It takes a while for the national media to catch on to a major story when it takes place on the South Side of Chicago. Chicago White Sox fans know that being considered the second team in the second city means that, unless Ozzie Guillen is bleeping his way through a press conference, not many members of the press outside of Chicago make the trip to US Cellular Field. This has become even more apparent with the increase in attention finally given to Sox string bean, flame throwing ace to start the 2014 season.
Over the course of the past two seasons, Sox ace Chris Sale has dominated the league with his craftiness. The way he makes proven All-Stars look like rookies with his back breaking slider is jaw dropping. White Sox fans have known for the last couple of years that their two-time All-Star is something special. Obviously the Sox knew that he was special because they did not hesitate to lock him up for a team friendly five-year, $32.5 million contract. No disrespect to Mark Buehrle, but White Sox fans were giddy with excitement over the fact that they had a proven elite starter headlining the rotation for the first time this century.
Even with a long-term deal in hand and respect growing in baseball circles, the national media did not flock to write pieces chronicling the rise of Sale. While comparisons to Randy Johnson began to spring up, lists of the top pitchers in baseball completed by the publications throughout the country failed to mention the Florida Gulf Coast product. The critics pointed to Sale’s eventual decline once his funky arm action caught up to him. People believed his career would be destroyed with just one pitch and his durability was still in question.
These naysayers had their brief “I told you so” moment in the midst of Sale’s breakout 2012 season when the team temporarily shut him down because the dreaded “dead arm” syndrome crept in. The lefty was able to bounce back and have a 17-win season with an ERA of 3.05 and a WHIP of 1.13. Even after an impressive 2013 season that saw Sale lead the league with four complete games while sporting an ERA of 3.07 and a WHIP of 1.07, doubt still persisted in people’s minds. While the numbers showed that he was an elite arm in the majors, skeptics wanted proof that Sale would not start to regress. They pointed to his fastball dipping in velocity in the later innings of starts and manager Robin Ventura‘s hesitance to keep him in games once his pitch count reached triple digits.
Now in 2014, the short lease that was placed on Sale in order to coddle the face of the franchise has been lengthened. Last night against the Boston Red Sox, Ventura kept his starter in the game in the seventh even after Sale’s pitch count exceeded 120. The 25-year-old reaffirmed the trust placed in him by continuing his stellar performance while still topping out in the mid 90s. National writers took notice, remarking how doubt in Sale’s wherewithal to go late in games should end.
Sale always lived up to the billing of an ace because of his ability to give the team a chance to win every night. Now fans, and people throughout the country, have realized that he also has the durability to be a No. 1. Just like section 154, aka the K Zone for Sale, the press box at US Cellular Field is becoming more crowded during the budding star’s starts. Finally, after two full seasons of flying under the radar, the White Sox ace is garnering the attention he so rightfully deserves.