A Man, a Knife, and a Throwback Jersey

“What if I told you the most intriguing story of the entire 2016 MLB season was about a man, a throwback uniform, and a knife?”

This is how I imagine ESPN’s next 30 for 30 documentary will start. (BTW, I will totally direct that documentary if anyone from ESPN happens to be reading this)

For those who do not read the news, Twitter feeds, or crappy baseball blogs, I will catch you up on the events that transpired Saturday afternoon…

The White Sox put out a statement saying that starting pitcher Chris Sale would not be making his start that afternoon and had been sent home for a “non-physical” clubhouse incident. When this came out, everyone assumed it was because he was traded and no one was supposed to be in the know yet. However, details slowly began leaking out that what happened was far more preposterous than a trade… *cue dramatic music*

In what has already been a roller coaster of a season for the Chicago White Sox, “The Chris Sale Incident” on Saturday was really not what the team needed. The southpaw ace has been in the news recently because of growing trade speculation, and his cause has not been helped by the White Sox’s record, which has been mired in mediocrity since their hot start in April and May. Sale has been long considered off the table in terms of potential trades, however, it is looking more and more likely that the Sox will have to trade him in order to get good enough prospects to continue their unofficial rebuild. As you can imagine, tension was probably rising between Sale and the White Sox before Saturday’s events even occurred.

Anyway! Not long after the White Sox put out that statement, baseball writer Tommy Stokke tweeted out that a source said Chris Sale had a blowup in the locker room over a jersey dispute.

Yes, Chris Sale threw a temper tantrum over a uniform dispute.

And much like all ridiculous baseball stories, the details of what happened only got more epic from there:

Turns out, not only did Sale have a meltdown, he actually took a knife and sliced enough of the team’s uniforms so they could not be worn for the game. The White Sox were wearing special 1976 throwback uniforms to coincide with a promotional giveaway and according to Sale and others, they are difficult and uncomfortable to pitch in. White Sox starting pitchers have generally been able to pick what uniform they wear depending on what is most comfortable (something that has been this way all season), but Sale did not get that choice because his start fell on a designated uniform day no one on the team had control over.

I personally found this blow-up to be hilarious and not entirely unexpected. The relationship between Sale and the front office has not been good this year to say the least. Sale was one of the players who was most outspoken over the whole Adam and Drake LaRoche saga in spring training, even going so far as to hang Drake LaRoche’s jersey in his locker. After LaRoche opted to retire instead of keeping his son away from spring training, Sale openly criticized the front office, VP Ken Williams in particular, and made it clear that he was not happy with how the front office handled the situation.With tensions already high between Sale and the higher ups in the organization, it is of no surprise to me that Sale had a nuclear blow-up over an event he could not change, especially given that his name has been mentioned in trade rumors.

One can only imagine how frustrating it must be for a pitcher of Sale’s caliber to hear his name come up in trade rumors. All players will tell you that they generally ignore those rumors, but when you have as contentious a relationship with your front office as Sale does, it can only fuel self-doubt about how badly your team wants and values you. I firmly believe that Sale’s uniform cutting outburst was much deeper than just having to wear uncomfortable jerseys. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that “Sale cut up throwbacks during batting practice. Upset that, in his view, PR and jersey sales were more important than winning”. This speaks directly to my point, which is that Sale is more angry at the front office than anyone else. It could also suggest that in Sale’s mind, the front office did not care about him or his comfort while he pitched. It’s a very puerile way to view things, but when you are on a spiraling team with leadership you don’t like, it is almost understandable to see why Sale acted the way he did. Almost.

However you slice it, though (pun 100% intended), it is not a good look for Sale, but it will probably not give teams interested in him any reason to reconsider a trade. The rumors are rampant that the Sox want 5-7 very good prospects for Sale, and for a price that high, most teams won’t care if they are getting an emotional pitcher who can be outspoken and prone to outbursts. All these teams will want is an ace who can help them win a championship and Sale is just the man to do it (and he has a very favorable contract as well, which really sweetens the pot for potential suitors). But with all that being said, Chris Sale needs to come out and apologize for going all Edward Scissorhands on the uniforms and apologize to his team for putting them in a tough spot. Fences will need mending, but he a respected leader in the clubhouse, so it should not be too difficult to get back in his team’s good graces.

One of the things I love most about watching Chris Sale pitch is seeing not just how great he is at his craft, but how emotionally charged he is on the mound. You know exactly what he is thinking and he is not afraid to jaw at batters and umpires. His emotion is wonderful and to be a contender, you need a bulldog on the mound every five days.

