Chris Sale is the best reason to go to Fenway Park since… when, exactly, do you think?
It could be as recently as last year, during David Ortiz’s historic farewell season. It could be a little bit further back, in the surprising, wonderful 2013 championship season. It could be the blessed year of our lord two thousand and four itself, the year the Sox became World Series champions for the first time in 86 years. The farthest back you can go is vintage Pedro Martinez, the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
It could also be better than all of them.
Let’s take the first part first. At the risk of blaspheming Big Papi, not even his incredible final season approaches what Sale is doing this year. It’s one thing for a player’s season to be great because of the age at which he’s doing it. It’s another thing for a player’s season to be great because he is apparently a supernatural baseball-slinging used-car-lot-inflated-dude.
What about 2013, especially after the Boston Marathon bombing, when the Red Sox -- thanks again to Ortiz -- became an even greater point of pride in our f*cking city? I’d allow it, but I’d still rather see Sale pitch this year, hands-down, on a random Wednesday night.
Which brings us back to 2004. We know how it turned out, so it’s tempting to say we couldn’t have know, in retrospect, how great it is. In theory, that’s true. In practice, everyone knew that it was special at the time, it was crazier than anyone could have imagined, and every 2004 ticket stub is worth its emotional weight in emotional gold.
It has a good case, is what I’m saying.
My only retort is that if you truly want to see something you’ve never seen before, Sale is a better bet, just as Martinez was before him. If you’re a 2004 believer, I understand you. Enjoy "Hey Ya!" on loop.
But, even for you: Go see Sale. If not tomorrow, later in the year, when the games still count. Tomorrow has one big advantage, though. As of this writing, Sale has had 10 strikeouts in 8 consecutive games, matching Martinez’s feat from his last 8 starts in 1999. One of those games may have been the best game ever pitched.
It is not an exaggeration to say that anything is possible when Sale is on the mound, from 21 strikeouts to a perfect game to a conspicuous, drama-building beaning. You never know exactly what you’re going to get, but you know it’s going to be good.
Look, not everyone loves baseball. As a baseball fan I’m reminded of this, in everyday life, over and over and over. A good number of non-fans regularly as me what about the game is so self-evidently interesting that I might spend the better part of my life poring over its statistics and obsessing over its minutiae.
For a Drew Pomeranz start, I don’t have much to say. I might try to sell them on Dustin Pedroia or Mookie Betts, but I’m not sure I’d be able to sell them after first glance.
Sale is a different animal. Forget baseball; you’d gawk if you saw him on the street. You don’t need to know anything about anything to know he’s different. He doesn't have to be brilliant, too, but he is.
Every memory you’ll accrue at any baseball game is worth the money. But to see a genius? That’s a different story. Like, you’d have fun at the concert of your favorite indie band, but now imagine Prince (RIP) playing the same venue, and imagine how much better that would be.
The only difference is that Sale is no Prince, nor is he a prince. He’s all piss, vinegar and beanstalk limbs. You’ll never see anyone like him as long as you live, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to see him in the first place. Fortunately for you, you can do just that in a manner of clicks.
You should do it.
For those of you who are old enough to have seen Martinez, and did so, you will need no convincing. There are great baseball players and there there are virtuosos (virtuosi?), and the latter are the ones for whom you don’t want to overthink your game plan. For the rest of you, trust me. You want -- you need -- to party like it’s 1999.