“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.