Just a day before the trade deadline of a disappointing season — they’re 42-69, in last place — the White Sox sent their No. 2 pitcher, 2007 Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, to the Red Sox in a three-team trade. Given that Peavy had just signed a deal last year that was supposed to keep him in Chicago through the end of next season with an option for the one after that, the trade came as a surprise to some. He may be older, but starters with Cy Youngs don’t exactly grow on trees, especially in a league where aces can turn into jokers at the drop of Tim Lincecum’s hat. So there had to be a reason for the jettison, right?
There is. His name is Chris Sale, and he’s the ace who made Peavy expendable. Also, when he pitches he looks like a flamingo. Here are the best things about him.
1. He’s very good at pitching.
Like, really good, especially given that he is the only bird currently playing major league baseball. He’s been in the league for four years, two of them as a starter, and he’s only 24. He struck out 192 batters in 192 innings last year. He’s a two-time All-Star. In fact, he was one sentimental Mariano Rivera 8th-inning victory lap away from this year’s All-Star Game MVP award, pitching two hitless innings for the AL win and striking out both Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki in the greatest Chicago assault on the state of Colorado since Al Capone violently cornered the Birkenstock market in 1933.
2. When he pitches he looks like a flamingo.
The flamingo-like delivery, though entertaining, concerns some observers. Sale whips his arm around at a severe angle to create speed. Try to recreate this pose and you’ll probably wince:
While Sale’s delivery certainly looks unusual, it’s up for debate whether it actually puts undue stress on his ligaments in the manner of a Mark Prior or Stephen Strasburg. So far in his career, though, Sale has avoided major injury.
3. And he went to Florida Gulf Coast.
Yeah, the bird-dance guys from the NCAA tournament! Ha, birds all over the place here.
4. He can eat a preposterous amount of food.
Sale is 6’6” — and only 180 lbs. — despite, apparently, eating junk food at all times. An article by Brian Costa in the Wall Street Journal said he might have “Baseball’s Greatest Metabolism” and reported that on one flight from Chicago to California, Sale ate two ice cream sundaes and 30 bags of chips. In the time Costa spent in the White Sox locker room before a game, Sale ate three chili dogs.
5. And as a skinny, gangly, hard-throwing pitcher who makes everyone worry he’ll get injured, Sale is in great company.
That would be all-time great Pedro Martinez. He and Sale have equally deceptive deliveries (with Pedro closer to a three-quarter angle and Sale almost at a sidearm). These whipping deliveries create similar speed on their fastballs (93-97 mph) despite the fact that they are (or in Pedro’s case, were) both considered too frail and slight to sustain such velocity over a career. While Pedro’s weight was less of a concern because he’s significantly shorter than Sale — who at 6’6” stands a full 7 inches taller than him — in his early days there was near constant talk about how such a tiny man could continue to generate that much speed on his pitches. Three Cy Youngs later, baseball fans stopped wondering and just appreciated the natural beauty of pitching perfection.
Now, I’m no doctor, but it seems that if flamingos can fly 373 miles in one night, this means that Chris Sale can probably pitch safely for the next few years. Or at the very least — if he believes in himself enough — learn to actually fly so he can have a second career as a circus attraction.