As the world collapses in a pool of Purell beneath a mountain of hoarded toilet paper, let us thank the Red Sox for restoring even a fleeting sense of normalcy to our lives, because man did they just screw up.
On Thursday, they finally acknowledged what we all predicted was coming the day they shut down ace Chris Sale last August by belatedly announcing that their All-Star left-hander needs Tommy John surgery.
Assuming the typical 18-month recovery period, Sale should be ready for opening day, 2022, also known as Year 3 of his five-year contract extension.
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Ripping the decision-making that produced this outcome is no second-guess. Facing a season they knew would be lost without Mookie Betts and David Price, the Red Sox nevertheless treated Sale like the final piece of a champion, hoping against hope that with rest and rehab, he could front their rotation.
Were Sale the missing link on a club with a closing title window, perhaps a case could be made for taking the cautious approach. But the Red Sox are rebuilding. They knew so in August, which is why ownership fired Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations. John Henry and Co. wanted a more creative leader to slash payroll and in all likelihood move on from Betts, Price, and maybe even J.D. Martinez, had he opted out of his contract.
Not even the rosiest optimist could examine that roster -- especially its decimated starting rotation -- and see a path to the postseason. That made Sale's 2020 expendable. Had he undergone surgery in September, he could've been ready for opening day, 2021. By doing it this way, the Red Sox have potentially cost themselves an additional full season of their ace.
But that's just the latest in a string of Sale-related disasters to befall them since midway through the 2018 season. Though Sale clinched a title by throwing the final pitch of that magical campaign, he was by no means right. The Red Sox wouldn't have even used him without a four-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 5 vs. the Dodgers, because they didn't feel it would be fair to Sale or the team.
It's easy to see why. He had already effectively missed the final three months with a sore shoulder, and we weren't sure what kind of pitcher we'd see in 2019. That didn't stop the Red Sox from signing him to a five-year, $145 million extension last March that guaranteed he'd remain in Boston through 2024. Sale rewarded that faith by going 6-11 in the worst season of his career before season-ending elbow soreness started us down the road that led to Thursday's announcement.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox sought second and third opinions from a pair of noted orthopedists, Drs. James Andrews and Neal ElAttrache, the same duo that recommended rest instead of surgery for Price in 2017. That decision worked out when Price keyed a title run, but let's not pretend he's all better, as his 22 starts and mere 107.1 innings last year illustrate.
Andrews and ElAttrache suggested that Sale needed only rest and a plasma injection, but it sure looks like they were wrong. At some point, one can only seek so many second, third, and fourth opinions before the writing is on the wall.
And so here we are, at a destination everyone except the Red Sox predicted. Thanks to the coronavirus, there's unlikely to be much, if any, baseball played this season. Still, it would've been nice to have Sale ready for next year, and by blowing a potential seven-month head start, the Red Sox have all but ensured that won't happen.