissioner. But I was definitely enthralled by it. There was a special energy to the league then. It did feel a bit subversive. It was not mainstream. We weren’t Major League Baseball. We weren’t the NFL. But you felt by the fact you were making a connection with it, you were special. You understood something that others didn’t.

Your relationship with Jordan has had several incarnations. You first encountered him as a fan. Then you worked with him as a colleague. Now he’s technically your boss. What’s that like?

Michael and I are roughly the same age. I think we’ve grown up together in this league. In my early days, when he was still a player and I was initially the special assistant to the commissioner and then worked at NBA Entertainment and ultimately ran NBA Entertainment, that’s how we intersected. Not just in terms of [the 2000 IMAX documentary] “Michael Jordan to the Max" but the documentary that was filmed then and is now finally being completed by Netflix and ESPN. Michael, Phil Jackson, the Reinsdorfs and I, we didn’t know what that would become. But access was more unusual in those days than it is today. And I think securing that kind of access and building that kind of trust, it let us capture those moments and we’ll see what it becomes, never predicting it would take 20-plus years for the public ultimately to have the ability to see it.

But I think what has been really fascinating to watch with Michael — and in some ways this is similar to Kobe — is the way he embraced the next chapter of his life. Building Jordan Brand as part of Nike into just a juggernaut global brand and business. His journey from player to then businessman to ultimately a part of this select group of principal NBA team owners to his level of sophistication as now not just an NBA owner but a senior statesman, someone who is very deeply involved in league matters. He chairs our labor relations committee. He has served on our competition committee. He is very involved in our planning committee, which oversees revenue sharing. I am in as much awe of him today as I was initially as a fan.

We were in Paris together just last week. Again, a fresh reminder, Michael doesn’t conduct many press conferences anymore these days. This was the rare moment because his team was playing the Milwaukee Bucks and [Bucks co-owner] Marc Lasry, Michael and I held a press conference. No surprise, virtually every question was directed at Michael.  Almost reminiscent of the Dream Team, most of the international reporters began their question by saying, ‘Mr. Jordan, what an honor it is to have the opportunity ask you a question.’ And I was sitting there, and I know Marc Lasry, who is about the same age as I am, I think he also was sitting there sort of I could tell more as a fan than as a fellow team owner. ‘Wow, we can’t forget this is still one of the most famous people on the planet.’ And also someone who really, at the end of the day, seems very much like that North Carolina kid. He answers questions completely authentically. He acknowledges what he knows and acknowledges what he doesn’t know. He talks about other players in the league both from the perspective of a fan and as a former superstar player. He continues to have, to me, just a special aura around him.

I feel that’s one of the privileges of being in this job. And not just Michael but whether it’s Magic [Johnson] or Larry [Bird] or Dominique, Bill Russell, these greats are still very much a part of our game. Very few have had the opportunity to move into team ownership. Grant Hill now has. David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, there are a few others who have small interest in teams. Back to where we started in terms of this NBA family, I think one of the things that makes our league so special is our greats remain involved in this game. In some cases they may be broadcasters or team employees, but it feels like once you join this league, to the extent you’re interested, it’s something that can be part of you forever.

Jerry Reinsdorf long took the public stance that he would never host another All-Star game because the league takes over the team’s building and displaces season-ticket holders. Did you ever think the All-Star game would return to Chicago?

Jerry, even when he said wasn’t interested, always had a twinkle in his eye. I think that for Jerry it didn’t take as much persuading as he’d like the rest of the world to believe. [Bulls president and chief operating officer] Michael [Reinsdorf] was passionate about doing it. Then-Mayor Emanuel thought it was very important for the city. I think Jerry plays the role of the reluctant owner and curmudgeon here. But I think he’s hugely proud of the fact that the game is coming back to Chicago after all these years. Without ultimately the enormous accommodations that Jerry and Michael are making, it wouldn’t be happening.

I give huge credit to ex-Mayor Emanuel. From the moment the [2017] Charlotte game became available, he was working the phone as he does so well. He had very willing partners in the Reinsdorfs. Now, seemingly also by happenstance, Mayor Lightfoot and I were at the University of Chicago Law School and are longtime friends. We had an opportunity to get together around the NBA combine and draft lottery when it took place in Chicago last Spring, and both of us were smiling. Two students from the University of Chicago Law School to now, who knew? It’s fascinating. We were friendly in law school. Our paths haven’t crossed that often over the years. I think we both sort of followed each other’s careers. But there we were saying, 'Isn’t this great, Lori? Here we are. We’re now partnering on the All-Star game in Chicago.'

The city is world class in its ability to host big events. It’s essentially turnkey for us. Because of Wintrust Arena, the United Center campus, the cooperation of the Mayor’s office, and some of the best hotels and restaurants in the world and a passionate sporting community, everybody is looking forward to being in Chicago. I’ve talked to our teams and our business partners. They’re excited to stay multiple days. I’ve said before, it could be more aptly called All-Star week these days. And the sport is played indoors, at least in the winter.

(Editor’s note: The NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte because of a North Carolina law deemed discriminatory against the LGBT community. After Chicago expressed interest in hosting, the league awarded that game to New Orleans and returned the game to Charlotte in 2019 after new legislation repealed some aspects of the state’s discriminatory law.)

I know you don’t get into individual teams’ business. But when teams in two of your three largest markets are in a downturn, does that make things difficult for the league?

