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Reinsdorf: White Sox have more to spend to improve team

Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf chats with Paul Konerko before game last season. | Sun-Times Media

Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf chats with Paul Konerko before a game last season. | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 18, 2013 6:51AM

If the White Sox worst season since 1970 was tough on you, how difficult was it on those who had to watch every game – like chairman Jerry Reinsdorf?

The 2013 season may have been Reinsdorf’s worst experience as the Sox boss because expectations were fairly high coming off a season in which the Sox were in contention until the last week.

“Losing is not fun,” Reinsdorf said Saturday during an interview with WSCR-AM (670). “I know the fans don’t like it, but they don’t have to watch it every day. I have to watch it every day. I don’t like watching bad teams.”

Reinsdorf was around U.S. Cellular Field during the season but he kept a low public profile, granting limited interviews and leaving others to discuss White Sox business.

He said he doesn’t know if Paul Konerko wants to play another year, and he said the Sox, while building beyond 2014, are taking steps to be competitive right away. He said general manager Rick Hahn has more to spend in free agency if he sees fit.

“I think the trade for [Avisail] Garcia and [$68 million] signing of [Jose] Abreu certainly is a statement that we’re not ripping it apart and trying to get bad before we get good,” Reinsdorf said. “I think that’s certainly a statement that we want to immediately be better than we were last year. On the other hand, better than last year still isn’t saying much. But we’re trying to get this thing better not stripping it down. I think that’s the message that we sent. We’re spending a lot of money on this fella (Abreu). He’s 27 and he should be able to contribute a long time. We’re expecting him to contribute in 2014.”

The Sox, who trimmed significantly from last season’s payroll by trading Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, among others, have increased their budget for the draft and international signings to $15 million. But Hahn and vice president Ken Williams have plenty to spend on free agents or players acquired in trades, Reinsdorf said.

“They have a number that they can spend, and they’re not at it yet,” Reinsdorf said. “They are well below the budgeted number that we can afford to spend this year. If they have a player that’s going to increase the payroll, as long as it fits in the budget they can do it.”

Whether Paul Konerko fits in the Sox plan, Reinsdorf said, is up to Konerko. Reinsdorf did not say if he has spoken to Konerko as he contemplates whether to return for one more year.

“I have no idea. It’s truly Paul’s option,” Reinsdorf said. “He’s earned the right to come back if he wants to come back. He’s been the most popular player in the last 15 years that we’ve had. He’s only had a handful of at-bats in a Cincinnati uniform, so he’s basically a White Sox lifer. He’s a terrific teammate. He’s our captain. He just has to make a decision whether he wants to come back or not.

“I think White Sox fans would want Paul back in any role. I don’t believe Paul would want to come back unless he felt he could contribute to the team.”

Konerko’s subpar production was one of many reasons why the Sox lost 99 games in a season Reinsdorf is still coming to grips with.

“Actually I don’t think I dealt with it,” Reinsdorf said. “I’m still trying to deal with it. I keep thinking maybe I’ll wake up and it was just a bad dream. It was just an unexpected year.

“It caught me by surprise; it caught everybody by surprise.”

Reinsdorf also said he has no current designs on stepping away from his role as chairman, although “you can never say never.”

“As long as I have my health and my marbles I’d like to keep doing this but you never know. You never know what could happen. But I have no present intention to do it. As long as I’m able to do it, I’m enjoyng it and I would like to keep doing it.”

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