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2022 In Review: Will Chris Sale Ever be CHRIS SALE Again?

If Chris Sale can once again become one of the best pitchers in baseball, the 2023 Red Sox will be a whole lot more interesting.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

2022 In One Sentence

Wait, what?

The Positives

Well, let’s see. He didn’t slip on a banana peel while walking to Starbucks and tumble head over heels into the bed of a passing truck filled with feral hogs, so that was nice. He never once got his shoelaces caught in an escalator and ended up with his entire body wound around the gears Flat Stanley-style, so you can’t complain about that. Oh, and you know what else? At no point in 2022 did Chris Sale’s ankle end up tangled in the ropes of a hot air balloon, lifting him upside down into the sky, crashing his body into trees, and chimneys, and through an entire flock of common starlings, which is great, really.

The Negatives

Literally everything else.

Best Game Or Moment

You know he had a rough year when we end up with too many choices for worst moment (the bike accident, the gnarly pinky injury, the time he destroyed a minor league clubhouse because grrrrrrr, big man competitor!) but literally only one choice for best moment.

On July 12, Chris Sale returned to the mound for the first time in months, pitching for a team that was seven games over .500 and still very much relevant. He hit 95 on the gun. He held the Rays to just 3 measly hits over 5 innings. And he handed the bullpen a lead after — hold on, let me see if I got this right — yup, Bobby Dalbec doubled in Jeter Downs!

The Sox would go on to lose that game, thanks to boneheaded base running by Alex Verdugo and an ill-timed ride on the Franchy At First Base rollercoaster, but that was less important than the fact that Chris Sale looked healthy and sharp.

The Big Question

Were all his injuries over the past 12 months just freak things that don’t hold much meaning going forward, or will Chris Sale never be truly healthy again because his skeletal structure is evidently made of Legos?

At the very moment that Chris Sale first stepped on a big league mound, people started predicting his future physical breakdown. This is just what happens with all pitchers these days, particularly ones who pair violent, whipping deliveries with the body of Jack Skellington. But it should be noted that, until his elbow blew up in 2019, Chis Sale wasn’t necessarily that injury prone. Believe it or not, he’d actually only been placed on the Injured List 4 times prior to 2019, and never for more than 15 days.

It should also be noted, though, that his arm does significantly wear down as the season grinds on, and that’s been the case throughout his career:

Baseball Reference

A fractured rib cage, a broken pinky, and a bike accident aren’t usually the types of injuries that make us fret over a pitcher’s future. But when they all happen within the span of 8 months to a pitcher whose body has always been suspect, it’s obviously cause for concern.

2023 And Beyond

We have absolutely no idea whether Chris Sale’s body will hold up from here on out. Moreover, playing the pitcher injury guessing game is the absolute most depressing thing about modern baseball. So I’m not even going to try to predict Chris Sale’s 2023 health; doing so is both pointless and depressing.

All I’ll say is that, for five innings against one of the best teams in baseball last season, Chris Sale was very much back. He was hitting his spots. He was throwing every bit as hard as he was in his late-20s. He was the ace the Red Sox haven’t had since the Before Times.

Chris Sale may never be CHRIS SALE again. But also . . . maybe he will. Watching Chris Sale try to stay healthy and regain his old form will be the most interesting and important thing about the 2023 Red Sox. I can’t wait to see him walk out onto a back field in Fort Myers.