- Doug Padilla, Chicago White Sox beat reporter
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Justice was finally served Thursday when Chris Sale was named to the American League All-Star team, thus avoiding one of the biggest snubs in the All-Star Game’s history.
Of course, it took some stuffing of online ballot boxes to make it happen, but as a wire-to-wire winner of the Final Vote, Sale can now boast about his third consecutive trip to baseball’s midsummer showcase event.
Can you imagine the uproar if a player with an 8-1 record and a 2.08 ERA over 14 starts and 95 innings was not deemed worthy to suit up with the game’s best? It was already bad enough that Sale had to be subject to the Final Vote process, but it was ultimately the best scenario to give the White Sox three All-Stars from a team that opened play Thursday four games under .500 at 44-48.
Instead of putting Sale on the All-Star team immediately, MLB seemed to be of the mind that if the White Sox were going to have three All-Stars, then the public would have to make that decision.
And did anybody doubt that Sale would be the victor?
If there is one thing the White Sox’s marketing staff knows how to do it is to rally the fan base for an online vote. And while White Sox fans often get knocked for not filling up their ballpark on the South Side, there clearly is a passionate following.
Sale becomes the fourth White Sox player to win the Final Vote after Scott Podsednik (2005), A.J. Pierzynski (2006) and Paul Konerko (2011). And the fact that oft-derided Pierzynski could win a popularity contest shows the value of a determined marketing staff.
Before the voting got underway, Sale was asked if the Pierzynski result in particular was a good sign for his own chances.
“What's that supposed to mean?” Sale said with a chuckle. “Yeah, I'd say we got the right guys behind the scenes doing the work. But I think we're just going to have a good time with this and see how it plays out, and hopefully we'll pull it through.”
The White Sox came up with the #TargetSale slogan/social-media hashtag, put together video after video to promote the cause and even used the business investment of one of their own players to get the word out.
It shouldn’t have been necessary since Sale is undoubtedly among the best pitchers in the American League, even if he spent four weeks on the disabled list with a sore arm.
If subjecting Sale to a midseason exhibition game a few months after his injury scare was a concern, all it took was a look at the numbers to realize that shouldn’t be a worry. In the four starts this season before he went on the disabled list, he had a 2.30 ERA, while opponents were batting .168 against him. In the 10 starts since the DL stint, Sale has a 2.00 ERA, while opponents are batting .199.
Much was made about about Sale’s low innings totals because of his DL stint as a factor in his initial omission, and even Sale mentioned it on the day he was named to the Final Vote instead of the All-Star team.
“Yeah, it’s just about having the opportunity,” Sale said at the time. “I mean, any time it's an honor really to go, but to even be thought of going is still an honor. I appreciate being able to go through this process. Hopefully we pull it out.”
Maybe it was Sale’s humility that endeared him to voters who weren’t White Sox fans. Hopeful shouldn’t have been an emotion he experienced.
Sale’s credentials were so sparkling there should have been in inquiry if he didn’t make it.
At the start of play Thursday, Sale was the American League leader in win percentage (.889), opponents’ batting average (.190) and opponents’ on-base percentage (.237). He was fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.38) and sixth in strikeouts-per-nine innings (9.66).
Of the 52.2 million votes received in the entire Final Vote process, Sale garnered 6.7 million of them to best Garrett Richards of the Los Angeles Angels, Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros, Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians and Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers.
Now that the frantic process is completed and Twitter is returned somewhat to normal after a flurry of activity Thursday, there is a sense that order has been restored.
Sale, who was the winning pitcher in last year’s All-Star Game, is back on the team again and right where he belongs.
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