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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #21: Chris Sale freaks out, shreds White Sox throwback jerseys

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

White Sox starter Chris Sale had an . . . interesting year.

It began with him being tied up in the dramatic and ridiculous Drake LaRoche Affair, which will appear later on this countdown. That was a team effort in crazy, however, with many White Sox players, quite frankly, embarrassing themselves in equal measure.

Sale’s solo performance came in late July on what was supposed to be a 1976 White Sox throwback jersey night with him taking the mound. He ended up being scratched, however, and the team wore 1983 throwbacks. Why? Because Sale shredded the 1976 numbers with a dang knife.

Sale, it seems, believed the uniform would have impacted his performance, saying, “[The ’76 uniforms] are uncomfortable and unorthodox. I didn’t want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn’t want anything to alter my mechanics. … There’s a lot of different things that went into it. Looking bad had absolutely zero to do with it. Nothing.”

It was never clear to what extent Sale and the White Sox had discussed the matter of the 1976 throwbacks before the incident, but it’s worth noting that most teams allow the starting pitcher to pick which uniforms will be worn on the night he starts. It’s also the case that, however crazy it all ended up being, that Drake LaRoche incident strongly suggested that the communication lines between the White Sox players and White Sox management were, at the very least, strained. Sale may have lashed out in an unreasonable manner, but he may very well have had reason to be upset and frustrated with the club.

Maybe it’s for that reason that Sale’s outburst did not harm his reputation very much. In the days after the incident there were multiple stories in which Sale was referred to as a “competitor” who was “passionate.” One has to wonder how an identical incident involving, say, Yasiel Puig or Carlos Gomez would’ve gone over. I feel like they wouldn’t have been called “competitors” however, even if there were some communication issues with team brass, but I suppose that’s best left for another post.

The slashing bit cost the White Sox $12,000 and cost Sale more than that due to the team suspending him for five games. It did not, however, derail Sale’s season on the field in any noticeable way. He ended the year with a record of 17-10 and a 3.34 ERA. He pitched 226.2 innings and led the league in complete games with 6, finishing fifth in Cy Young balloting. He also led the league in hit batsmen, suggesting that it’s not just throwback jerseys that annoy him.

As for his relationship with the White Sox, that’s all over. He was traded to Boston earlier this month for a hefty haul of prospects. The Red Sox have far fewer throwback jersey nights than Chicago, so there’s a better chance that Sale won’t have to cut a stitch.

Cardinals beat Brewers, both clinch postseason berths

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. LOUIS (AP) Harrison Bader tripled and homered to help the St. Louis Cardinals clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season with a 5-2 win over Milwaukee, and the Brewers also earned a playoff spot Sunday via help on the West Coast moments later.

St. Louis (30-28) will be the fifth seed in the NL and open a three-game wild-card series at San Diego on Wednesday. By winning, the Cardinals avoided having to travel to Detroit for two makeup games Monday. St. Louis finished the regular season with 23 games in 18 days as it made up a slew of postponements caused by a coronavirus outbreak in the clubhouse.

“You had to throw some of the expectations out the window not knowing what to expect after taking those couple weeks off and all those doubleheaders and so many new guys,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “It was very different, very fulfilling to make the playoffs.”

The Brewers (29-31) locked up the eighth seed and a third consecutive postseason berth after the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 in a game that ended about 15 minutes after St. Louis’ victory. The Giants finished with an identical record as the Brewers but lost out on a tiebreaker due to an inferior intradivision record.

“It’s fitting for 2020 and everything we went through,” Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich said. “It felt just as good as past years. This year’s a unique one. There’s so many challenges we had to go through on a daily basis behind the scenes, things you don’t deal with in a normal year.”

Milwaukee will face the top-seeded Dodgers in Los Angeles in a three-game series that also starts Wednesday.

The Brewers haven’t had a winning record at any point this season. Milwaukee and Houston will be the first teams ever to qualify for the playoffs with a losing mark.

“It’s a celebration,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re in the playoffs. That’s how you see it. There’s no reason to apologize for getting into the playoffs.”

Cardinals starter Austin Gomber allowed one run, one hit and two walks and struck out three over four innings.

Giovanny Gallegos (2-0), Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes combined to pitch the final five innings. Reyes got his first save.

“We’d have been happy getting in as the eight seed,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We’d have been happy being the one seed, but people can say we got in if there was no expanded playoffs so that’s even another feather in this group’s cap.”

Brett Anderson (4-4) surrendered a triple to Bader and a walk to Tyler O'Neill to start the third inning before departing with a blister on his left index finger. Anderson opened the season on the injured list with a blister on the same finger and did not make his debut until Aug. 3.

Freddy Peralta replaced him a day after being activated from the paternity list, and O’Neill promptly stole second. Kolten Wong then hit a line drive off Peralta’s leg that Peralta threw into right field to score Bader and O’Neill.

Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong each added RBI singles to push the St. Louis lead to 4-0.

After Milwaukee scored in the top of the fifth, Bader hit his fifth home run of the season.

“That was a big counterpunch,” Shildt said of Bader. “Got them on their heels again.”

THREE TIMES THE FUN

Yadier Molina grounded into a triple play in the eighth inning when he hit a one hop grounder to Jace Peterson at third base in the eighth inning. It was Milwaukee’s first triple play since Sept. 23, 2016, when Cincinnati’s Joey Votto lined out to first base. Molina was also the last Cardinals player to hit into a triple play when he grounded out to third base at Boston on Aug. 15, 2017.

TRAINING ROOM

Brewers: Counsell said it was too early to prognosticate Anderson’s status after departing with the blister.

Cardinals: St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak announced that RHP Dakota Hudson will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Monday. Hudson went 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts before leaving his start on Sept. 17 at Pittsburgh with right elbow discomfort after two innings.

UP NEXT

Brewers: The Brewers head to Los Angeles and will likely be without two of their top starters in Anderson and Corbin Burnes, who sustained a left oblique injury on Thursday.

Cardinals: This will be the fourth postseason series between St. Louis and San Diego, who faced each other in 1996, 2005, and 2006 in the Division Series.