In an interview with MLB.com on Monday, White Sox ace Chris Sale spoke for the first time about this past weekend’s knife incident, in which he hacked and slashed the White Sox’s collection of 1976 throwback jerseys before his scheduled start on Saturday. He was summarily dismissed from U.S. Cellular Field and suspended for five days, which he’s presumably spending by playing catch with his good buddy Drake over at the LaRoche house. Sale opened up about his newfound cutter, and he didn’t disappoint.
A good apology manages to express contrition while simultaneously claiming the moral high ground: Sure, what happened was regrettable, but the underlying intentions were pure — noble, even. So long as the thing you’re apologizing for didn’t inflict physical or emotional pain on anyone, this framework is essentially bulletproof (and perhaps even knifeproof).
“I have regret, because I play 33 times a year at most in the regular season. So I put a lot of emphasis on when I play and I take a lot of pride in work that I do,” Sale said. “I have disappointment in myself for not being there for my guys.”
This is how you start an apology — by admitting regret, being mathematically precise, and keeping the focus how it affects your teammates. Crucially, Sale avoids repenting for butchering the jerseys; he merely takes responsibility for the consequences thereof. This careful distinction sets the table for Sale’s surprisingly convincing argument that his retro-jersey apocalypse is just proof that he cares deeply about winning: “Do I regret standing up for what I believe in? Absolutely not. Do I regret saying business should not be first before winning? Absolutely not.” Ah, that’s the good stuff.
There’s more: “When I saw that there was something in the way of that 100 percent winning mentality, I had an issue … [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.”
Sale proceeded to object to the idea of putting “business first over winning,” reiterating that his goal is to “win a championship in Chicago,” and that kind of maniacal commitment to success will always make you a fan favorite — especially when you’re reportedly on the trade block. (After all, if the White Sox trade away one of the best pitchers in baseball, how can they claim that winning is their top priority?)
Pitchers are control freaks by nature, so it makes sense that Sale would treat this minor inconvenience so gravely. If the throwback jerseys had caused him even the slightest discomfort, the White Sox would have been at a competitive disadvantage. Knifing the jerseys was extreme, but sometimes statements need to be made — especially if your own coaches and managers brush off your concerns the first time around, as Sale claims.
Sale’s apology was a masterful nonapology, but it could have been much shorter. In fact, he really needed to say only one word: scoreboard. In Sale’s absence, the properly clothed White Sox beat the Tigers, 4–3, undoubtedly because they didn’t have to wear jerseys with restrictive collars. There are more important things in life than winning baseball games, but not many, and if Sale doesn’t earn Cy Young honors this season, he should at least get a plaque for his principled stance against uncomfortable, potentially incapacitating athletic apparel.