Red Sox’ Chris Sale on Handling Criticism: ‘I’ve Never Paid Attention to What People Say About Me, Because It Doesn’t Matter’

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale underwent successful Tommy John surgery seven weeks ago.

Before Tuesday, the 31-year-old had only spoken to the media once since undergoing the procedure in Los Angeles, but he spoke with ESPN’s Mary Rivera in an extensive one-on-one, presumably over-phone interview earlier this week.

Topics covered in said interview included Sale’s recovery from Tommy John, criticism from fans over his contract, the Red Sox trading Mookie Betts and David Price, thoughts on a disappointing 2019 season, the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017, and Alex Cora’s departure from Boston.

You can read Rivera’s conversation with Sale in full here, but I wanted to hit on a few highlights, starting with the Florida native being asked if it’s “hard to handle the criticism” from people who believe he has not lived up to expectations under his new contract.

“When I got to Boston, my first year was really good,” Sale said. “My second season was decent but I ran into some shoulder issues. We ended up winning a World Series, so I’d even call that a relatively good season with a little hiccup. Then, 2019 was an absolute disaster. But in the end, I’ve never paid attention to what people say about me, because it doesn’t matter.”

Prior to the start of the 2019 season, Sale inked a five-year, $145 million contract extension with the Red Sox while Dave Dombrowski still served as the club’s president of baseball operations.

Dombrowski has since been removed from that post and was effectively replaced by former Rays executive and current chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, whose first major move at the helm in Boston was dealing Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February.

That sort of transaction, which significantly hindered the Red Sox’ chances of winning in 2020, could have upset a veteran like Sale, whose first priority is to win no matter who he plays for, but he did not seem to take too much offense to it.

“Very rarely in this day and age, you get to play with the same team for a long time,” Sale told Rivera. “We have to adapt and go with it. We don’t make decisions; we don’t trade players. We show up to spring training and we do our best to win with the players we have.”

At the time Betts and Price were dealt to Los Angeles, the 2020 MLB season really wasn’t in question. That has obviously changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though, and Sale isn’t too sure there will even be a season at all. Not like that matters much for him anyway since he is still recovering from Tommy John.

It still is a concerning matter for players who can play this year though, and Sale certainly feels for them while the MLBPA remains in active negotiations with the league.

“There’s too many moving parts with all this right now,” he said in regard to getting baseball back this year. “There’s obviously negotiations between the players and the owners, and that’s what I hope we can iron out sooner rather than later. On my end of it, I’m not missing any games that everyone else isn’t missing. Plus, I’m not getting paid, so no one can call me an overpaid asshole right now [laughs].”

For the time being, Sale will continue the process of coming back from Tommy John surgery. He’s been one of the few players to work out at Fenway South in Fort Myers since the complex opened back up earlier in the month.

“I’ve been doing a shoulder program and we’re doing soft-tissue stuff but I’m starting to get into some pushing stuff, some rows,” Sale said of the rehab process. “A lot of this actually is a lot of shoulder work too, which is good.

“We can kind of start, as they say, tearing it down to the studs. I can work from the ground up. I can completely tear my body down and build it back up. Right now, since I’m not really working out to achieve anything, I can really focus on the little fine details that sometimes might be overlooked getting ready for a big, bulky season. I love the guys I’m working with and I know I’m in good hands.”

If all goes according to plan, Sale should be able to return to a big league mound sometime in June or July 2021.

Koji Uehara, Chris Sale Reflect on Recording Final Outs of 2013, 2018 World Series for Red Sox

Despite being born on opposite sides of the world 14 years apart and despite throwing with the opposite hand, Koji Uehara and Chris Sale have something in common: They both recorded the final out of a World Series for the Red Sox in the last 10 years.

Uehara, then 38, did so for Boston against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2013 fall classic at Fenway Park, while Sale, then 29, did so for Boston against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the 2018 fall classic at Dodger stadium.

Uehara, a right-hander, got the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter swinging on a 2-2 splitter on the outer half of the plate, while Sale, a left-hander, got the Dodgers’ Manny Machado to corkscrew into the ground and whiff on a 1-2, 84 MPH slider.

Both hurlers wrapped up historic seasons for the Red Sox with those respective punchouts, and both hurlers recently spoke to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal in separate conversations about what they recall from those special nights in late October of 2013 and 2018.

Starting with Uehara, the Japan native was coming off a dominant season in which he didn’t even start the year as Boston’s closer.

Season-ending surgeries for Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey resulted in Uehara sliding into that ninth-inning role in July, and he did not look back from there all the way until coming into the final frame of Game 6 of the 2013 World Series with a 6-1 lead to protect.

