The White Sox cut Chris Sale’s season short by five games on Sunday morning.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn formally announced that Sale was suspended five games retroactive to Saturday for insubordination and destroying team equipment.
Hahn didn’t disclose many details about the "clubhouse incident" or an evening meeting with Sale, who also played a leading role in a March clubhouse protest when Adam LaRoche abruptly retired after a dispute with management over the presence of his son in the clubhouse.
But according to a baseball source and multiple reports, Sale had his Saturday start scratched and was sent home early after he objected to wearing and then destroyed the promotional 1976 throwback jerseys the team was scheduled to don. Hahn declined to comment when asked if Sale used scissors to destroy the jerseys. But the actions of Sale — whose suspension concludes Wednesday and could pitch Thursday against the Cubs — merited discipline, Hahn said.
“Obviously, we’re all extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this issue at this time both from the the standpoint of the club as well as Chris’ perspective,” Hahn said. “It’s unfortunate that it has become this level of an issue and potential distraction taking away from what we’re trying to accomplish on the field. …
“We had perhaps the opportunity to discipline him back in spring and as an organization we decided to not do that. Yesterday crossed a different line.”
White Sox players and manager Robin Ventura left most of the discussion surrounding the event to Hahn, who said Sale could offer more details if he chooses when he returns.
Sale was not expected to be at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday. Ventura said he hadn’t spoken since Sale left the ballpark. Ventura called it a “tough day” and praised players who filled in. Though Sale may have to apologize to teammates, Ventura said the damage was far from irreparable.
“It’s nothing that can’t be smoothed over,” Ventura said. “This is not the first one. I think for him, he has the ability to come back here and pitch and carry on.”
Third baseman Todd Frazier declined to discuss whether the jerseys, which the team wore last season and have since been altered to improve comfort, were an issue. He also wouldn’t say whether or not he talked to Sale, only offering a brief summation of the events.
“It’s crazy,” Frazier said. “You talk to umpires during games and stuff and it’s like you think you’ve seen it all baseball-wise. It’s tough to talk about. It’s just something different.”
White Sox pitcher James Shields said Sale has his teammates’ backing and that “sometimes emotions get the best of us.” He also said Sale continues to be a leader in the White Sox clubhouse — perhaps even more effective than Shields expected when he joined the club in early June.
“I’ve known Chris for years,” Shields said. “Now that I’ve gotten to be his teammate, he’s one of the better teammates I’ve been around. He’s definitely a team player. He’s a winner. He wants to take the ball every five days and win ballgames.”
With the Aug. 1 nonwaiver deadline eight days away, Hahn also dispelled the notion that Sale’s actions have left the relationship between himself and the club in disrepair. While Sale may have crossed a marker, Hahn said the five-time All-Star hasn’t passed the point of no return with the organization.
Much of the initial intrigue around the event surrounded trade speculation when Sale was scratched from his start. On Thursday, Hahn said the White Sox wouldn’t make any short-term additions before the deadline and that the club is “open-minded” to any and all competitors’ offers. Sale has reportedly drawn interest from several teams, including the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. But Hahn was adamant that as upsetting as Saturday’s events are, it wouldn’t have an impact on whether or not Sale is traded.
“The actions or behaviors of the last 24 hours does not change in any aspect, any respect, our belief that Chris Sale can help this club win a championship and win multiple championships,” Hahn said. “It does not move the needle one iota in terms of his value to this club, his value to any other club that may be interested in his services or the likelihood of him being moved or kept whatsoever. None of that stuff is impacted at all by these events.”