Not to get ahead of myself, but I’m absolutely going to get ahead of myself.
Chris Sale is throwing off the mound at Fenway Park.
The same Chris Sale who brought Manny Machado to his knee to win the World Series.
The same Chris Sale who struck out seventeen Colorado Rockies, didn’t walk one, and never broke a sweat.
The same Chris Sale who begged Cora to let him go for twenty Rockies.
The same Chris Sale who weighs thirty pounds soaking wet but is still one of the most menacing men to ever wear the Red Sox uniform.
Don’t get me wrong, the 2021 Red Sox are already so much better than we ever could have hoped for. I thought they’d be fun to watch (mostly true) and not as terrible as the predictions said (very true), but they’re still missing something. I’m not talking about Mookie, JBJ, Brock, Mitch, Papi, or Pedroia, though they’re definitely missing all of them, too. I’m not even talking about the bullpen, for once.
The 2020 team was never going to be very good; they simply didn’t have the pieces. Without Sale, ERod, Price, and Porcello, the rotation was held together by Pérez, Eovaldi, popsicle sticks, and glue. Nothing makes you miss Sale like watching another Triple-A arm get lit up by the Orioles. And nothing makes you want to run through a brick wall like Sale saying he’s reading and raring to go.
This isn’t to say that Sale hasn’t struggled in Boston. His pendulum has swung between excellent and injured every year. He’s had at least eleven double-digit strikeout games in each of his first three seasons here. He’s the first pitcher in MLB history since Lefty Grove (1928) to throw two immaculate innings in the same season, and the first ever to do so in the same month. But he was overworked by John Farrell in 2017, hurt in 2018, and threw his final game on August 13, 2019. In April 2020, he finally got the Tommy John surgery he probably needed the previous summer.
But what Sale brings to the table goes far beyond his Red Sox career 3.08 ERA and 763 strikeouts here. He’s motivated, passionate, and accountable every single start. When they win, he credits his teammates. When they lose, he blames himself. When they’re struggling, he does whatever he can to motivate them. He exudes a quiet heat that is hard to find, and it makes him one of the most fiery competitors I’ve ever seen. Remember when they were lifeless in the 2018 World Series and he literally began screaming to wake their scoreless asses up? I use that gif regularly.
If Chris Sale can come back and pitch effectively (and get some run support), this team just got infinitely better. You know it’s been killing him to not be able to contribute; no one misses Sale Day more than Sale.
Red Sox Nation’s reaction to Sale’s bullpen today should tell you everything you need to know about Boston fans. The team is 38-25, inching back towards first place, the rotation has largely outperformed expectations, but fans love Sale so much that they’re losing their minds over him just throwing off the mound at Fenway. Can you tell we miss him?
It’s not Sale Day yet, but get ready, because “The Conductor” coming for opposing batters like a freight train.