Sep 2, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf stands on the sidelines before a baseball game against Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox finished the 2023 season with a 61-101 record.

It was the franchise’s 123rd season of playing Major League Baseball and the fifth season with more than 100 losses.

In August, it became evident that it was a lost season. The team fired general manager Rick Hahn and longtime executive vice president Kenny Williams.

Somehow, the offseason has made the on-field struggles look incredibly minor. It all comes down to one common denominator: Owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

Reinsdorf, who purchased the team in 1981, repeatedly went out of his way to show White Sox fans that he’s not committed to the team’s success.

The offseason started on a sour note. In November, play-by-play man Jason Benetti announced that he would leave the White Sox to take the same position as the Detroit Tigers. It later came out that part of the reasoning had to do with a team executive making an inappropriate remark towards Benetti, who has cerebral palsy.

Benetti is incredibly well-respected by peers and fans alike. He and White Sox color commentator Steve Stone finished sixth in Awful Announcing’s 2023 MLB announcer rankings. Stone gave Benetti a touching sendoff on X shortly after the news broke.

The broadcast took team another hit this week. Jeff Agrest of the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday that Christopher Kamka would be jumping ship and joining Marquee Sports Network and the Chicago Cubs. Kamka was a huge asset to White Sox broadcasts. His official title was associate producer, but he was best known for digging up all kinds of interesting stat nuggets about the team, both current and historical.

Kamka’s X account is one of the most popular in the league during baseball season. Fans always looked forward to the #SoxMath segment of each broadcast when Kamka would turn certain stats or figures into a math problem. The first fan to answer correctly via X would receive a shoutout on the broadcast.

It’s hard to overstate how much of an impact it will have on fans when two of the central pieces of the broadcast are no longer around, especially when the team likely won’t be much better than last season.

Two MLB teams have never given a player a $100 million contract. The White Sox, and the constantly-fledging Oakland Athletics. That didn’t change this offseason, as the team primarily signed role players and depth pieces. They seemingly have made it clear that they don’t intend to compete again.

Now, for the second time in 35 years, Reinsdorf is seeking public funding to get the team a new stadium.

In the 1980s, Reinsdorf insisted the White Sox needed a new stadium to replace the aging Comiskey Park. Instead of paying for the stadium with his funds, the billionaire took to asking the state of Illinois to provide a package of incentives to fund the new park. The state originally balked, but Governor James Thompson folded after Reinsdorf threatened (he was allegedly bluffing) to move the team to Tampa. Not only did the state provide a package of incentives, but it allowed Reinsdorf to keep all parking, concession, and luxury suite revenue from the New Comiskey Park, which opened in 1991.

This offseason, Reinsdorf has been at it again. The “new” stadium, now called Guaranteed Rate Field, is apparently no longer suitable for the owner and his team. He has threatened relocation if he doesn’t get public funding. First, he took a meeting in December with the mayor of Nashville, a long-rumored MLB expansion city.

This was seemingly another bluff. Reinsdorf has since offered to keep the team in Chicago but still would like a new stadium, preferably in Chicago’s South Loop. According to Crain’s Business Chicago, he’s seeking two billion dollars to develop a stadium and surrounding entertainment district. Reinsdorf met with Illinois lawmakers in Springfield but has not yet had a meeting with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. Earlier in February, Pritzker said that the state “needs to be careful about how we use public dollars.” Along with “taxpayer dollars are precious.”

Reinsdorf has plenty of leverage, though. If Pritzker decides against public funding for the stadium, Reinsdorf will inevitably once again float Nashville as a possibility. You never want to see a city lose a professional sports team. Reinsdorf knows this. So does Pritzker.

In 2005, the White Sox won the World Series. They’ve finished in the top 10 of MLB attendance just once since then, in 2006. The team regularly finds itself near the bottom of the list with the likes of Oakland and Tampa Bay.

It’s always been tough for the White Sox, who have been seen as a “little brother” to the crosstown Cubs. This is largely due to the Cubs being on national TV for decades before streaming and satellite existed, thanks to the WGN Superstation airing their games (the White Sox also had games on WGN but far fewer) and cultivating a national fanbase. But apathy within the White Sox fanbase has also started to show itself.

Instead of being handed public funds yet again, it would be easier for all if Reinsdorf sold the team, and a new owner could get in there and have a fresh start.

[Steve Stone, Jeff Agrest, Crain’s Chicago, ABC 7 Chicago]