Sale Remembers Chicago With No Regrets

Now the Red Sox's ace, Chris Sale reflected fondly on his time in Chicago.

Bruce Levine
August 31, 2018 - 5:58 pm
Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale

Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- He has been gone for two seasons, but in certain ways, Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale will always have a place in his heart for the White Sox and Chicago. 

Sale feels the same way about the team and city that welcomed him into the big leagues back in 2010. Chicago still feels like home.

"It would be hard not to feel that way," Sale said Friday as the Red Sox were in town to face the White Sox. "This is where I got my first taste of pro baseball and the big leagues. It is great to see old friends and familiar faces. My wife, oldest son and I went around today going to all the places and parks we went to. We enjoyed the nostalgia of it all."

Sale had a quick ascension, being a first-round pick in 2009 and reaching the big leagues in 2010. Soon, dominance was a part of what he brought to the team every five days.  

His seven years in Chicago weren't always smooth. The sometimes irascible and often cantankerous Sale has mellowed somewhat from the individual who proposed a team-wide mutiny in the 2016 spring training after Adam LaRoche's 14-year-old son was banned from the clubhouse by executive vice president of baseball operations Kenny Williams.  

The infamous uniform trashing incident followed late that summer, as Sale literally cut up the entire team's uniforms that were made out of military fatigue-style patterns. He was suspended for five games and during that time gave a no-confidence vote to lame-duck manager Robin Ventura. In an MLB.com story by Scott Merkin, Sale expressed his belief that Ventura didn't have the players' backs when it came to full support.

The White Sox traded Sale to the Red Sox in December 2016 in a deal that netted them baseball's top prospect in Yoan Moncada and star pitching prospect Michael Kopech, who starts against Boston at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday night.

Despite the difficulties and adversity during his time in Chicago, Sale holds no grudges or regrets.

"Everything happens for a reason," Sale said. "You go through good times and bad times. That happens to everybody. Every new situation you are in brings a new challenge. It also brings a new opportunity. That brings a platform to learn from. For me to say I would like to go back and change something would mean I want something different to happen now. That is just not the case."

Despite some distractions, Sale was a superb performer who represented the White Sox every seasona from 2012-'16. He has continued his excellence with Boston, as his 6.5 WAR in 2018 is the best of any pitcher in baseball. Sale is currently fighting his way back from shoulder soreness that has him on the disabled list for the second time in 30 days.

If ever a strength was a weakness, it would be the Sale's ability to strike out too many batters. That great ability to blow away hitters has worked against him in September almost every year except 2016. During that year, Sale and pitching coach Don Cooper devised a plan to pitch to contact in early counts. He logged a career-high 226 2/3 innings in 2016.

"We have had a plan here since spring training," Sale said about maintaining his strength. "That was a plan to save some things long before this injury."

White Sox fans are still near and dear to Sale's heart despite the fact that sellouts were few and far between during his Chicago tenure. He now pitches in front of sellouts of 37,000 every start at Fenway Park.

"I will not sit here and nitpick at stuff like that," Sale said. "As players, we do feed off the energy of fans at the ballpark. Let's be honest, half the battle is for us to go out there and win games so they will show up. We were not always pleased with our results. 

"The Sox are right where they need to be with a lot of great young talent coming. I will say this about White Sox fans -- the true diehards and faithful generational fans are as diehard as any fans out there. They still reach out and really those fans are as good as any."

Sale maintains he has no bad feelings about the White Sox front office and disputed my assertion that there were some massive disagreements. He was then asked if he could come back as a free agent in two years.  

"Listen, I couldn't tell you what I am having for lunch tomorrow," Sale said with a big smile. "I sure don't know what will happen two years from now. We will see."

"Look, there were certainly some outlying incidents (with White Sox management). I was there for six full (years) and a part of a seventh. Are we talking about maybe three things? OK, let's say once a year. I fought with my best friend more than once a year. Everyone likes to remember the bad. 

"Those things happened and I learned from those situations. I would like to think I became better because of all of that."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.​