Conventional wisdom holds that the White Sox will never make a big trade with the Cubs, despite what Sox general manager Rick Hahn is saying to the contrary. Most people with even a passing familiarity with Jerry Reinsdorf think the chairman would rather pull out his own teeth than do anything that could benefit the franchise’s crosstown rival.
That might seem incredibly shortsighted, even petty. The idea is to help your team, and if a trade offers what you believe is a clear path to success, you should jump on it.
And, yet, I get it. I completely understand if the idea of helping the Cubs hurts Reinsdorf from head to toe. It should.
The two franchises are in different leagues (in more ways than one), but they compete against one another for fans, for media attention, for advertisers, for the air they breathe. Why would the Sox do something that might put them even farther behind in the battle for hearts?
The Sox have been accused of having an unhealthy preoccupation with the Cubs, possibly because they are unhealthily preoccupied with the Cubs. But if the Sox make a deal and end up looking like losers, it’s a double whammy. Not just a mistake but a mistake that hurts business in town by benefiting the Cubs.
The North Siders could use some pitching help. I know: It’s early! There’s no reason to worry about with the defending World Series champions! Nothing to see here! But Jake Arrieta is off to a rough start, as are a few other Cubs pitchers, and it’s never too soon to shore up what could become a serious problem later. The Sox might be willing to move Jose Quintana for the right price. Just not to the Cubs.
Understand the mindset here. It’s the mindset of an organization and a fan base that feels it has been treated like second-class citizens for decades in Chicago. The White Sox are the kid from the other side of the tracks, the kid who wants to be somebody but keeps bumping up against a blue ceiling. Even after the Sox won the World Series in 2005, there was a sentiment on the South Side that they didn’t get their due. It certainly didn’t help last year when ESPN forgot to include the club’s title in a graphic listing the championships Chicago and Cleveland sports teams had won since 1965.
That wasn’t an “oops’’ in the minds of some Sox fans. It was proof of invisibility.
From a sober, clear-thinking business standpoint, not dancing with the Cubs is dumb. If Theo Epstein comes offering prospects from the club’s talented minor-league system, wouldn’t that fit in with the youth movement the White Sox are trying to push?
But Reinsdorf is human. I’m sure he had trouble understanding the Cubs’ allure when they were bad for so many years, and now that they’re champions, the mere thought of helping them win another title must make him ill.
In everything the Sox do, they measure themselves against the Cubs. How many column inches they get in the newspaper. Why the local sportscasts are favoring the Cubs. Whether City Hall loves both teams equally. That’s why the Sox don’t like to put themselves in a situation where they could look bad down the line, could lose face. I don’t want to make them sound like North Korea, but I guess I just did.
The last big trade the Sox made with the Cubs involved sending Sammy Sosa to the North Side in 1992 for George Bell. I believe Reinsdorf has filed that under Lessons Learned. Sosa went on to hit 545 home runs for the Cubs and filled up Wrigley Field year after year. Even if you can’t get past the stink of steroids that has followed him everywhere, you have to agree that the Cubs got the better of the deal and that the Sox looked silly. Since then, the two teams have traded with each other twice.
The idea that Reinsdorf would be willing to deal Quintana so that Hahn can continue his soft rebuild seems contrary to the chairman’s nature.
Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, with a career 3.52 earned-run average to go with 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings, has been mentioned as a logical candidate to help the Cubs’ pitching. They would be wise to spend their time looking at him and anybody else not named “Jose Quintana.’’ Working out the parameters of a trade only to be snorted at by Reinsdorf seems like the definition of wasted time.
For his part, Reinsdorf would do better to channel his competitiveness in other directions. Perhaps by blowing up the Bulls and hiring some people who know how to build a team.
Come to think of it, that’s another thing that’s not going to happen.