Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What The Chris Sale Era Means For Boston

Boston is a city that wants sports titles. Sorry, Boston is a city that demands sports titles. 10 championships in 15 years will do that to a fan base. And if you're not ending a season with a parade you better be playing hard to keep us on your side. This year's Celtics team is a good example. Most fans realize we likely aren't going to the finals this year, but Isaiah Thomas and company give us everything they have on a night to night basis so they have our support.

This mentality translates to individual players as well. A position in which it has been discussed with recently is the ace of the Red Sox. Dating back to the late 90s with Pedro Martinez the Sox have a history of front end starters with bulldog like mentalities. Boston fans have been lucky enough to also witness Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester possess this trait. 

The low point of this position came in 2015, which was the year with the infamous John Farrell quote of "I think we have five number ones". In reality that team didn't even have a number two starter. David Price was supposed to change this last year but he hasn't exactly endeared himself into the hearts of Red Sox fans. Rick Porcello has come closest since we lost Lester, but even he didn't get all the way there in his Cy Young winning 2016.

Enter Chris Sale. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski recognizes his team has a chance to compete for a title right now so he went out and got the best pitcher in the American League. Over the past five seasons Sale has averaged 203 innings pitched, and during individual years has led the league in strikeouts once, ERA+ once, FIP once, and K/9 twice. He has five all star appearances during this time and has yet to finish lower than sixth in the Cy Young voting since he became a full time starter. 

The one knock on Sale is...well actually there is no knock on Sale. He hasn't pitched in the playoffs yet but before 2016 neither had Corey Kluber. Judging by Sale's personality and commitment to winning one would expect him to excel in a postseason atmosphere.  One criticism could be his violent delivery leading to arm trouble but as stated before he has averaged over 200 innings per year since becoming a starter. I haven't been as excited to see a Red Sox starting pitcher since I was a kid watching Pedro.

Unless I'm forgetting someone it was Sale who received the loudest ovation from fans during Opening Day's pregame ceremonies. Price's inability to connect with the Boston fans and media has led to us really wanting Sale to become "the guy". So far he is doing his best to just fit in, evidenced by when he acknowledged Porcello should pitch the first game of the season. Hopefully Sale gets his Red Sox career off to a great start tonight but ultimately all the regular season success in the world won't mean much if he and the team don't perform over the next few Octobers. One way or the other it's going to be an entertaining three year window for Boston baseball. As for now, enjoy the beginning of what could eventually be known as the Chris Sale era.

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