Professional athletes wonder why they’re abhorred by people living in the real world, but they make it so easy sometimes. The general public is a patient lot, if you ask me. Fans tolerate ridiculous salaries players make for playing children’s games. They remain loyal despite all the repulsive behavior.
We’ve almost become numb to recreational and performance-enhancing drug use that has stained sports so many times for so many years. You have guys smacking around women or punching out cops or causing trouble in bars and countless other nauseating transgressions. In the case of Aaron Hernandez, it was murder.
Along comes Chris Sale, who didn’t physically harm anyone but confirmed why people, when they’re not fawning over their so-called heroes, view many athletes as spoiled, selfish, overpaid, entitled brats. This is hardly a news flash, but it’s all about the money for a majority of professional athletes.
In case you didn’t hear, Sale was upset because the White Sox were planning to wear their throwback uniforms from 1976 for a game Saturday against the Tigers. For some reason, he objected to the uniform change even though it had been on their promotional calendar all year.
Maybe it was because they were ugly. Or maybe they were uncomfortable. Or he thought they were messing with karma on a night Sale, who had a 14-3 record and 3.18 ERA, was scheduled to pitch. He’s one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball and a very hot commodity before the trade deadline.
None of that mattered. What did matter was Sale’s response. He retreated to the clubhouse with scissors in hand and cut several uniforms to pieces. That way, nobody on the Sox could wear them. In other words, he threw a hissy fit like some 9-year-old who didn’t like the suit his mother picked out for church.
The best part about Sale carrying on like a problem child was the White Sox, to their credit, treating him like one. They sent him home Saturday and handed down a five-day suspension Sunday. In essence, they put him in a timeout chair and would not allow him to play with his friends until he cleaned up his act.
“Chris has been suspended for violating team rules, for insubordination and for destroying team equipment,” White Sox GM Rick Hahn said in a statement Sunday. “While we all appreciate Chris’ talent and passion, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to express concerns about team rules and organizational expectations.”
It couldn’t have been easy for the White Sox, who after a 23-10 start had gone 23-40 before their game Saturday night was suspended due to rain. The White Sox didn’t need that annoyance from anyone, certainly not from their ace, and definitely not at a time they were trying to trade him.
Sale can start making amends with an apology to the White Sox and their fans. The organization should donate proceeds from his lost pay, about $250,000, to a program for the needy, turning a negative situation into a positive one. It would go a long way toward putting clothes on the backs of people who can’t afford to watch him pitch.
Chris Sale’s top priority was Chris Sale, so it was surprising that he didn’t consider the benefits of wearing the uniforms. Teams use throwback uniforms as marketing tools. The promotion helps move merchandise and generates revenue so they can continue paying guys like Chris Sale.
If the White Sox really wanted to push, they could have called the cops and pressed charges for criminal mischief. After all, he vandalized their property. But that would be counterproductive to their ultimate goal, which is getting the maximum return for him before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
The whole thing is sad for White Sox fans because the lanky left-hander is a fantastic pitcher. He had been one of the few bright spots in the past six weeks for the Sox, winning five of six decisions before his boorish behavior tarnished his reputation and confirmed suspicions he was a loose cannon.
This was the same guy who undressed Executive Vice President Kenny Williams during spring training after Adam LaRoche retired in a snit over a team rule, leaving $13 million on the table. LaRoche was upset because he was told to limit the time his 14-year-old son, Drake, spent in the clubhouse.
It was none of Sale’s business, but he felt compelled to hang an autographed uniform worn by Drake LaRoche in his locker. It fueled his agenda to irritate the organization. That was his way of thanking the White Sox for drafting him in the first round, developing him and turning him into a wealthy man.
In the real world, rules are rules. Employees adhere to them or risk being sent home or fired. Millions of people following dress codes in the real world would give the shirt off their backs to wear a big-league uniform for one day. If Sale spent any time in the real world, he would know.
Funny, but Sale didn’t have behavioral issues when he was a rookie finding his way to the big leagues and making $425,000. Oh yes, the money. It always comes back to the money, doesn’t it?
Sale is making $9.15 million this season and is set to earn $12 million in 2017. It’s a boatload of money in the real world, but for a man who finished in the top six in Cy Young voting three times in the last six years, it’s peanuts. He could fetch $25 million to $30 million per season if he were available on the open market.
I’ve been around pro sports enough to sense Sale’s real issue. It wasn’t the throwback uniforms or Adam and Drake LaRoche. His beef was with the way the White Sox do business. His contract also includes two years in which his team has the option to pay him $12.5 million in 2017 and $13 million in 2018.
If they were making a decision based strictly on baseball, the White Sox would keep him. That’s not the case. Sale knows he’s grossly underpaid, so he’s doing what children do when they’re unhappy. He’s pouting. He’s causing trouble. He’s becoming a nuisance in an effort to get his way. He wants the White Sox to trade him.
For all involved, it comes down to two words: For Sale.