With the chance to secure the Sox’ first World Series win at Fenway Park since 1918, Uehara retired Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso in simple fashion, leaving Carpenter as the lone obstacle remaining.

Upon fanning the Cardinals infielder on the seventh and final pitch he would throw in 2013 to secure his club’s eight World Series title in franchise history, Uehara reveled in what he and the Red Sox had just accomplished.

“I realized that I didn’t need to throw anymore,” he said, through team interpreter Mikio Yoshimura. “It came purely from my complete satisfaction…how fulfilled I was. I can still feel the ultimate happiness when I look back at that moment.”

According to Rosenthal, Uehara considers recording the final out of the ’13 World Series the ‘pinnacle of his’ professional baseball career.

Turning to Sale now, the Florida native was slated to start Game 5 of the 2018 World Series for Boston, but that responsibility instead went to fellow left-hander David Price while Sale would be available to pitch out of the bullpen that night.

“We were like, ‘We’re in,'” Sale recalled him and Price’s meeting with then-manager Alex Cora following Boston’s Game 4 win over the Dodgers. “Me and DP high-fived, hugged it out. I looked at him and said, ‘We’re going old-school tomorrow.”

Price delivered with seven-plus quality innings of work in Game 5, while Joe Kelly finished the eighth and the Red Sox entered the ninth with a comfortable four-run advantage.

Sale had begun to warm up in the eighth, but after Kelly got through the frame unscathed, he sat back down until he got the call for the ninth.

“I remember running in from the bullpen,” Sale told Rosenthal. “The only two things going through my mind were, I have a four-run lead and I have three outs to get. Don’t trip on the way in.”

Sale did not trip on the way in, and he mowed down Justin Turner and Kike Hernandez in consecutive order before fanning Machado on four pitches to secure the series victory.

“It was like the chain didn’t catch. It happened so slow for me,” Sale said of the first few moments after recording the final out. “It was almost like strike three, OK, click-click, game’s over, click-click, holy shit, we’re world champions, we just won the World Series. It was like a delay for me. I got the third out. I took a couple of steps. Then boom, it hit me.”

Just recalling what happened that night gave Sale chills, he told Rosenthal. As it should considering how the 119-win, World Series champion 2018 Boston Red Sox are one of, if not the greatest team in the franchise’s storied history.

 

A Look Back at Recent Red Sox Home Openers at Fenway Park

Thursday was supposed to be Opening Day at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. They were scheduled to take on the Chicago White Sox in the first of a three-game series at approximately 2:05 PM EDT.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected millions across the country and the globe has pushed back the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season for the foreseeable future.

In these times, baseball should take a backseat to more pressing issues we are all facing, but not having the comfort and distraction sports can provide over these past few weeks has certainly been odd.

So, since Thursday was supposed to be the first game played at Fenway Park this year, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some memorable Fenway Opening Day moments in recent years starting with the 2013 home opener. Let’s get to it.

April 8th, 2013: Red Sox 3, Orioles 1

Daniel Nava provided the only offense the Sox needed in this one to secure their fifth win of the year.

Going into their half of the seventh inning having yet to really muster anything offensively, Nava came through big time in his third trip to the plate against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, as he took the left-hander deep to left off a 1-1, 91 MPH heater on the inner half of the plate to drive in both Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli to make it a three-run contest.

Former Sox closer Joel Hanrahan wound up giving one of those runs back on an Adam Jones leadoff homer in the ninth, but the right-hander held on to notch his third save of the season in what would turn out to be a 3-1 victory for Boston.

This took place exactly one week before the Boston Marathon bombings, and as we already know, the 2013 season that ended in a World Series title was a very emotional one for the Red Sox.

April 4th, 2014: Brewers 6, Red Sox 2

Speaking of World Series titles, the Red Sox received their 2013 World Series rings on this day in 2014.

Will Middlebrooks also homered in this contest, although Boston would eventually be swept by Milwaukee in their first three home games of the year in what would turn out to be a mostly forgettable title defense.

April 13th, 2015: Red Sox 9, Nationals 4

Coming off a solid 4-2 road trip in Philadelphia and New York to begin the season, the new-look Red Sox got the home portion of their 2015 schedule off with a bang against Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals.

In his first home start as a member of the Red Sox, right-hander Rick Porcello provided Boston with eight solid innings of work while Mookie Betts and David Ortiz both went deep.

Speaking of Betts, the now-four-time All-Star was just getting his career started at this point in time.

