No fire Sale: White Sox likely won’t slash price for star lefty
Shortly after learning that Chris Sale had turned into Edward Scissorhands, a rival executive texted, "Sale is available."
Not available to pitch — the White Sox scratched Sale from his start Saturday and sent him home due to a "clubhouse incident before the game . . . non-physical in nature."
No, available in trade.
The executive was half-joking, but I’m not sure that one of the great clubhouse fits in recent memory — exceeding even Sale’s profanity-laced turn in L’Affaire LaRoche — will make him any more likely to be moved.
A former teammate of Sale’s told me that he planned to reach out to the pitcher and tell him that he needed to chill and recognize that such behavior was inappropriate.
I would not be surprised if Sale apologized, seeing as how his conduct might be considered in violation of the Uniform Player Contract. His clubhouse outburst was his second in just over four months, and this time White Sox executive vice-president Ken Williams was not the heavy.
Sale, 27, cut up throwback jerseys during batting practice Saturday because the team rejected his request not to wear them, according to major-league sources. The incident, first reported by Tommy Stokke of FanRag Sports, stemmed from Sale’s contention that the jerseys made him uncomfortable, and escalated when the White Sox would not relent, sources said.
Sale, of course, also was prominent in the White Sox’s near-revolt in spring training over the team’s refusal to allow Adam LaRoche’s son, Drake, to remain a consistent presence in the clubhouse. That conflict was a deep intellectual exercise compared to this one.
Is Sale a player who wants out? Maybe. But he does not control the process; the White Sox do. And the team, according to multiple reports, wants five top young players for its ace left-hander, who started the All-Star Game and will earn $38 million between 2017 and ’19 if his two club options are exercised — a bargain rate if ever there was one.
The White Sox eventually might come off their demands, but they’re not going to cave and they need not hurry. Indeed, numerous executives have told me in recent days that the market for Sale might be even better in the offseason, when the White Sox could involve more clubs.
So, chances are, Sale is stuck. And while some will relate to the way he responded to a perceived injustice — in Sale’s view, the White Sox placed a greater emphasis on public relations and jersey sales, sources said — the incident is a blow to his reputation, not a badge of honor.
Yes, Sale and other White Sox starters often pick their uniforms, sources said, but Sale earlier this season pitched in Detroit in a special blue uniform at the request of the Tigers. Saturday’s promotion — "1976 navy blue throwback jerseys" — was on the White Sox’s calendar all year, and tied to a giveaway. Sale knew which day he was pitching. This should not have snuck up on him.
The Uniform Player Contract states, "In addition to his services in connection with the actual playing of baseball, the Player agrees to cooperate with the Club and participate in any and all reasonable promotional activities of the Club and Major League Baseball, which, in the opinion of the Club, will promote the welfare of the Club or professional baseball . . ."
Wearing a throwback jersey, uncomfortable or not, certainly qualifies as a "reasonable promotional activity." And FS1’s Tom Verducci definitely had a point Saturday when he said that Sale committed insubordination, and does not get to set workplace rules.
Sale is a wonderful pitcher and congenial guy, even if he seems to have an ornery side reminiscent of another tall and gifted left-hander, Randy Johnson. Rest assured, interested teams will not want him any less because of Saturday’s shenanigans. Those teams can rationalize that the White Sox’s culture is dysfunctional and that Sale simply needs to be in a different environment — and they might be right.
Still, does Sale want to be known as a hothead who can snap at a moment’s notice, even if he’s highly regarded in his own clubhouse? I doubt it. Apologizing makes sense. Apologizing would take the edge off the incident. Apologizing, if Sale wants out — and there is no indication that he does — would only help.
He’s Chris Sale, not Edward Scissorhands, right?