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.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.