Fresh off making his first career big-league Opening Day roster, the 22-year-old swiped second and third base in consecutive order against Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann right away in the bottom half of the first inning. He also collected four RBI in addition to mashing his second homer of the season.

The Red Sox improved to 5-2 with the five-run victory over the Nats, and they looked like a team poised to bounce back from a last-place finish in 2014. That did not happen though, and come October, the Sox finished in the basement of the American League East for the third time in the past four seasons.

April 11th, 2016: Orioles 9, Red Sox 7

The sixth game of the Red Sox’ 2016 campaign marked David Price’s first start at Fenway Park since inking a then-record-setting seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston the previous December.

Unlike his Red Sox debut in Cleveland, where he fanned 10 over six two-run innings, Price struggled in his first start home, as he yielded five runs, all of which came in the top half of the third for Baltimore, over five innings of work.

Betts did impress once again though, as the 23-year-old plated a pair of runs on a solo homer and RBI single.

Ortiz, meanwhile, also shined in what was his final Opening Day as a member of the Red Sox, which was commemorated with a special pregame ceremony and his daughter, Alex, singing the National Anthem.

 

April 3rd, 2017: Red Sox 5, Pirates 3

While many expected the newly-acquired Chris Sale to get the Opening Day nod, ex-Sox manager John Farrell went with Rick Porcello, who was coming off winning his first Cy Young Award the year before.

Porcello was solid, racking up five strikeouts while surrendering three runs over 6 1/3 quality innings of work.

Offensively, all five of Boston’s runs came in their half of the fifth inning, with Pablo Sandoval and Dustin Pedroia plating a pair of runs on a pair of RBI singles and rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi, fresh off making his first Opening Day roster, driving in three on a three-run blast to right off Pirates ace Gerrit Cole.

Benintendi would wind up finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year voting behind Yankees slugger Aaron Judge in 2017.

April 5th, 2018: Red Sox 3, Rays 2 in 12 innings

The only extra-innings game on here wound up in a one-run win for the Red Sox to open up the home portion of their 2018 schedule.

David Price contributed to the cause by hurling seven scoreless frames against his former team, while Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts came through with a pair of run-scoring knocks off Alex Colome in the ninth to make extra innings possible in the first place.

Fast forward all the way to the 12th, and Ramirez delivered in the clutch once more, this time coming to the plate with one out and the bases loaded against Ryan Yarbrough and plating Jackie Bradley Jr. from third on an RBI single to right field.

The Red Sox’ first walk-off victory of the season improved their record to 6-1 and they really wouldn’t have to look back en route to capturing their ninth World Series title that October.

April 9th, 2019: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 5

Finally, we arrive at the most recent home opener. Another one in which the Red Sox received their World Series rings on what was an otherwise dreary day at Fenway Park.

Things did not get much better after the ceremony though, as Chris Sale surrendered five runs over four innings to eventually fall to 0-3 through his first three starts of the season.

Mitch Moreland and Mookie Betts did both homer, but at the end of the day, the Red Sox fell to 3-9 on the season and they never really were able to recover from that sluggish start despite finishing with a winning record.

So, there you have it. A nice look back at the last seven Opening Days at Fenway Park. Hopefully the next one will happen sooner rather than later.

Looking at How the Red Sox’ World Series Odds Changed Over the Course of a Hectic Offseason

If Major League Baseball is to be played in 2020, the Red Sox currently stand as long-shots to capture their 10th World Series title this fall, or perhaps winter.

As recently as this past Tuesday, March 31st, the Red Sox’ odds to win the World Series this year stood at +3667, according to SportsBettingDime.com. In other words, if you bet $100 on the Sox to win the Fall Classic and they do, your total payout would be $3,767.

Compare that to the reigning American League East champion New York Yankees’ most recent odds of winning the 2020 World Series (+367), and it’s clear to see that the Red Sox are underdogs coming off a turbulent offseason to say the least.

Right around the time the offseason began after the Washington Nationals won their first World Series title, Boston’s odds of winning in 2020 stood at +1200 as of November 1st, which were good for the third-best in the American League.

Since that time though, the Sox’ chances of winning have gotten significantly worse, as one might expect with the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February, as well as the recent news that ace left-hander Chris Sale needed and underwent successful Tommy John surgery last month that will sideline the 31-year-old for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

With Betts at the top of the lineup and Price maintaining a top spot in the rotation, the Red Sox looked like a team that could still at least compete for a Wild Card spot this coming season even with injury concerns surrounding Sale.

Instead of Betts and Price, who served as important clubhouse leaders in recent years, reporting to Red Sox camp, the two were instead dealt to the Dodgers as part of an earlier-set goal put in place by Sox ownership to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold.