It doesn’t. You want all 30 teams to be competitive. But you recognize there’s a competitive cycle to every team. I would just say the league is experiencing some of its all-time highs in popularity without teams in New York and Chicago at the top of their divisions. I think this is another example of the way the world has changed dramatically since that 1988 All-Star Game I attended. I use the example of Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee. I don’t even like the term small market because I think what the world generally calls small markets are more aptly described as midsized markets. But when you have a team like the Bucks and Giannis competing at the highest level, he’s rewarded by being the No. 1 vote getter in the Eastern Conference. He’s globally known. His games are available by phone essentially to any corner of the planet you happen to be living on.

It was very real several decades ago that the league was assisted by having high-performing teams in large markets. I think these days as a league, we’re much more focused on the competitive nature of the entire league rather than particular markets. I’m rooting for all markets to do well. But I look at where the league is now and to suggest somehow we need a good Bulls team or a good Knicks team, it’d be nice to have those teams in competitive positions. But our players recognize that the rewards come from winning and correlate much more closely to winning than market size.

I look at where the NFL is. There’s almost no correlation in the NFL between interest in the Super Bowl and the size of the market. I recognize we’re not in the same territory. But we’re moving in that direction. And I think ultimately as a league, and my job as the commissioner, is to put in place the apparatus, and that includes the economic antennas for our teams and an appropriate collective bargaining agreement that allows teams in every market to be fully competitive. And if that is the case in a 30-team league, statistically it makes it less likely that particular franchises will dominate. Especially those that happen to be in larger markets.

I think we’re in good shape as a league. But I take in the case of the Chicago Bulls, it’s still those same Reinsdorfs who ultimately are the decision-makers for the team. They are very focused on the performance of the team. And I know that in some ways, for Jerry in particular, it’s one of the reasons why something like an All-Star Game can be a bit of a distraction because he knows success for him will always be measured in terms of championships. Over time, they’ll get it right.

The league moved the draft lottery out of the New York/New Jersey area in 2018 to tie it into the draft combine. How has that experience been and do you envision a long-term fit?

We have been very pleased in Chicago. Our community comes together in Chicago for our predraft camp and combine. It made perfect sense to also conduct the draft lottery there. And that was something that Mayor Emanuel never stopped reminding me of. Things can potentially change over time. We are enjoying being in Chicago. Because of the geographic location, it’s more convenient for our teams to be in a more central location. And Chicago, for the same reasons that makes it a fantastic All-Star host, has all the accommodations you need for our teams when they come together for our combine. My anticipation is we’ll be in Chicago for a while. And the city has been terrific to work with.

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Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf reflects on David Stern's monumental legacy

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USA Today

Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf reflects on David Stern's monumental legacy

It’s difficult to recall the Bulls’ dynasty without picturing former NBA commissioner David Stern handing the Larry O’Brien championship trophy to Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

But it only happened five times during the Bulls’ separate three-peats.

“After we won in Phoenix [in 1993], TV went to a commercial and when they came back from the commercial, he lost sight of me and handed the trophy to Michael [Jordan],” Reinsdorf said in a phone interview. “I needled him and said, ‘You just didn’t want to give it to me again?’ He said, ‘No, I didn’t know where you were.’”

This anecdote aptly summarizes the irreverent relationship that Reinsdorf had with Stern, the longtime NBA commissioner, who passed away Wednesday at age 77 after suffering a brain hemorrhage last month.

Reinsdorf led a group of investors who purchased the Bulls in 1985, shortly after Stern rose from the league’s general counsel to commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984. Under Stern, the NBA moved from a struggling league with several teams losing money to a $5 billion global industry that is likely second only to soccer in terms of worldwide popularity.

“The man was brilliant. He was a visionary. He set the standard for commissioners. We’ve lost a giant,” Reinsdorf said. “He was smart to realize it’s all about the players. He helped them become very marketable. I don’t think anyone’s ever bought a ticket to watch an owner.”

Under Stern, the NBA implemented a salary cap, a dress code, drug testing and stood at the forefront of the digital age. The G League and WNBA began.

But perhaps Stern's greatest legacy was his role in helping make the NBA a global sport with players recognized all over the world by one name, and a constant stream of international players flooding in.

“He recognized the appeal that this game would have outside of the country. Our games are televised in hundreds of countries. In China, the NBA is incredibly huge. He had a great sense of what would sell to the public,” Reinsdorf said. “It’s a sport that has global appeal but he sensed it earlier than anyone. When I got involved, I don’t think anybody dreamed of the sport becoming this big.”

Known as a ruthless negotiator with a long memory and legendary, behind-the-scenes temper, Stern presided over two lockouts in 1998 and 2011. Reinsdorf witnessed Stern in action in some of those negotiating sessions and stressed an overlooked aspect to Stern’s personality.

“He was always very prepared, had all the facts. Nobody could say anything that would surprise him. And he was tenacious. He knew he had a strong hand in labor negotiations and he played that hand,” Reinsdorf said. “But he also knew that at the end of the day, we all had to work together. He couldn’t alienate the players and union to where it was an irreparable breach. He never made it a personal battle.”

Reinsdorf said he and Stern had one “little blip” in their professional relationship that centered on a television rights dispute for Bulls games in the late 1980s. They overcame that and stayed in touch even as Stern moved into his emeritus commissioner role in 2014, staying involved in various projects that benefitted the league.

“I respected him. I think he respected me. I enjoyed his company. He had a great sense of humor,” Reinsdorf said. “We used to needle each other about our weights. A couple of years ago, I interviewed him at a charity function and they showed a picture of him with a mustache. And I said, ‘Who told you to grow that ridiculous mustache?’ It was a very irreverent relationship that I enjoyed very much.

“He was too young. He was virile. He was active. He was involved in a lot of projects. I don’t think he slowed down at all after he left the commissioner job. It has to be so difficult for his family, and my thoughts are with them.”

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