Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale was a far departure from his dominant self in 2019, and he carries the weight of possibly letting his team down last year.
It’s been quite a tumultuous time for Red Sox southpaw Chris Sale since the team won the World Series in 2018. A strong start to the campaign would see him wane as the postseason came around. Then in a triumphant return to form, he’d be on the mound for the final three outs of the series-clinching game.
Sadly, the calendar would eventually flip to 2019 and the dreams of the season before would turn to nightmares. The season would see him go much of the year without a win in his home stadium, and despite flashes of brilliance, it just wasn’t his time. Then manager Alex Cora would shut him down early due to elbow issues that would eventually lead to Tommy John surgery this past offseason.
Now the ace is on the mend and is eager to get back to work. Even with rehab in full swing with a target of the 2021 season in mind, the ghosts of 2019 won’t seem to go away. Sale spoke with ESPN’s Marly Rivera and the pair covered several topics spanning not just recent history but also his entire career.
When the topic of the 2019 season came up the lefty didn’t hold back one ounce. That’s been one of the nice things about Sale’s time with the Red Sox. He is one of the more honest and candid people we’ve seen play for this team in some time and it’s incredibly refreshing. Rivera asked him how he felt about possibly letting down his team last season.
“What I miss the most is not being around my teammates and not manning my post. That’s something that I really look forward to; something that I strive to do. All that has mattered for me is to answer the phone when it’s my call. I was able to do that for a long time and now I’m not,” Sale said.
It isn’t lost on Sale that he hasn’t been able to be there for his teammates. As he said, that has always been his motivation as a player, to always be ready when his number is called upon. His shoulder caused him to miss time in 2018 and then the elbow sealed the deal in 2019. When things were up in the air this offseason I think Red Sox Nation was split between him getting surgery or not.
Now, you can’t just roll into a surgeon’s office and tell them you want surgery, you have to need it. I gave the benefit of the doubt with the procedures they were using to try and get him back to full health but it seemed as if it was a guarantee he’d need TJS.
Then there was that weird spell where the team denied the need for surgery vehemently just for them to schedule one two weeks later. It’s clear he needed it from the getgo and Boston should’ve just gone that route from day one.
That’s all in the past now and Sale is on the road to recovery. With a future that could be filled with full health and nasty sliders, his past letdowns still ring in his mind.
“The last couple seasons it was my shoulder, then my elbow, and now here we are,” Sale added. “Those are the hardest parts for me mentally, letting down my teammates, missing time.”
Another bit of contention amongst Red Sox Nation in regard to Sale was his freshly signed contract extension ahead of 2019. It wasn’t the fact that the team had offered him the deal, it was more so the timing and amount that bothered fans. The ace wasn’t set to become a free agent until after the 2019 season, so Boston backed up the Brinks truck a year early.
The 5-year/$145M extension would lead to the Sox being put in a corner and in need of dumping salary. It also may be a chief reason why the team didn’t make a larger offer for Mookie Betts ahead of his looming free agency.
Though he may feel as if he let his teammates down last year he did mention that he’s gotten nothing but positivity from his squad. Nobody can predict injuries or when they’ll strike so it’s hard to hold it against him that he needed surgery to repair his elbow.
“But, I will say the thing that helps me through all that is that all those guys that I feel I’m letting down, are talking to me or sending messages constantly: “Hey, man, it’s a part of it.” “We got you, you’re gonna be all right.” “We’ll see you in a year, get it right and we’ll be good,” Sale said.
Even with the loss of the 2020 season, Chris Sale will be one of the best pitchers in the game for 2021. As of now, it’s still incredibly unclear if we’ll even have a season this year so it isn’t really a lost cause for Sale. A year’s worth of rest and rehab may be just what he needs to get his body back in fighting shape to retake the mantle of ace next year. If we know anything about the lefty it’s that he’s beyond competitive and a year to stew over 2019 will only make him more maniacal in 2021.