However, you don’t want the bulldog to chew up your jerseys.

Mid-Season Grades!

Lord have mercy, is the 2016 baseball season half-over already?? Ugh, working a full-time job and trying to be an adult really makes the time go by too quickly! Add in a few trips to the shore and wandering around New Jersey, I haven’t had as much time to soak in the 2016 season as I’d like. However!! I am still keeping up with all of the teams as best as I can, and I will make an attempt to give every team a mid-season grade. This could be a steaming, hot mess, but let’s try our best!

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: A-. This team is actually a very good offensive team! They are hitting home runs like crazy. The only downside is their rotation leaves little to be desired, and a high-powered offense with a poor pitching staff is a hard formula for success. They’ve pretty much had a stranglehold on the division all season and if they keep hitting like this, you will definitely see them in October.

Boston Red Sox: B+. Much to my chagrin, the Sox don’t suck nuts this year. David Ortiz is having a phenomenal final year and their offense is picking up. Sure, their pitching, save for Steven Wright, is iffy at best, but if Papi hits, like, 10 home runs a game, who needs good pitching?

New York Yankees: C-. Ugh. Ugh ugh UGH. This team is so frustrating that I want to punch a hole in the wall. The pitching has been average, the offense has been average, but the defense has actually been pretty good. Except for CC Sabathia and Didi Gregorious, this team has been boring and average. Bleck. HERE’S HOPING FOR A SECOND-HALF REBOUND.

Tampa Bay Rays: D. Did anyone else forget that the Rays were a thing this year? No? Just me? Okay.

Toronto Blue Jays: B-. As scary as this team was in the second-half of last season, they really haven’t inspired the same fear this year. They haven’t truly been a contender for the division and the most notable thing that happened this year was Jose Bautista getting punched in the face. Yes, I laughed because him getting punched was glorious. Not because I condone violence, but because I really love baseball brawls.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: B-. Had they not been sputtering so suddenly, I’d give them a higher grade. They came into April and May totally dominating the game and making people like me, who said they would not be too good, eat their words. However, as of late, they are the mediocre team we all thought they’d be. It’s a shame because it was fun having both Chicago teams rocking and rolling at the same time.

Cleveland Indians: A-. What if I told you one of the best teams in baseball was the Indians? I know, it sounds cray-cray. BUT they didn’t lose a home game in June. It was, of course, no coincidence that they were having this crazy run as the Cavs were having their crazy run. It’s good to be a Cleveland sports fan! Well, it’ll be good until football season. Good luck with the Browns, y’all…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Detroit Tigers: C+. I mean, except for Justin Verlander getting engaged to Kate Upton, I feel like the Tigers haven’t had much to talk about. Sure, they are 6 games above .500, but it doesn’t feel like it. Manager Brad Ausmus is on the hot seat and the Tigers are quite possibly going to miss the post-season. But hey, at least Verlander has a hot model to compensate for playing on an average team.

Kansas City Royals: C+. Hello? World Series Champs? Are you there? No? Okay, cool. Riding the middle of the division has been a surprising down-turn for the team that owned the game last year. Injuries have been a burden and Yordano Ventura still hasn’t figured out how to keep his anger in check. They can still very well make the post-season, but they need to stay healthy and stop beaning batters.

Minnesota Twins: F. I feel bad for all of my family in Minnesota because they have to watch this dumpster fire of a team every night. Congrats Minnesota, you have the worst team in the American League.

AL West

Houston Astros: B-. After sucking eggs during the first two months of the season, the Astros finally pulled it together in June and are now 5 games over .500. Not bad, but let’s be real: I expected a lot more from them this year. Who knows, maybe they will have a great second half of the season!

Los Angeles Angels: D-. The only reason they aren’t getting a “F” is because they signed Big Time Timmy Jim AKA Tim Lincecum and they have Mike Trout. Other than that, it’s a sad time to be a fan of the Halos. Maybe they need some real angels in the outfield to help them (I’ve always wanted to use that reference. I’ll show myself the door now).

Oakland A’s: D+. Congrats on being not completely awful! Also, congrats on not trading your entire roster yet! It’s still early, so you still have time to trade everyone, but maybe you could try not doing that this year and see what happens.

Seattle Mariners: B-. They haven’t been a sparkly, pretty team, but Robinson Cano is finally living up to his contract and making all of us Yankee fans irked that we didn’t sign him. But, I’m cool not paying him a butt-ton of money six years from now when he stops being good.

