by Tom DeMichael
We’re halfway through the 2016 baseball season in Chicago and the landscape has changed pretty drastically since the first month. There was great excitement then, as both the Cubs and Sox came out of the blocks with thrilling starts. Since then, both teams have stumbled – albeit, not in equal manners. Once again, the White Sox have found some way to become more controversial off the field (more specifically, in the clubhouse) than the Cubs.
There’s an unwritten rule in the game that allows the starting pitcher to make a uniform selection on the day he pitches. Chris Sale was exercising that tradition by asking not to wear those God-awful softball-style uniforms that disgraced the team forty years ago. The fact that he was caught running with scissors in the clubhouse is not excusable. However, more concerning is the fact that the Sox seem more interested in short-term dough (the wearing of the throwback uniforms was a promotional event) rather than winning, and Sale called them on that, saying so after-the-fact.
The bottom line is: Chris Sale is one of the top five pitchers in the game today and he wants to win. His reaction to wearing a uniform that could compromise his ability to win is evidence of that desire and commitment. Damaging equipment is not a first-time occurrence in baseball. Witness the destruction of countless Gatorade and water coolers, poor workout equipment, and endless sunflower seeds strewn in a rage amongst thirty dugouts. These are prima donna athletes – a rare breed. They make a lot of money and can (and should) pay for their tantrums.
If indeed the Sox are rebuilding, Chris Sale should be something to build the team around – not to trade for future prospects. His talent is a given; the prospects’ talent is not. It could be shades of the team’s “White Flag” deal that appeared in the late 1990s. Granted, James Shields would not bring anywhere near what Sale would in a trade for prospects, but he’s finally pitching at a level of decent value – his last six starts have been quality. If anything, he’s tradable, not Sale.
The Southside team has plenty of talent to go into the playoffs. It is up to themselves; is up to manager Robin Ventura (or is it time for Ozzie: the Sequel?) It is up to frontline management Rich Hahn and Kenny Williams. But, the motivation to win must come from within – not from shreds of a no-style jersey.
On the Northside of town, there can be no question that Messers Epstein, Hoyer, and Ricketts are “all in” for 2016. The additions of Joe Nathan, Mike Montgomery, and fireballer Aroldis Chapman (plus the discharge of Joel Peralta, Spencer Patton, and Clayton Richard) have bolstered a bullpen that had become the weakest link in an otherwise strong chain.
Still, the fact is: when the Cubs flex their long-ball muscles (settle down, it’s just a colloquial phrase for home runs,) they win. As much as Joe Maddon might like to play small ball on occasion, the tater is tops. Witness: In their forty losses in 2016, the team hit only 30 HRs. In their sixty wins, they tallied 98 HRs.
While the city waits for Jason Heyward to awake from his offensive slumber (he’s still the man to have in the outfield,) they may need another thumper for the stretch. Rizzo and Bryant are givens. Baez, Zobrist, Russell – even Soler – can go long, but not with regularity. Next to signing up Manny Ramirez (yeah, I know how absurd that concept is,) there could be options.
The Reds’ Jay Bruce is in the last year of his contract. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo has only a one-year deal. Even the White Sox’ Todd Frazier is signed only through the end of this year. All that sounds real crazy, right? Well, think back a year or two – At that time, having Aroldis Chapman as the Cubs’ closer would have sounded pure Looney Tunes. So a left-handed banger (sorry, Ryan Howard, your time has passed) for the playoff run could be a big plus for the Cubs. All in is all in.
It’s about 100 down, 62 to go. Chicago’s hopeful fans can keep a light burning in the window. There’s been darkness on both sides of Madison Street for a while.
Now, where’ my rabbit’s foot?
Tom DeMichael is an author and lifelog fan of baseball. He’s seen major and minor league games all over the country. He is a member of SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research) and once legged a triple into a double during a Cubs fantasy camp game at Wrigley Field.
His latest book for Hal Leonard Publishing – Baseball FAQ – can be found in paperback and Kindle editions at http://amzn.com/1617136069
Calvin & Hobbs is used without permission.