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Reinsdorf on rebuild: Always knew 'plan was going to work'

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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CLEVELAND — Rick Hahn often reminds of the rebuilding pitch he and team vice president Kenny Williams made to Jerry Reinsdorf.

The chairman wants to make it known that the sell was not as hard as some folks believe.

"There's a myth they had to talk me into it," Reinsdorf told a pool reporter Thursday after his Chicago White Sox clinched their first division championship in 13 years. "I wanted to do it just as much as they wanted to do it."

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The fruits of that rebuilding effort are here now, the White Sox officially punching their postseason ticket Thursday, the first time in franchise history they're playing October baseball in back-to-back years. The roster is stacked with young talent and the veteran knowhow to make a lengthy postseason run, not to mention a Hall-of-Fame manager on the bench in Tony La Russa, Reinsdorf's longtime friend.

Despite an inconsistent second half, the players are confident they have what it takes to win the whole thing. The general manager who guided this project from total teardown to total domination of the AL Central is focused on even grander goals.

"Jerry and I were just talking, on our way down from the suite to the clubhouse, about when we first started this rebuild, put the plans in place for the rebuild five years ago," Hahn said Thursday. "One of the things he mentioned — and quite frankly lamented — was the fact that this club has never gone on an extended run of success, and that if we were going to do this, if we were going to go down to the brass tacks and rebuild this organization, it had to be with the end goal of putting ourselves in a position to go on a run and win multiple championships.

 

"Obviously, we haven't won any championships yet, but today, for the first time in franchise history, we were able to make the postseason in consecutive years. And that's a good milestone, that's a good first step."

Reinsdorf knows what an extended run of success looks like. His Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, won six championships in eight years during the 1990s.

But that also means he knows how hard that is to do, especially in modern baseball and especially when you don't have the greatest player in the history of the sport.

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

Well, for two Octobers in a row, the chairman's wish has come true. The ample team control on many of its young stars means Hahn's hopes for more than one trophy aren't so outlandish, a reflection of the job he's done rebuilding this franchise.

Fans will remember the woeful major league results in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before back-to-back postseason trips. And Reinsdorf was no different, suffering through all those losses. But he still bought into the rebuilding plan in the first place. And he's glad he did.

"It was an easy decision," he said, "because (if) we didn't make that decision, we were going to be caught in mediocrity, and that's no fun.

"Going through it, it was painful watching the team lose individual games, but I always knew we had a plan and we were working our plan and ultimately the plan was going to work.

"Kenny and Rick, I knew they were going to produce what we needed."

Five years later, the White Sox are champions. Division champions, for now. But the stage is set for them to achieve even bigger goals, which they've been singularly focused on since the spring.

And that's what made Reinsdorf's rebuilding decision an easy one.

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