Time to wrap up the pitchers with the big kahuna: Chris Sale. After two stellar years, the White Sox promotion and marketing arm is going full monty. When Sale starts at home this season, section 154 will transform to the Sale Zone. For $20 (what a bargain for a lower deck seat! no really that's awesome!) you get a ticket, t-shirt and one of those fun "K" signs.
Yeah, that might seem cheesy, but let's face it, when Chris Sale is pitching, it is something special. It should be more of an event and the White Sox trying to put a little oomph into it is a good thing. Sale is one of the best pitchers in baseball and the way things have been, especially last year, one would hardly know he is in a major media market.
If the new marketing slogan is any indication, the White Sox have finally figured that out. Instead of the usual efforts highlighting he south side identity of the team, of trying to build an exclusiveness (which seemed more like xenophobia more than anything) the White Sox marketing office finally is trying to appeal to the whole city, identifying the White Sox as a Chicago team, novel I know. I'm not sure how it will all work out, but I like it. The Cubs are a national product, kind of like Manchester United, except not as global. The Sox are Man City, or before City got an oil baron to fund the team and became a world beater as well. The competition with the Cubs as far as market share can never be won. And Sox fans, stop telling me how Wrigley Field used to close off the upper deck and the Sox used to out draw the Cubs, etc. etc. etc. After some brilliant marketing and hires by the Cubs (Harry Caray, JohnMcDounough) and gross miscalculations by the White Sox (Sportsvision, tearing down Old Comiskey on the cusp of "revival" ball parks) the Cubs have built a brand that is a destination. The White Sox are not in the same market as the that.
They are in a big market, however, and finally trying to reach out beyond its South Side cocoon is a great first step. Blatantly marketing one of the game's best pitchers is a good move too. The booyahs and other sport broadcasts eat that shit up, so all to the good if you ask me (and since you're reading this, by default, you kind of did ask me.)
Oh, right this is a preview of Chris Sale (blessed be his name.) Completely biased here, but man! I love to watch him pitch, in person if I can, definitely on TV when I can't. There aren't a lot of guys like this around and having one on my team is extra sweet. Simply put, he is phenomenal. Last year he averaged close to 10 strikeouts per nine innings, balanced with 2 walks per nine. He's also a workhorse, with 214.1 innings pitched. And guys aren't hitting him very well either, a .230 batting average for opponents and the low walks keep the OBP under .300 too. Sale does suffer from a higher BABIP, but one has to put some of the blame on the White Sox horrendous defense in 2013.
Away from the numbers though, like any great pitcher, it is what the ball does that makes it special, especially in Sale's case. If his delivery is every used in an instructional video, it will be the "what not to do" example. His height and weight add to the appearance (I find it very discouraging that he is almost a foot taller than me, and I outweigh him by ten pounds) of a crazy geometric experiment, all angles and points, winding up and firing the baseball in the mid to high 90s is just amazing to watch. By the end of last season I think I finally stopped cringing when he pitched. The after effect is something to behold. The ball always has great movement, and when Sale takes something off, the batters just buckle. In many ways it is what makes me love baseball above all other sports. Chris Sale, basically looks like a skinny kid, albeit a little taller than most, and yet he can do amazing things. He's not built like Lebron James or pretty much any NFL player (god, can you imagine?) and yet he is a wonder. And he's ours.
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