Nathan chokes, A-Rod comes through in Game 2

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Just because a guy has a lousy postseason reputation, it’s still probably not the best strategy to start grooving fastballs.
The Twins had Game 2 of the ALDS in control when they took a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning Saturday. They even picked up the last run after Mariano Rivera entered, and they went on to get a scoreless bottom of the eighth from Matt Guerrier. All that was left was for closer extraordinaire Joe Nathan to shut the Yankees down in the ninth.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. Alex Rodriguez, who drove in the Yankees’ only previous run when he took a Nick Blackburn fastball left right over the heart of the plate into left field for a single, got a 3-1 fastball left up in the zone and teed off, taking it over the wall in center for a two-run homer.
It was another postseason failure for Nathan, who has given up seven runs in 7 1/3 innings in October action. He has two losses and a blown save to go along with his one save in seven appearances.
For A-Rod, it was even more redemption following his two-RBI game on Wednesday. He has five RBI in the ALDS, matching his high for a postseason series. He also had give in the 2000 ALCS and the 2004 ALCS, both of which were losses for his teams.
The Twins still had a chance from there, but the brutal call from Phil Cuzzi to deny Joe Mauer a leadoff double in the 11th really hurt. The Twins went on to load the bases with no outs anyway, but David Robertson retired Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez and Brendan Harris to escape the jam.
It was quickly over then. Mark Teixeira scorched a ball to left to begin the bottom of the 11th. A foot lower and he might have been held to a single. Instead, it skipped off the top of the wall for a game-ending homer.
The Yankees will travel to the Metrodome for Sunday’s Game 3 with a commanding 2-0 lead. Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano are the scheduled starters, and it now appears as though the Twins might go down without ever throwing their best starter (Scott Baker).

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.