By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — How do you describe a relationship between two baseball men who want to win at all costs but have different perspectives about getting there? In the case of White Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale and manager Robin Ventura in the past five seasons, there’s been many twists and turns.
The intensity of Sale is well-known around baseball circles. The hidden fire of Ventura is much more subtle and more difficult to understand. Unless you watched Ventura during his 17-year playing career, you would never know the blood-boiling competitor that exists just below the surface of external calmness.
Sale most likely finished his season Tuesday with his 17th win, tying a career-high in his team’s 13-6 win against the Rays at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale has pitched a career-high 221 2/3 innings, an average of just more than seven innings per start, the most of anyone in baseball.
“That was the point, that was the goal,” Sale said after Tuesday’s win. “We wanted to be stronger and go deeper into games. That is something I really prided myself on. The goal was to fill up as many innings as I could. It worked out well for us.”
The 27-year-old Sale has been rumored to be on the trading block since last July, and the White Sox will listen to all offers for him this offseason before deciding what course off action to take. If it’s a total rebuild for the White Sox, Sale may be gone.
As far as the future of Ventura in the organization, that will become common knowledge soon after the season. His contract is set to expire at season’s end.
The end game may be neither will be in the dugout or clubhouse next season.
“We have had some fun ones,” Ventura said of his conversations and battles with Sale. “He has grown up here. He has been here the longest of anyone I think that is a part of growing up. He is the lead guy and anchor of the staff. You learn how to do things in different ways and grow up through that. I think he has.”
Sale emphasized he wants to stay with this organization while growing as a teammate and player.
“I hope I do,” Sale said about his growth chart on and off of the field. “That is the point of all of this, getting better at everything you do. You never want to be complacent. That is especially true in sports. You push yourself to be the best you can be and then some. I don’t think there is a better feeling than winning with the team that drafted you. But this is sports, so you can’t choose and pick what you want to do or where you want to be.”
Ventura has sent Sale home for a timeout on numerous occasions — at least three that I can document, with one coming in each of the past three seasons. After a July blow-up in which he was suspended for cutting up the team’s throwback uniforms that he didn’t want to wear, Sale told MLB.com that he didn’t believe Ventura always had his and the team’s back in certain intense moments.
Sale never retracted that statement.
“Some of it has been blown out of proportion,” Ventura said about his relationship with Sale. “Him and I have frank conversations. I think that is also part of having a healthy relationship. You can say what you want to say, but at the end of the day, we know we are pulling for the same things. He is competing, doing what he needs to do. We still have a relationship. We can do that. We can be honest and up front with each other.”
Ventura admires the grit and passion that Sale takes to the mound with him 30-plus times a season.
“He is talented too,” Ventura said. “The biggest thing is you have to have talent. There are a lot of guys that have attitudes that don’t have the talent.When you combine those together, you end up with somebody who is like him. He is one of the better guys in the league. It is one thing to have talent. If you don’t have the drive he has, you don’t get very far.”
Sale could pitch Sunday’s season finale for the White Sox on regular rest, but the team hasn’t committed to that yet. If the White Sox don’t send him out Sunday, it’s possible Tuesday marked his last outing for the South Siders.
Of his future, Sale said, “That stuff will work itself out.”
“Whether I’m here, there or anywhere — a little Dr. Seuss for you — I’ll be there,” Sale said.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.