James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Props to Jerry Reinsdorf, Executive Producer

That's weird. Right when I wrote the title above, "Eye in the Sky" started to play on my Yahoo Launchcast station. Except, without the intro. The intro, you may recall, was and is used in home games for Reinsdorf's Chicago Bulls to introduce the Bulls line-up, a practice that's been adopted by other teams. Although I wish they played the intro, I like the song itself, by the Alan Parsons Project. This is a level 2 coincidence; if the station played the intro, this would have been a level 4 coincidence.

Anyway, here's the subject of this post:

Duncan. Shaq. Michael. Hakeem. Isaiah. Magic. Kareem. Larry. With the exception of 2004's Pistons, and the 1983 76er team of Moses and Dr. J., I've named the names that won every NBA Championship since the 1970's.

Jerry Reinsdorf, and his longtime Bulls GM Jerry Krause, don't get much credit for the six Bulls championships of the 1990's because they inherited Michael Jordan from the previous management group. And although there's a risk of undervaluing the elements without Michael Jordan, I agree. The Bulls were the Michael Jordan Show.

Let's see if this makes sense: Harrison Ford was in Star Wars, but that was a George Lucas show. Lucas, Ford, and Steven Spielberg were all involved in the Indiana Jones movies, but that was really Ford's show. To get my drift, think of Ford's career without Indiana Jones. He was a box office draw aside from Indiana Jones, but mainly because of Indiana Jones. Then think of Spielberg's career without Indiana Jones. That omission hardly damges his resume. Star Wars was Lucas's show, the Indiana Jones movies were Ford's show, and Spielberg has several shows of his own without Ford or Lucas; his name is actually bigger than theirs.

With the Bulls, Jerry Reinsdorf was "executive producer," Krause the producer, Phil Jackson the director, and Michael Jordan the star. In basketball, you need the star to make it work.

With the White Sox, Reinsdorf is still executive producer, Ken Williams the producer, Ozzie Guillen the director. But there is no "star." Yes, Paul Konerko has top billing, and deservedly so. But no Harrison Ford, or even a Kurt Russell, in the cast.

In baseball, there are lots of stars who put up individual numbers, but it is hard to produce a star that can carry the rest of the team, that can make his teammates better and win a championship. If the Oscar and/or the box office success has to rely on an ensemble cast, then all the pieces have to be in place at the organizational end. And that begins with the executive producer.

Reinsdorf, to the extent he gets credit for the Bulls championships, is at least as deserving for blame for the years of losing up until this past season. In basketball, however, you have a small roster of players. Getting the right star and two or three supporting players will get you far regardless of the quality of the coaching staff. And often, that's a matter of luck. Houston needed a center in 1984, so they draft Hakeem. Portland had Clyde Drexler, so they didn't "need" Michael Jordan at the same position, and they drafted Sam Bowie. So Michael came to Chicago. No amount of effort or rational thinking will determine the fate of an individual, or an organization. Both Hakeem and Clyde were championship-caliber players, so Michael fell into Chicago's lap. Getting the star upon which to buld around is often a matter of luck.

The nature of the game makes it harder to assemble a championship baseball team. You can't just get the best hitter and expect to make the play-offs. It isn't about acquiring bats so much as arms - pitchers. Getting the right starting pitchers and relief pitchers will often determine whether or not the team is a winner.

The White Sox is Jerry Reinsdorf's baby. He knew that you have to assemble a good organization before you can assemble a good team. That first place and the World Series was more about everything aside from having a star player. Winning is more than lucking out and getting the best player.

What I mean to say is, when the victory relies on luck, like where the best player available ends up in a draft, the championship isn't as hard to come by as when you have to get all the pieces in place.

Which is why Reinsdorf's one White Sox World Series victory is more impressive than the six NBA Championships he won with Michael Jordan. He was the point man, the one responsible for getting the ones responsible for assembling the team that made it work. In basketball, getting the right guy to build the team around is the key to success. Baseball requires more.

In boxing, you have to credit the fighter first and after that you credit the trainer and the rest of the support staff. In football, there are so many elements required for succes that you end up crediting the staff first and only after that the talent that the staff assembled. Basketball is closer to boxing, and baseball is closer to the NFL.

Jerry Reinsdorf brought a championship baseball team to Chicago. It took a quarter century, but he did it. And that is alongside the six NBA championships he "executive produced."

The final result for Jerry Reinsdorf as Executive Producer: seven championships to Chicago in fifteen years. When he choked up upon receiving the World Series trophy, I understood. It may have seemed ugly at times, but the results are irrefuatble: Jerry Reinsdorf is the greatest winner and champion Chicago has ever seen.

1 comment:

  1. As my defending World Champion Red Sox were cast aside by the Black Sox in the ALDS, I began dreaming of a National League WS victory.

    Alas, it was not to be...

    But I think I've stumbled upon something. Teams with footwear logos have done very well recently in overcoming tragic legacies. The moral is: buy Nike stock.