On Monday, all will seem right with the world. Across the country, teams will embark on what they hope will be a seven month journey to a championship. Stands will be filled. Kids will miss class to be with their parents as they catch their first glimpse of their team. The smell of peanuts will be in the air and optimism will fill everyone’s minds. On the Southside of Chicago, Chris Sale will jog out to the mound and begin his warm up tosses. Chicago White Sox fans will be in awe as they watch their new face of the franchise begin his to take part in his second Opening Day start. The 24-year-old will end his pregame routine and toe the rubber. As his lanky arm effortlessly tosses a 90-something MPH fastball towards the plate, the White Sox’ season will officially begin.
It is not a surprise that most experts pick the White Sox to finish in either four or fifth in the American League Central. With so many question marks entering the season, it is difficult to find much to get excited about. Sure fans will come out to witness the dynamic duo of Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu as they make US Cellular Field look like a little league ballpark. People will pay their respects to Paul Konerko during his final season. But once the dog days of summer come along, if the White Sox are out of contention, attendance will falter. The optimism that surrounds the season will be long gone. The trade deadline will come rolling around and the lockers of departing players will be cleaned out. While 2014 may be looked back on as just another rebuilding season, it also will be thought of as the year people stopped doubting Chris Sale.
Entering 2013, people believed that Sale would not be able to capitalize on his impressive 2012. Experts thought that Sale’s funky motion and stick-like frame would lead to arm problems that would limit his number of innings. Sale pitched 22 more innings in 2013 than 2012 while having an almost identical ERA (3.05 in ’12 and 3.07 in ’13) and lowering his WHIP from 1.14 to 1.07. He even led the league in complete games with four. Clearly he took a giant leap forward last season instead of regressing in his development.
Throughout the course of the 99 loss season, the White Sox’ brass realized that what they thought they had in Sale was real. He was given the title of ace as he held his own in matchups against opposing aces. When the list of trade pieces seemed like it included everyone on the roster, rumors surfaced that Sale would be dealt. With a team-friendly contract that only pays him around $32 million over the next four years, the two-time All-Star was drawing heavy interest. General manager Rick Hahn assured White Sox nation that their ace was not going anywhere.
Every fifth day, no matter what the Sox’ record is, Sale will jog out to the mound and prepare to tackle the challenge that sits before him. In a season without much optimism surrounding it for the Sox, watching Sale masterfully dominate hitters will bring a smile to fans’ faces.