Jack McDowell was a No. 1 pick and a budding staff ace for the White Sox when he joined the team in 1987 at age 21.
The headstrong McDowell had all the makings of greatness and would go on to prove it in a 12-year career, seven of them with the Sox.
But after 26 starts with a 5-10 record and a 3.97 ERA in 1988, the 23-year-old right-hander spent the 1989 season in the minors.
Manager Jeff Torborg and general manager Larry Hines dealt with the petulant side of young McDowell when they dispatched him to the minors, where he learned there is more to the game than what takes place on the mound.
It’s not that easy for the Sox’ hierarchy with their latest headstrong ace, Chris Sale.
Sale, now 27 and a five-time All-Star, had a tantrum Saturday over wearing a 1976 replica uniform for his start against the Tigers. Sale reportedly ripped up all the throwback jerseys, an action that led to his dismissal that night and a five-game suspension Sunday.
In announcing the punishment, general manager Rick Hahn acknowledged the matter was a disturbing distraction, but he added it would not influence any decision the club might make about Sale’s trade status.
“The actions of the last 24 hours do not change in any aspect, any respect our belief that Chris Sale can help this club win a championship and win multiple championships,’’ he said. “It does not move the needle one iota in terms of his value to this club, his value to any other club that may be interested in his services or the likelihood of him being moved or kept whatsoever.’’
Hahn said Sale gave him no indication he wants to be traded. Sale also showed no contrition for his actions.
“Part of what makes Chris great, part of what makes him elite, is his passion and commitment,’’ Hahn said. “When he believes he’s right, he goes full bore.’’
Yet, that attitude left manager Robin Ventura and Sale’s teammates in a bind, though they avoided saying as much the next day.
“It was a tough day [Saturday], and I just felt the guys did a nice job of being able to fill in,’’ Ventura said. “It’s nothing that can’t be smoothed over.”
However, Ventura might well be the one who suffers the greatest personal indignity. He was left with a depleted relief corps against a division rival Sunday and for a high-charged four-game series against the Cubs that begins Monday.
Hahn said it will be up to Sale as to how he addresses Ventura and teammates upon his return Thursday, when he would be eligible to pitch the final game of the Cubs series at Wrigley Field.
But Hahn made a candid admission in talking about how past outbursts by Sale were handled, including in spring training, when Sale had words with vice president Ken Williams over curtailed clubhouse access for Adam LaRoche’s son, Drake.
“We had the opportunity to -discipline him back in spring, and as an organization we decided to not do that,’’ Hahn said. “[Saturday] crossed a different line. We felt it was appropriate to take disciplinary action.’’
Revenue might be part of the reason.
“This was an organizational effort to put on a specific [promotion] night,’’ Hahn said. “It wasn’t just a decision of one individual that we are going to have this throwback. It’s something that most every organization does. We did it with these uniforms last year.’’
Hahn said players were remeasured in the spring for a better-fitting version of the uniform.
“It’s not just the baseball department,” he said. “It ranges from marketing to throughout the entire organization that are all together trying to put the organization in the best position to win a championship. Part of the element of being in the position to win a championship is the revenue side of the operation and respect for their reasonable request to help enhance the revenue.’’
Whatever Sale might lack in respect, his athletic abilities remain his shield.
“Chris Sale two days ago as well as today is every bit the Cy Young pitcher now that he was then,’’ Hahn said. “It doesn’t change our view of his elite caliber with the possibility to help us or any other club win a championship.’’
Follow me on Twitter @toniginnetti.