When I first heard what Chris Sale had done, I didn’t know whether to slap him or shake his hand.
In one mad flurry of weekend insanity the Chicago White Sox’s ace pitcher had nominated himself as the worst kind of petty, putulant, pampered, tone-deaf professional athlete — while at the same time unintentionally making a rather sharp point about a sports trend gone overboard.
Saturday he transmogrified into enraged fashion critic Christopher Scissorhands, destroying his and many other of the team’s 1976 “throwback” jerseys the Sox had planned to wear that night. Instead they had to pivot and wear 1983 throwbacks. Sale, who had been scheduled to start, was sent home.
Sunday he was suspended five games by the team, meaning the left-handed vandal would be eligible to pitch again Thursday. The suspension will cost Sale $250,000 of his $9.15 million salary. Also he was fined $12,500 for the cost of the unis he butchered to rags.
The gut reaction is to marvel at the insubordinate gall of any athlete who would do that. Or the mental state, perhaps. I mean, what kind of emotional high wire are you teetering on to see slashing scissors as a reasonable reaction to your team’s sartorial choice?
I could hear a million sports fans all over the country shaking heads and saying something to the effect, “You pay me $9.15 million a year for playing in 35 games and I’ll take the mound wearing fluorescent orange leotards or a wedding dress if you ask me to.”
Sale’s pique relegates to second place on the season’s White Sox dysfunction list the sudden spring training retirement of Adam LaRoche after the team told him his son was in the clubhouse too much.
These are the same White Sox who started the season 23-10 but have since gone 25-40 to cascade from the AL playoff chase.
Sale’s spasm of derangement is only defensible as a statement against sports’ growing trend of throwback and other alternative jerseys. The anti-throwback movement finally has a face, and it is Sale’s scowling mug.
Enough with this parade of decades-old uniform looks, most of which were hideous and have not aged well. That includes the ’76 White Sox unis with that ridiculous collared jersey. Nobody needs to see the Pittsburgh Steelers stepping out of the 1940s or the Miami Heat in the pastels of the ABA Floridians circa 1971. Camouflage uniforms? Hide them. Forever.
Redesigned uniforms, throwback uniforms, alternate uniforms and different colors are done for one reason only: Money. It isn’t to honor a franchise’s heritage. It’s to move new merchandise, which fan-consumers flock to like lemmings or Pavlov’s dogs. You want to honor your heritage, teams? Do it with a video montage or a halftime ceremony, not by making your current players dress like clowns.
One last thing about Christopher Scissorhands: Laugh out loud at the notion that Sale, who it’s rumored may be available for acquisition this week before MLB’s Aug. 1 trade deadline, has seen his trade value take a hit because of this controversy.
Sure. Right. Just like teams including the victorious Cubs stopped lining up to get Aroldis Chapman because he was charged with choking his girlfriend and fired a gun eight times in a domestic incident that got him suspended for 30 games.
What Sale did is close to serendipitous fun compared to the trouble most athletes get into. He’s a 27-year-old lefty ace with a 14-3 record. He started this year’s All-Star Game. He might win the Cy Young Award. Any team that needs a starting pitcher and will swallow that salary — and the Miami Marlins are a big yea on the first part, nay on the second — should be jockeying for position to get to Sale this week.
For every team scared off by Sale’s emotional outburst, there will be two whose contract offer includes a lifetime supply of scissors.