Given some time to calm down after the decidedly un-calm actions of destroying throwback jerseys with a knife, Chris Sale sounded mostly reasonable in an interview with Scott Merkin. He said he wanted to remain with the White Sox, that his desire for winning grows stronger the longer he plays. He apologized to the fans who came to see him pitch, and the bullpen for taking on the workload when he was sent home.
All sensible stuff...
.. that will be largely ignored because of this power play against Robin Ventura:
"Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department," Sale said. "If the players don't feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix -- it was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that's when I lost it."
"Robin is the one who has to fight for us" is the quote that’s drawing all the attention, but "It was as easy..." is underrated, because he sounds like somebody who shot a hostage. Add them together, and it reflects poorly on everybody.
First off, I’m going to google "chris sale" and "it’s a business" and see what comes up, because every baseball player worth quoting has said it. From this year alone:
- "I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a business."
- "It is what it is. It’s a business."
- "I understand it’s a business. The farther you get away from Little League the more it becomes a business. You get it. You understand it. It doesn’t soften the blow at all."
Beyond the Jon Stewartesque gotcha, Sale’s attempt at high-mindedness rings hollow because his absence is the primary reason why Matt Albers was the guy trying and failing to close out Monday’s game against the Cubs. His suspension forced the bullpen to pick up nine innings one game after Jacob Turner’s early exit, and a string of close games has them running on fumes. It’s hard to play the "winning first" card when you don’t regret the actions that made winning a lot harder on everybody else for multiple days.
The other point Sale made — that the jerseys might have thrown off his mechanics -- is the better one to rally around, because his pitching is susceptible to outside factors. Framing it as a workplace safety issue puts it on Ventura without saying so, which is probably the way to do it. When he has to put it into words, the argument boils down to, "He isn’t allowed to tell me ‘no.’"
That’s the path he’s chosen, though, and the ramifications should be fascinating. Sale maintains that he doesn’t want to be traded, and he’s certainly made it harder to deal him — not just because teams might try to capitalize on the strife and lowball Rick Hahn, but because Hahn would then be the guy who chose Ventura over Sale when Sale is far better at what he’s asked to do.
But Sale also made it difficult to fire Ventura before the end of his contractual obligations because canning a manager after a player attempted to undermine him sets a poor precedent. That needs to be kept in mind, because this won’t be the last of it. Sale already tested his boundaries once after Adam LaRoche left the team, and this particular squad might be wired to sense injustice more than others.
Last week, the White Sox left Seattle without tipping the visiting clubhouse attendant as a protest for the new team policy that takes control of a healthy cut of the money. Other teams had argued with the Mariners about the policy, but the Sox are reportedly the first to withhold money until the Mariners revert to the traditional arrangement.
The combination of events made Dave Brown wonder if the White Sox have the most woke (wokest?) clubhouse in sports in an article at Vice:
The White Sox were righteously lampooned for how they complained about how upper management dealt with the presence of Drake LaRoche, the young son of former slugger Adam LaRoche. But the root of the disagreement was about control, and the players saw management overstepping its bounds when it came to clubhouse practices — a domain widely considered to be the responsibility of the players and manager.
The same thing goes for the Sale's uniform-cutting tantrum, an amusing if not acceptable response by Sale to the team dictating the players wear throwback jerseys that Sale found uncomfortable. Players, owners, they're all getting rich. What's left is all about control.
Dan Hayes followed up by asking Adam Eaton about the stances the team has taken this year, and he has no regrets:
"It’s just the way things have been ran and how things have been, with the instance of Adam LaRoche, the kid coming into the clubhouse -- I thought we got a lot of support with all kinds of guys putting pictures up online of them and their kid being in the clubhouse. With the Seattle thing, the other 29 teams are doing it. Sale’s a little bit off the radar -- I kind of like it.
"We feel strongly about something we’ll do something about it."
There’s a chance that Sale’s act of defiance sits well with his teammates, although Eaton’s a tough guy to base conclusions off. Eaton’s attachment to Drake LaRoche was absurd, but his defense of clubbies is eloquent. One can neither accept nor reject his conclusions as a barometer for sensibilities, which makes me again wish that Chicago baseball had a Spanish-speaking reporter.
(I also want somebody to ask Tyler Saladino about it, because the was the biggest fan of the 1976 uniforms.)
My sense is that there’s a line running through the players’ actions, some of which are noble, and others that are dying on mountains that used to be molehills. With the next CBA under negotiation, it’s best for labor to remain vigilant against slights, even if some are more perceived than real. The players have ceded an increasing amount of ground to the owners, and public pressure doesn’t favor them.
In this context, there’s probably a way Sale could have successfully protested the uniforms, but he definitely chose the most severe route, one that risks attracting a "coach-killer" label over a manager who isn’t going to be coming back (he can’t be coming back, right).
Shortly after Merkin broke Sale questioning Ventura’s fitness, Ventura tried closing out a game with two innings of Albers. Ventura’s record, or lack thereof, should speak for itself. The losses are one thing, but Sale’s explosion gave the Sox their second national incident of the year, which doesn’t happen when a manager has control of the situation.
That's why Sale's statement seems unnecessary. At this point, we already know the emperor had no clothes. Now Sale’s taking it a step further by commenting on his manhood.