Two things are true:
— The White Sox’ 1976 collared jerseys were, are and always will be hideous.
— Chris Sale’s standard fashion statement should include a bib, a rattle and a blankie.
Any hopes that the Sox’ ace might have finally grown up were put to rest Saturday, laid unceremoniously upon a pile of tattered uniforms. This time, his petulance was directed at the ’76 throwback jerseys the team was scheduled to wear that night as part of a promotional campaign. Sale, set to start against the Tigers, didn’t like them and reportedly let his displeasure be known via a sharp object – scissors, scythe, Bowie knife, who knows? No one involved is saying, but according to reports, he destroyed his and some teammates’ jerseys.
I think we’ve all been there. You don’t like something in the workplace, you cut it to ribbons. It’s why I always carry a pair of scissors. And a blowtorch.
Man’s eternal search for the bizarre, for the freakiest of freak shows, has finally ended. On Sunday, the Sox suspended Sale for five days, retroactive to his Saturday snip-fit. That’s correct: A baseball team had to suspend a 27-year-old baseball player for cutting up uniforms he didn’t like.
Sale’s behavior was more suited to that of a six-year-old, and if six-year-olds were to rise up in tiny-fisted protest at that characterization, it would be totally understandable. Whatever Sale’s motivation was for his actions, it was dwarfed by his selfishness. The Sox sent him home before Saturday’s game, depriving a struggling team of having perhaps the best pitcher in baseball on the mound that night. In the process, he taxed a bullpen that didn’t need taxing. And who cares about the fans who came to watch him?
The Sox chalked up the incident to Sale’s intensity, saying the same fire that makes him a phenomenal pitcher made him slash the uniforms. He’s a leader, they insist.
If this is leadership, then Billy or Timmy for president!
The details of the incident are very hush-hush because of the “sanctity of what goes on in a big-league clubhouse,’’ according to general manager Rick Hahn. How sacred could a place be if it’s where teammates’ uniforms are shredded, leading to the suspension of the team’s best player?
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Lourdes. The White Sox clubhouse. You know, sacred places.
The causes Sale chooses to chain himself to are of the head-shaking variety. This time, it was an ugly, apparently uncomfortable jersey he was asked to wear once a season. During spring training, it was Adam LaRoche’s son who got the benefit of the pitcher’s righteousness. Sale ripped vice president Ken Williams for a lack of transparency about why a 14-year-old kid shouldn’t be allowed in the Sox’ clubhouse all the time. (One extremely sheer hint: Because no father should be able to bring his child to work with him on a regular basis.)
Last season, after being one of the players ejected for a brawl with the Royals, Sale went to the Kansas City clubhouse, looking to continue the fight. He was stopped at the door. You’ve heard of the Napoleon complex, the need for vertically challenged people to prove themselves? Maybe what we’re seeing here is a skinny person’s need to assert himself in all sorts of strange ways.
Hahn went out of his way Sunday to say that the latest incident does nothing to alter the fact that Sale is a great pitcher. This is true, but whether Hahn was saying so because he was concerned that the uniform-cutting event might scare teams away from trade talks is unknown.
We also don’t know if Sale is simply trying to get himself traded. He hasn’t talked publicly about the incident yet. He wasn’t at The Cell on Sunday and won’t be eligible to pitch again until Thursday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Somehow, he has gotten it into his head that “acceptable behavior’’ has very broad borders. And, somehow, the Sox have allowed him to get away with his temper tantrums for years. It might seem like a small price to pay for greatness, but it doesn’t make the forehead slapping any more enjoyable. I wouldn’t trade him, but I do understand the impulse to start over.
I’ve complained for years about how boring the Sox are. This isn’t what I had in mind as an antidote.
The Sale situation has led to enough “cut’’ or “slice’’ puns to fill a stadium with groans. One media member innocently prefaced a question to manager Robin Ventura on Sunday with, “The old saw is that veterans are given more leeway …’’ and I thought, “Old saw — good one!”
But this really isn’t about cut-up uniforms. This is about a guy with immaturity issues.
Teammates, beware: If you pat Sale on the back for being true to his principles, make sure you stand back. He might burp.