Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
Yasiel Puig was sent down to Oklahoma City last week. He hasn’t played there much yet. Only two games. Still, he has already bonded with his teammates in ways he never seemed to bond with them up in Los Angeles. Maybe too well for the Dodgers’ tastes.
After a game in Des Moines, Puig and his teammates partied a bit, with Puig recording the festivities on Snapchat. It’s a lot of yelling and boisterousness and some chanting of profanity. Probably nothing terribly unusual for minor leaguers letting off steam on the road, even if it’s not something the public sees every day. You can watch a stream of the snapchats here, but warning, there is some NSFW language.
The Dodgers were asked about this when it started to go viral. They’ve issued a statement:
I presume this will fall out along the usual battle lines. Some people will say Puig “doesn’t get it” and is some sort of head case/distraction. Others will say that it’s nothing unusual for young ballplayers and that to the extent there is an ado, it’s much ado about nothing.
I’m a pretty big Puig defender, obviously. My view here is that the behavior is not a problem in and of itself — Hey! His teammates seem to like him for once! — but that you can’t really be posting all of a team’s private stuff publicly like that so maybe a social media best practices talking-to is in order. Or is that too reasonable for a Puig-related story?
Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A by the Cubs on July 29. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella has options left so, despite the fact that he has been an effective player this year, it made sense to send him down. Sorry, baseball is not a pure meritocracy. Sometimes the politics of contracts, options and service time play into such decisions.
At the time, Joe Maddon mentioned to the media that La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. It’s a bit unusual to hear that said publicly, but it’s understandable that a guy who has spent his whole life trying to make the big leagues doesn’t like it when he’s asked to leave. Indeed, you probably want guys to be at least a bit miffed when they get sent down and you hope they use it as motivation to work hard and get back up.
La Stella, however, is still taking it hard. Players have 72 hours to report to the minors when so designated. La Stella has not reported to Des Moines going on 11 days now. He’s back home in New Jersey, still working out and talking to Cubs on a regular basis, but he’s not reporting to Triple-A.
This, obviously, is a problem. The Cubs can’t just bring him back to Chicago, even if a space opens up tomorrow, because to do so would create a super bad precedent and essentially reward his insubordination. The longer he doesn’t report to Triple-A, however, the more angry and less understanding the Cubs will get. And justifiably so. No matter how nice everyone is being here, this is a temper tantrum, make no mistake about it.
La Stella has hit .295/.388/.457 and has hit eight homers in 51 games this season. That’s useful. So useful in fact that, at some point, it would’ve made a lot of sense to bring him back to Chicago before the season is out and maybe, if things break just right, have him on the postseason roster. But La Stella’s behavior has made that an increasingly unlikely possibility.
Former outfielder and current agent Gary Sheffield spoke with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on Sirius XM’s MLB Network radio about Tim Tebow’s desire to play baseball today. Sheffield says that he has worked with Tebow and that, while initially skeptical, he immediately came around to the idea that Tebow could make it because of the speed, power and compactness of his swing. Sheffield was also impressed by “that sound,” referring to the crack of the bat on Tebow’s swings.
I don’t know if “crack of the bat” is a legit scouting observation or not. People have always talked about it, and I’m sure that there is a correlation between bat speed, squaring up the ball and strength that leads to that satisfying sound. I suspect it’s one of those deals, though, where all good hitters make the bat crack nicely, but not all hitters who make the bat crack nicely are good hitters, if that makes any sense. One of my Twitter friends, a Twins fan, reminded me that people talked big about the sound of the crack of Delmon Young‘s bat back in the day. And sure, if Tim Tebow could be Delmon Young that would be WAY better than anyone expects, but let’s not pretend bat crack is determinative of anything.
I’ll give Sheffield an extraordinarily wide berth on bat speed. If anyone on the planet knows bat speed it’s Gary Sheffield. That dude whipped the lumber like nobody’s business. Still worth noting: Sheffield was hired to work with Tebow. I don’t know what sort of relationship they had — he may have just coached him a bit on one afternoon, he may have worked with him a lot — but Sheffield does seem to have an interest in the Tim Tebow story working out, so take it for what it’s worth. For my part: I’m not gonna die on a hill of second-guessing Gary Sheffield’s insights on hitting, but I’m highly skeptical.
I’m more skeptical on the comments he and host Jim Duquette make about Tebow’s dedication and hard work. I don’t doubt that Tebow always worked hard at what he set out to do, no matter the results, but there is a clear thread in his career where, if someone asked him to do something he didn’t want to do — like play in the CFL or learn another position — he wasn’t too hot on it. People can change, of course, but as so many have observed, baseball is just as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. If Tim Tebow has major league dreams and someone says that he should cool his heels at extended spring training go ride the pine for the Missoula Osprey for three months to just soak in some baseball for a while, how will he react?
I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, here’s Sheffield talking Tebow: