Chris Sale has mowed down hitters left and right this season, and while he shows no signs of slowing down, it appears there might be one thing that can stop the hard-throwing left-hander.
The Boston Red Sox ace made waves earlier this season when he fired a 98-mph fastball behind Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado as part of the teams’ feud. While Machado barked at the umpire, Sale just stared toward home plate, barely blinking. When play resumed, Sale struck out Machado and entered the Red Sox’s dugout screaming and high-fiving anyone he could find.
It’s that competitive fire that either will propel Sale to continued success in Boston, or ultimately be his undoing, according to those who know him.
“He can still get pissed,” Don Cooper, Sale’s pitching coach with the Chicago White Sox, told ESPN’s Jason Schwartz for a recent in-depth article. “I still think there’s things he’s got to master there.”
The Red Sox ace has been involved in his fair share of blowups during his career, most notably taking scissors to the White Sox’s throwback uniforms during the 2016 season, but Sale chalks it up to adrenaline.
“You get in between the lines and you’re a little amped up, and sometimes it spills over outside the lines,” Sale told Schwartz. “Nobody’s perfect; you’re going to make mistakes. You just try to learn from them.”
Sale’s mean streak, which has endeared him to teammates, has been there since his high school days.
“If a batter got a hit off him the time before, he’d throw at him the next time,” Lakeland, Fla., junior varsity baseball coach Ron Nipper told Schwartz. “He was trying to be the baddest guy on the field.”
The 28-year-old carried that mentality to the big leagues, where he has been a five-time All-Star, and currently leads the majors in strikeouts while compiling a 1.92 ERA. And Cooper has known all along that Sale’s fire will beat him long before any hitter does.
“It was more the mental side,” Cooper told Schwartz about the first time he met Sale. “And keeping him under control and not throwing pitches out of anger. And just continue to focus on the next pitch. He would hate it when somebody got him. He would come out of his shoes.”
While Sale has learned to harness his aggression, he doesn’t plan on toning it down anytime soon.
“I can’t change that,” Sale told Schwartz. “I don’t think I want to change it completely. It’s what makes me who I am.”
The Red Sox probably hope Sale never changes.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images