In his first offseason as Boston’s chief baseball officer, Chaim Bloom did just that by packaging Price, who is owed $96 million over the next three years, and Betts, who will earn $27 million in his final year of salary arbitration, in the same deal.

The Red Sox will pay about half of what is owed to Price over the next three seasons, while Betts was already viewed as a potential trade candidate anyway since he seemed and still seems locked in on becoming a free agent for the fist time this winter.

Despite the financial flexibility gained in parting ways with Betts and Price, the competitive state of the club certainly didn’t get any better even with three controllable players coming back from Los Angeles.

Take these numbers for what they’re worth. On February 3rd, the day before the first, now-voided three-team trade between Boston, Los Angeles, and the Minnesota Twins was reported, the Red Sox’ odds to win the World Series stood at +2067.

Fast forward to February 10th, one day after Boston and Los Angeles agreed to terms on a new trade between just themselves, the Sox’ odds to win the World Series fell to +3433. They have only gotten worse since then, as previously mentioned.

Bloom was dealt a difficult hand as soon as he took over as the head of the Red Sox’ baseball operations department last October. As he said himself at the time the trade was made official in February, “Our biggest goal…is to put ourselves in position to compete and win sustainably for as many years as we can.”

The club will never admit it publicly, but as the oddsmakers and sportsbooks have indicated, trading two of their better players in Mookie Betts and David Price certainly hurt the Red Sox’ chances of competing in 2020 once baseball does finally return.

What If the Red Sox Traded for Sonny Gray in 2015?

Truth be told, I’m stealing this “What if” idea from The Athletic, whose various writers are ‘exploring what might have happened if things had gone differently at significant points in sports history.’

The Athletic’s Chad Jennings began by looking back as recently as the Mookie Betts and David Price trade, and in accordance with that, I thought it would be interesting to look back at a time in Red Sox history prior to the club signing Price to a then record-setting seven year, $217 million contract in December 2015.

Yes, this point in time was just a few months before that, in October to be more specific.

The Red Sox were coming off their second consecutive last place finish in the American League East, marking the first time they had done that since the 1929-1930 seasons.

Under new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who was hired to replace Ben Cherington that August, the club was in desperate need of front-line starting pitching help coming off a 2015 campaign in which they ranked 13th in the American League in starters’ ERA (4.34).

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, before Dombrowski had even been hired, the former Tigers executive identified soon-to-be free agent left-hander David Price as a potential target to pursue that winter in an interview with Red Sox brass.

Potential trades for names such as the White Sox’ Chris Sale, the Indians’ Corey Kluber, and the Athletics’ Sonny Gray seemed possible as well.

Come October, per Speier, “the Red Sox tried to quantitatively compare the cost of a trade for an ace versus signing one in free agency. [Director of major league operations Zack] Scott oversaw the production of a sixteen-page memo, in this case exploring a hypothetical deal for the A’s Gray, in exchange for a five-prospect package of Rafael Devers, Blake Swihart, Manuel Margot, Henry Owens, and Javy Guerra.”

Based on the projections used in this memo, “the Red Sox considered such a trade a $230 million proposition, with the prospects carrying a projected future worth of $200 million on top of the roughly $30 million that the team anticipated it would have to pay Gray in salary over his remaining four years of team control.”

Gray, at the time, was entering his final year of being a pre-arbitration player.

The results of the assessment, however, did not sway the Sox to swing a trade for an ace, as they “believed it would cost less simply to sign a free-agent starter than it would to trade for a rotation solution.” That was especially the case in the event that including Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts in a trade for a starting pitcher became a must for another team, like the A’s.

In the end, Dombrowski and Co. chose giving up money over giving up prospects and wound up signing Price to that then-record-setting seven-year deal that December.

Although it does not appear that the Red Sox were all that close to acquiring Gray from Oakland, it is fascinating to look back and wonder what could have been.

Out of those five prospects listed above, Devers would be the one missed the most, as the major-league careers of Swihart, Margot, Owens, and Guerra haven’t really panned out to this point for various reasons.

It’s also compelling to look back because Gray in Boston would have been no sure thing. That much was made evident by a rather tumultuous 1 1/2 year tenure with the Yankees, although he has since bounced back nicely after being traded to the Reds in January 2019.

Price’s tenure with the Red Sox wasn’t picture-perfect either, but he did play an integral role in the club’s march to a historic World Series title in 2018 before getting traded to the Dodgers last month.

