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Reinsdorf move leaves White Sox at a loss

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The man hates baseball. Why won't someone just admit it? Jerry Reinsdorf hates major-league baseball, and he's doing everything in his power to destroy it.

Just connect the dots:

Reinsdorf was a driving force in the labor dispute. Reinsdorf disrupted the salary structure by giving Albert Belle $55 million. And yesterday, Reinsdorf gutted his team when it was only 3 1/2 games out of first place.

To the list of terms previously used to describe the Chicago White Sox owner -- union buster, large-market bully, mind-blowing hypocrite -- make sure you add "quitter."

That's right, quitter.

How else do you explain trading veteran pitchers Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez and Danny Darwin to San Francisco for six minor-leaguers?

Yesterday will go down as another dark day for baseball -- and it could have been worse. Imagine the reaction to the Mark McGwire trade if the slugger was still on pace to break Roger Maris' record.

Not to worry, McGwire amounted to just another potential free agent from a last-place team -- and in the modern game, star players in that category should expect to pack their bags on July 31.

Oakland sent McGwire to St. Louis for three pitchers. Meanwhile, Texas kept its own potential free agent, Ivan Rodriguez, by signing him to a five-year, $42 million contract extension.

"We always believed the Rangers were entitled to a Texas discount," said Rodriguez's agent, Jeff Moorad -- as if $42 million was a price you'd get at Wal-Mart.

Still, of all the day's outrageous developments -- and let's not forget Seattle trading future All-Star Jose Cruz Jr. to Toronto for relievers Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin -- the White Sox trade was the most disturbing.

Never has a team so close to first place given up on a season so dramatically.

On Tuesday, White Sox GM Ron Schueler declared, "We're definitely still a contender," after trading Harold Baines to the Orioles.

On Wednesday, Reinsdorf disagreed, saying "Anyone who thinks this White Sox team will catch Cleveland is crazy."

Then yesterday, after trading three pitchers, Reinsdorf said he had changed his mind.

"It's definitely not throwing in the towel on the season," Schueler said. "Some of the kids we got in the trade we've got outstanding reports on our future is not that far away."

Oh, really?

Right-hander Keith Foulke was the only player the White Sox acquired with major-league experience. The other five minor-leaguers were at Double-A or below.

"We've had 102 or 103 games to get better and we still aren't a .500 ballclub," Schueler said of the 52-53 White Sox. ".500 clubs just don't win."

Oh, really?

The Orioles were 51-52 after 103 games last season, 12 games out of first place. But owner Peter Angelos refused to allow GM Pat Gillick to trade Bobby Bonilla and David Wells, and the team rallied to earn the wild card.

Now, you can question Angelos for overruling his GM, but you can't question the commitment he made to the hundreds of thousands of fans who bought tickets for the final three months expecting to see a contender.

The White Sox don't generate the same type of advance sales -- that's one of their problems. But how can Reinsdorf face his season-ticket holders, especially when so many based their commitment on the team contending with Belle?

Once upon a time, major-league baseball had a commissioner who operated "in the best interests of the game," a commissioner who would block transactions considered harmful to the sport.

Baseball is now reduced to this question:

Where have you gone, Bowie Kuhn?

Bud Selig wouldn't dare interfere with his good friend Reinsdorf. In fact, Selig stands to benefit from this trade. He owns the Milwaukee Brewers, remember?

The commissioner's team is 2 1/2 games behind first-place Cleveland in the AL Central -- and one game ahead of the White Sox. The Indians are coming off their worst homestand since Jacobs Field opened in 1994, although they helped themselves by acquiring left-hander John Smiley from Cincinnati and right-hander Jeff Juden from Montreal.

No matter.

Reinsdorf would rather fight Donald Fehr than Sandy Alomar Jr.

Schueler claimed the White Sox didn't want to get "burned" by potential free agents the way they did last year with Alex Fernandez -- a fair enough point. Both Alvarez and Hernandez are eligible for free agency -- and Alvarez, like Fernandez, is represented by Scott Boras.

Still, Cleveland GM John Hart faced the same predicament with Kenny Lofton after losing Belle. He responded by sending Lofton and Alan Embree to Atlanta for David Justice and Marquis Grissom in spring training.

Reinsdorf also owns the five-time NBA champion Chicago Bulls, and last week he re-signed coach Phil Jackson, paving the way for a possible sixth title. Perhaps his problems in baseball stem from trying to sustain two massive payrolls. But that's too easy an excuse.

"Remember, the Pirates were [supposed] to be awful," Reinsdorf said last week. "What if we had a young club but then had [Frank] Thomas and Belle? What if the Pirates had Thomas and Belle?"

Such comments represent a fundamental inability to understand the way a successful baseball team operates -- the Pirates are the Pirates precisely because they don't have a Thomas or a Belle.

Reinsdorf doesn't get it, and he doesn't care.

The man hates baseball.

Pub Date: 8/01/97

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