Texas Rangers: A +. The Rangers get a big, fat gold star for the first-half of the season. They have proven to be one of the best teams in baseball, and they’ve been doing it all without a ton of hoopla. It’s almost a shame that most people only know about the Rangers because Odor punched Jose Bautista in the face. But hey, if you’re going to be known for the one thing, what a great thing that is.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: F. I knew they were gonna be hot trash this year, but I didn’t think they’d be this bad. Yowza.

Miami Marlins: B-. After a horribly disappointing year last year, the Marlins actually have a formidable squad. They have intriguing story lines (Ichiro, Barry Bonds, youth out the wazoo). The only problem is that they are in the same division as the Mets and the Nationals.

New York Mets: B. The Mets have some lingering health problems with their young pitching and some other injury problems throughout their roster. They still have a winning percentage of .542, but you can’t help but wonder if this squad is fatigued from last year’s World Series run…

Philadelphia Phillies: C-. No team surprised us more than the Phillies during the first two months of the season. They were actually good! But, alas, during a full-on rebuild, all good things must come to an end sometime. The Phillies have plummeted back down to earth in a most unspectacular fashion. It was fun while it lasted, boys.

Washington Nationals: A. This team is really good. Like, really really good. Bringing in Daniel Murphy and Dusty Baker were the best (and luckiest) decisions the Nats made in the off-season. Everything is looking rosy in DC, but only if you’re looking at the baseball team. Everything else in DC is, well, ick.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: A+. Boy oh boy have the cubbies been fun to watch this year! Their team is so good and their off-the-field style might be even better. Theme flights on road trips? Yes please! I didn’t know I needed to see Jon Lester in a Miami Vice-themed outfit or the whole team wearing Rocky-style track outfits, but Joe Maddon clearly knew this was something that everyone needed to see.

Cincinnati Reds: F. Yeah…it ain’t looking so hot in the other O-H-I-O town. The Reds are just simply a terrible team who is in the thick of a rebuild. Rebuilding is never fun, but it’s especially never fun when you also have to live in Ohio. Sorry to the people who live in Ohio, but it seems like a bummer. Unless you are an Indians fan.

Milwaukee Brewers: D-. Much like the Rays, I forgot this team was playing this year. The only news you hear is about Ryan Braun, and even then, it’s fleeting news that passes you by quickly without much notice. Alas…

Pittsburg Pirates: C+/B-. I like the Pirates. They seem like good dudes and I love the way they play (except when they continuously throw at my man Paul Goldschmidt). The problem is that they have been a stunningly average team this year. You see flashes of how good they could be, but it is nowhere near enough to push them past the Almighty Cubs.

St. Louis Cardinals: B-. Somehow, the Cardinals are also a very average team this year. They are 9 games behind the Cubs in the standings and things aren’t looking normal for this perennial contender. But fear not, because they have magic voodoo Cardinal powers and will still make it to the post-season because that is just what they do. They could not even qualify for a Wild Card berth and they would somehow still make the cut.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: D+. I HATE THIS SO MUCH. Injuries, subpar performances, and overall suckitude has made for a very disappointing first half. Even when Zack Greinke started throwing like an ace, he got hurt. That seems to sum up the first half of the D-Backs season pretty well. The only true bright spot has been Jake Lamb, the young third baseman who is turning into a phenomenal player.

Colorado Rockies: C-. The only reason they are also not getting a D+ is because they have more wins than the D-Backs. They have a dreadful rotation and only a few bright spots on their roster. It’s a shame because the people of Colorado need a good baseball team to cheer for. I mean, they get to enjoy the Broncos, which is great, but you can’t play NFL football all year.

Los Angeles Dodgers: B. Considering the Dodgers pitching (aside from Clayton Kershaw) has been the equivalent of a dog turd, this team is still 10 games over .500. Their offense has been spotty, but just good enough to win games. But, sadly for the highest payroll in baseball, they must contend with the Giants in a very weak division.

San Diego Padres: D-. What’s a fun way to spend the year? Trading off every single one of your players! Hooray for a roster overhaul! But seriously, the Padres still suck and the only good thing they have going for them is that they are hosting the All-Star Game.

San Francisco Giants: A-. I hate this team so much. Honestly. I hate them more than any other team in baseball and I can’t even give them a fair shake. They’ve been really good this season and I hate that so much. It’s an even year, too, so they could lose every single remaining game and still somehow win the World Series. Gosh I hate them so much.

 

There you have it. My ill-informed, rather crap-tastic mid-season grades for every team.