BOSTON — Chris Sale could probably sell me a car, and I mean that in a good way.
He sounds convincing. He speaks as he usually pitches, with conviction. What I perceive as conviction, anyway. And he sounds like he's ready to run through a wall for the Red Sox on Friday.
It’s a personality gift. Charisma, they call it. Even when he was whipping cliches around Thursday in his press conference ahead of Game 1 on Friday, they felt real.
The Red Sox have no idea how hard Sale will throw on Friday night following bursitis in his left shoulder. Sale probably doesn’t know.
But he just makes it sound like everything's going to work out.
“I'm ready to go,” Sale said. “I'm at the point where you hand me the ball, I go pitch and I stop pitching when you take it out of my hand. That's been my philosophy for the last couple of years, anyways. Just put my head down and keep running.”
Like the rest of us. He’s relatable, too.
Charm doesn’t change the skepticism that should be inherent to most media members attempting to practice journalism, even in sports. But credit where credit is due: he makes it easy to believe.
“This is everything we show up for,” Sale said when asked about the opportunity in Game 1 of the ALDS. “We don't play the game for anything else. Personal stats, wins in the regular season are obviously what get us here. And winning games and winning the division and having the record and all that. We appreciate it, don't get me wrong. We worked hard for that. We grinded for that, and we earned it."
Two people could deliver this exact mini-speech about the importance of the postseason, and one could easily be tuned out. Sale isn’t Bill Pullman in Independence Day, but he’d land the role if the Sox cast a remake.
“But now is the crunch time,” Sale said. “You guys know. We know what's ahead of us. And we know what we have to do.
“So from when we show up in Spring Training, this is the only goal. This is it. This is what we're here to do. We don't show up to spring training wanting to know when our last game is. We want to make that ourselves.
"This is everything we've worked for. This is the late nights, the early mornings, the travel, all — everything that we've collectively, coaching staff, medical staff, players, front office have put ourselves through this entire year, it's now, and we got to go.”
Sale’s success in front of a camera or microphone has something to do with delivery and pace and whatever other auditory elements someone well versed in linguistics and magnetism could explain.
An attitude of accountability helps. Remember how bad he was in Game 1 of the 2017 ALDS against the Astros, when he allowed seven runs in five innings?
“I'm not trying to erase anything,” Sale said. “It happened. I'm not going to run away from it. I don't think that's the right thing to do. Obviously I look back and I realize the mistakes I made, and like I said, try to learn from it.
“I'm not going to hide from it. It is what it is. You can Google it now, tomorrow and 100 years and it's going to be there. I own it. I accept it. And like I said, I'm going to be better. I'm going to go do everything I can to be better. That's all I can do. It's not going to help me this year, not next year and definitely not tomorrow. So the work, the preparation and everything that's gone into it is what's going to get me through."
Now, Sale almost always says what is traditionally considered to be the “right” thing. There are undoubtedly times he does not share his full spectrum of thought. Authenticity is a difficult matter to judge.
But whether he’s actively trying to sell something or not, Sale, well, sells it. His words have been a boon to him in his time in Boston.
He sounds more than ready. Now to see if he is.