All in all, handing out massively lucrative contracts and involving top prospects in blockbuster trades both involve a great deal of risk. In the case of acquiring the services of a front-line starter when they most desperately needed one in Dombrowski’s first offseason as president of baseball operations, the Red Sox went with the former over the latter.

Note: If you haven’t already, you should read Homegrown by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. This piece would not have been possible had it not been for the information provided in that terrific book about how the Red Sox built a World Series champion from the ground up.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Collin McHugh

It’s pretty late to do being one of these with spring training well underway and less than a month ago until Opening Day, but with the news that ace left-hander Chris Sale will start the 2020 season on the injured list, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting pitching help.

With the news of Sale starting the year on the shelf, in addition to trading David Price to the Dodgers earlier in the month, the Sox’ starting rotation only has three established starting pitchers at the moment in Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez.

Guys like Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez could fill in in either the No. 4 or No. 5 spots, and it also appears likely that an opener or two could be used, but that shouldn’t stop chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from looking at external options as well.

Obviously, with it being the last day of February and all, the free-agent market has essentially been thinned out, but there is still one intriguing name out there in former Astros right-hander Collin McHugh.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the 32-year-old has “recently been given the go-ahead to begin throwing after a [non-surgical] tenex procedure alleviated an elbow concern” and “nearly every team has checked in” on him thanks to his versatility.

Appearing in 35 games, eight of which were starts, for Houston last year, McHugh posted a 4.70 ERA and 4.34 xFIP over 74 2/3 total innings of work while dealing with ongoing right elbow discomfort.

His days of pitching anywhere between 150 to 200 innings in a season are probably behind him and he likely wouldn’t be ready for the start of the 2020 season if he were to sign soon, but there are still plenty of things working in McHugh’s favor.

First off, there’s the versatility piece I mentioned earlier. Maybe it’s just me, but I could see McHugh starting, serving as an opener, or working in relief once he gets up to speed with whatever club he signs with this year.

Second, he probably won’t be demanding much as a free agent. A one-year deal for cheap or even a minor-league deal could get it done. That way, if things didn’t work out, it would not be all that costly to cut ties.

Per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, the Red Sox now have a little more than $13 million in payroll flexibility to work with before reaching that $208 million luxury tax threshold they got under by dealing Price and Mookie Betts to Los Angeles.

McHugh would surely not command more than 25% of that $13 million as a free agent, so the rewards in this case would far outweigh the risks, in my opinion.

Outside of McHugh, free agent starting pitchers who remain unsigned include old friends Clay Buccholz and Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, Clayton Richard, and Marco Estrada.

Red Sox Still Appear Interested in Acquiring Wil Myers, Prospects From Padres

Even after dealing Mookie Betts to the Dodgers last week, the Red Sox are still talking to the Padres about acquiring former All-Star outfielder Wil Myers, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee.

Per Acee, the Sox are also interested in Padres right-hander Cal Quantrill, in addition to top prospects Luis Campusano and Gabriel Arias, while San Diego is interested in offloading ‘about half’ of the $61 million owed to Myers over the next three seasons.

In initial trade talks revolving around Betts, it was reported that the Padres wanted Boston to assume more than half of Myers’ remaining salary due to the money San Diego would be taking on for the 2020 season.

Now, with Betts out of the equation, it seems as though Padres general manager A.J. Preller is more interested in ‘attaining the salary flexibility moving Myers would create.’

Because of that notion, any return the Pads would get in a potential trade with the Red Sox is ‘unclear’, according to Acee.

After shipping both Betts and left-hander David Price to Los Angeles, the Sox are a little more than $13 million below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, so they would be capable of assuming a portion of Myers’ 2020 salary without going over.

Speaking of that, the 29-year-old Myers is set to earn $20 million this coming season in the fourth year of the six-year, $83 million extension he signed with San Diego in 2017. But, since the average annual value of that deal comes out to about $13.8 million, that is the amount that will count towards the luxury tax in 2020.

Myers was coming off an All-Star season when he inked that extension with the Padres, but he has fallen off since, most recently slashing .239/.321/.418 with 18 home runs and 58 RBI over 155 games played in 2019.

The North Carolina native is capable of playing both first base and all three outfield positions, and he does have a history with Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom when the two were with the Rays.

If this deal were to happen, it would be interesting to see who Boston parts ways with. Jackie Bradley Jr. comes to mind when considering the signing of Kevin Pillar, but he is owed $11 million in his final year of team control before reaching free agency in the winter.

Anyway you put it, it looks like Bloom and Co. are in pursuit of pitching, which is a positive development given the current questions surrounding the Red Sox’ starting rotation.