Chris Sale didn’t garner much national exposure in the first chapter of his Major League Baseball career.
The fiery left-hander spent his first seven years in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2008. But upon being traded to the Boston Red Sox, Sale now finds himself consistently under the bright lights, as well as a fixture in baseball’s fiercest rivalry.
The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry features household names who were cornerstones of their respective franchises for quite some time: David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Pedro Martinez and Alex Rodriguez, to name a few. But despite being in his first season with the Sox, Sale’s role within the rivalry steadily has evolved, almost as if he’s been a part of the American League East battle for years and years.
Boston isn’t the easiest place to play, but Sale seemingly embraced the city and the team the moment the Red Sox acquired him back in December. In a recent radio appearance on WEEI, Sale discussed his appreciation for the franchise’s history, as well as how excited he is to hopefully pitch in the postseason for the first time in his career.
“I can’t wait,” Sale said. “That’s the most exciting part about me being with this team. There’s a lot of things that go in with being a part of the Boston Red Sox organization. We play at one of the coolest stadiums in all of sports. It’s very rich in history. The players that have come through here, I mean, you’re talking about retired numbers and Hall of Famers and all these things. It’s all cool, but at the end of the day, we have a realistic shot of going all the way and being the last man standing, and that’s exciting. That’s what I signed up for.”
It didn’t take long for Sale to win over the hearts of Red Sox fans. His gritty attitude and fearlessness on the mound not only made him a fan favorite, but also the likely frontrunner for the American League Cy Young Award. Entering Saturday, Sale boasts a 14-4 record with a 2.51 ERA and an MLB-leading 241 strikeouts. Sale’s success with the Red Sox, of course, has been much to the chagrin of Yankees fans, but the six-time All Star doesn’t appear to care how he’s viewed in New York.
“You can feel it,” Sale told WEEI. “You know, people in New York have never been really nice to me, but they hate me now. I heard some pretty interesting things out in the bullpen last time warming up. I don’t go to New York to make friends.”
Ironically enough, the Yankees probably could have outbid the Red Sox for Sale this winter. New York has one of the stronger farm systems in baseball due to a series of marquee trades, but the Bronx Bombers had a relatively quiet offseason. The Yankees seemingly were prepared to rebuild for the next two seasons ahead of the monster free-agent class in 2019.
But to the surprise of many, the Yankees have exceeded expectations this season and find themselves in a heated battle with the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. In hopes of capitalizing on this impressive campaign, New York acquired Sonny Gray in a deal with the Oakland Athletics at MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline. Gray is a fine starter who certainly will help the Yankees’ push for the postseason, but he’s no Sale.
Instead, New York will have to watch the Red Sox ace dominate on the mound for the rest of this season, and probably for years to come.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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