With the promotion of Rick Hahn to the general manager's seat on Friday, the 25-man roster for the White Sox is sure to undergo significant turnover in the coming years, and eventually, someone will have to assume the leadership role that Paul Konerko currently holds.
Sale is that guy for two reasons.
First, Sale performs on the field, and all leaders must produce in game situations. His breakout 2012 season put him in the conversation for the Cy Young Award much of the year and demonstrated his importance to the White Sox.
On the season, Sale went 17-8, finished fourth in the American League with a 3.05 ERA and stuck out 192 in the same number of innings. He did falter after the All-Star break (7-6, 4.03) but was dominant for much of the season and should come back for the 2013 season more accustomed to the rigors of starting in the AL.
Following two exceptional years of relief work (4-3, 2.58 ERA with 111 Ks in 94.1 innings), his performance this past season can only be considered an indication that Sale will continue to pitch at a high level for the foreseeable future.
Now, numbers only tell half the story, and Sale, 23, has made a name for himself off the field as well.
His greatest off-field strength is his attitude. Sale is as straightforward as they come, which goes a long way with a fanbase that prides itself on being blue collar.
Look no further than the rotation-to-the-bullpen-to-the-rotation fiasco that transpired in early May.
On May 4, manager Robin Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper decided to move Sale to the bullpen in an effort to protect his arm. While disappointed, Sale put the needs of the White Sox ahead of his own.
“I've said it once and I'll say it again, this is not about me,” Sale said (per Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune). After some time to reflect, however, Sale’s reaction was decidedly different.
Sale and general manager Kenny Williams had a pointed conversation on May 7, and he let Williams know—in no uncertain terms—that the team came first and that he would not let Ventura, Cooper or anyone else, dictate the direction of their season without a fight.
Williams told the Tribune’s Dave van Dyck that Sale was forceful “to the point where he almost crossed the line, and I liked that.” Sox fans do too, Kenny.
“I felt like I was letting my teammates down,” Sale told Van Dyck when asked why he called Williams in the first place.
You weren’t letting anyone down, Chris, but we get it.
The good news here is that Sale is a triple-crown leader. He leads on the field, he leads in the clubhouse, and he is a hero to many fans. He is the total package.
Quite frankly, there isn’t another member of the White Sox who is even close to becoming the team’s next true leader.
Sale is the unquestioned ace of the staff and, just like Konerko, has the respect of his fellow players, management and the fans.
Each quality befits the next face of the Chicago White Sox.