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It doesn’t sound as if there’s much ambivalence among the White Sox about Chris Sale’s expected return on Thursday.
Manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday he expects things to be “fairly normal” as Sale is scheduled to pitch the finale of the Crosstown series after serving a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property. Adam Eaton said teammates should have no reservations about Sale’s coming back after his actions Saturday left them in a bit of a bind. And pitching coach Don Cooper said he’s the first to forgive and that everyone has situations they might later wish they’d handled differently.
“Open arms,” Eaton said. “He’s our teammate. He’s our guy. All of the things that are swelling around about his character, who he is as a player … he’s my brother and I enjoy every second with him on and off the field. Can’t be a better person. I’ll be excited to see him and I’m sure he’ll be in the same form he’s been the entire year — go out and perform and be Chris Sale.
“I’m sure he’ll be well-rested and a clear mind for him I’m sure is going to be a good thing. We’ll welcome him back.”
The pitching staff could use some innings from Sale without question. When he didn’t pitch Saturday, the White Sox filled those innings with a committee of relief pitchers. Prior to Tuesday’s win, the bullpen had pitched 19 1/3 innings the previous four games.
But the White Sox have handled the drama extremely well. They’re 4-0 with one game left in Sale’s suspension and they look forward to having their ace back. Cooper said he hopes to move on, sentiments that were previously echoed by Ventura and executive vice president Kenny Williams.
“Welcome back, let’s go,” Cooper said. “Let’s go to work. Let’s move on. Listen man, who would want to be held responsible for the (stuff) they did at 22, 24, 26, 27, you know what I mean? He’s way too good of a kid. I don’t think anybody would. Everybody screws up from time to time or has some missteps.”
One of the actions that has caught Sale flack is his criticism of Ventura’s handling of the situation. Neither Ventura or Williams responded to Sale’s comment on Tuesday that “Robin is the one who has to fight for us.” Ventura said he wouldn’t have done things any differently and Williams applauded how Hahn and Ventura handled a difficult, “unique” situation.
Ventura said he doesn’t expect much out of the ordinary.
“I think it’s going to be fine,” Ventura said. “Players always have their teammates’ backs, and that’s no different with our clubhouse, and it’s going to be fairly normal, as far as he’s going to be prepared to pitch and our guys are going to prepare to play and it’s going to go from there.”
The White Sox had a little fun with the Crosstown Cup trophy after securing it for the third consecutive year.
Well, at least one player did for sure: Left fielder Melky Cabrera, according to first baseman Jose Abreu, drank some beer out of the trophy after the White Sox beat the Cubs, 3-0, Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox retained the Crosstown Cup by virtue of winning the season series in 2014 (three wins, one loss), splitting in 2015 (three wins, three losses), and assuring themselves of at least a split in 2016 (two wins with two games to play).
This isn’t like a college football rivalry trophy that gets passed between campuses every year. And baseball players generally aren't keen to over-emphasize four or six games over the course of a 162-game season.
But the Crosstown Cup is still a trophy, and it’s one White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton appreciated receiving again.
“Any time you win an award — I don’t care if my grandma gives me an award during checkers, I’m excited,” Eaton said. “I don’t really care. But if you play for anything there’s some extra emphasis there. I definitely do think guys take pride in it for sure. But more pride in it that our side of town is happy with us in that sense that we’ve taken the cup back.
“You don’t want to put too much emphasis on any particular series. But at the same time, if it makes our fans happy that we got the cup back then that’s what we do.”
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – When John Fox succeeded Marc Trestman as Bears coach early last year, at the top of his to-do list was changing what was a palpable losing culture that had come to hang over the organization and Halas Hall. That involved changes of personnel, practices and even to the point of placing an emphasis on winning preseason games, not simply treating them as evaluation exercises.
This year, attitude adjustment is the least of his concerns. Besides the improvements even amid a season that ended 6-10 but was within a pair of missed field goals of going past .500, the additions of critical players have brought with them exactly what Fox wants, beginning with inside linebacker Danny Trevathan, bringing a Super Bowl ring from the Denver Broncos.
“I’ve experienced a lot of new attitudes here the past few years,” said guard Kyle Long. “This is above and beyond my favorite attitude that we’ve adopted.
“People throw the word ‘culture’ around, [but] it’s just taking pride in what you’re doing. You don’t get paid to play. You get paid to win. I’ve heard John Fox say that a million times and I’m sure I’ll hear him say it 2 million times this year.”
Culture means nothing unless it translates into wins because of a collective mindset. Trevathan, linebacker Jerrell Freeman, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, offensive linemen Ted Larsen and Bobbie Massie – all came from going to the playoffs at least twice in the past four years, Freeman and Trevathan three times.
The change was particularly evident during offseason sessions when members of the defense worked at a practice level that initially irritated some on offense, with coaches even joining in the chirping.
“I’m all about attitude and hustle and just playing ball,” said Trevathan. “I don’t care what happened before. You can always make up for it, just go 100 miles per hour and have fun.
“This game is short. Your attitude carries over to the team. There’s a lot of time when a team’s down you put your head down. I hate that. Even if we’re down we’re going to fight until the end. That’s what it’s all about, having that band of brothers and that attitude and going to, I won’t say ‘war,’ but going out there and battling together.”
One word that surfaced from multiple players during offseason sessions was “hungry.” That was not something that was heard even as recent as last season despite the change in coaches. Without that as a starting attitude, mediocrity was not surprising in recent seasons.
“I think with this group the thing that kind of stands out is just how good a group a group of guys it is, and how important football is to them,” said quarterback Jay Cutler.
“I think you look at OTAs and you look at minicamp and you saw how competitive offense and defense and even special teams were. There weren’t any days where guys were laying off of it. Every single day, guys were getting after it trying to get better, and the competition level I felt was extremely high for being in OTAs and minicamp. Whether that’s gonna translate to wins, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”