GLENDALE, Ariz – Chris Sale walked into the White Sox clubhouse Friday morning and fired away.
At his boss, Sox vice president Ken Williams.
In a scathing 15-minute standup before a large contingent of Chicago and national media on hand to cover the Adam LaRoche saga, Sale – who verbally tore into Williams at a team meeting Tuesday — said Williams lied to the team and sent what had been a crisp, upbeat spring training camp riding off the rails. And oh, Sale also said Williams’ actions will scare potential free agents away.
“Lying, plain and simple,’’ Sale said. “We got bald-faced lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust.’’
The respected ace of the pitching staff and face of the franchise, Sale was lived Tuesday after LaRoche announced he was retiring due to Williams’ changed view on the agreement to allow LaRoche’s son Drake in the clubhouse. What set Sale off? A story from the VP that didn’t add up.
“You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches [who wanted less of Drake] and tell the coaches it’s the players and then come in and say something completely different,’’ Sale said.
LaRoche also disputed Williams’ version of events in statement issued via his twitter account Friday afternoon, saying he’s walking away because Williams isn’t honoring an agreement the Sox made when he signed as a free agent.
“The 2015 season presented no problems as far as Drake was concerned. (My bat and our record are another story!),” LaRoche said.
“With all of this in mind, we move toward the current situation which arose after White Sox VP Ken Williams recently advised me to significantly scale back the time that my son spent in the clubhouse. Later, I was told not to bring him to the ballpark at all.’’
The Sox, rallying around a teammate, his .207 average and 12 homers while earning $12 million last season notwithstanding, held a sit-in during morning workout hours and wanted to boycott Wednesday’s game against the Brewers.
“Somebody walked out those doors the other day and it was the wrong guy, plain and simple,’’ Sale said.
Shortly after Sale’s rant, Sox media relations personnel handed out the first of two statements around the press room at the Sox spring training facility: “While I disagree with Chris’ assertions today,” Williams said, “I certainly have always appreciated his passion.”
With an intrigued and impassioned audience watching the Sox from around the world – the LaRoche and son story went international this week – chairman Jerry Reinsdorf issued his statement shortly after Williams, asking people in his organization to refrain from comment until he gets clarity. Sale said the players want clarity from Reinsdorf, who is expected to meet with the team soon.
“This is an internal issue, and we are in the process of holding a number of discussions with players, staff and the front office,” Reinsdorf said.
“I have instructed members of the organization not to talk about this issue and get our focus back on winning baseball games.’’
Coming off three losing seasons, the Sox’ focus seemed to be where it needed to be. They were having a very good camp.
“We’re a steam engine going full steam ahead, and [this] kind of derailed it,’’ Sale said. “We had some positive energy going. There was absolutely no problem in here whatsoever with anyone, and he [Williams] kind of created a problem.”
Sale said manager Robin Ventura was handling the LaRoche and son arrangement as it should have been. “When it comes to what goes on in the clubhouse, the right person has to handle that, and that’s Robin,’’ Sale said.
“He’s the top, he’s the leader of this clubhouse ultimately, and if there’s something that needs to be said in here, he can say it. And it’s taken with respect, because he’s fighting with us. And quite honestly, he has taken heat for us before that he doesn’t deserve. So we have faith in him and we trust him.
“He’s leading the charge. We just don’t have room for outside distractions.’’