Fowler's leap propels Rockies' big inning

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It was exactly the kind of move one might expect from a player who had a chance to play basketball at Harvard.
Fortunately, Dexter Fowler passed on that opportunity and took a $925,000 bonus to sign with the Rockies after being selected in the 14th round in 2004. On Monday, with the Phillies up 2-1 in the eighth, Fowler leapt over Chase Utley on a potential double-play ball, distracting the second baseman and causing a poor throw to second. The Phillies ended up with no outs on the play, and the Rockies went on to score three times and for a 4-2 lead.
In this case, it was probably more athleticism than smarts from Fowler that allowed him to avoid Utley, who had thrown himself into the baserunner’s path in an effort to field the ball. A collision seemed the likely result initially, but Fowler edged to the right and jumped over Utley’s back before sliding into second. Utley did get the throw away, but it wasn’t where Jimmy Rollins expected it and Rollins ended up being charged with an error after it rolled away.
Fowler had reached base on a walk versus Cliff Lee. He singled previously in the game. The rookie had to be disappointed because of the events of Sunday’s game, when he was removed in favor of Jason Giambi in the ninth despite already collecting two hits in the game. Giambi popped out against Brad Lidge with the tying run on, and the Rockies went on to lose by one.
The switch-hitting Fowler found himself on the bench frequently against righties down the stretch because of the play of Seth Smith and Carlos Gonzalez. However, he’s started every game of the NLDS with the Phillies throwing nothing but lefties and he’ll be in there again Tuesday against Cole Hamels, if the Rockies go on to win tonight. He should be locked in as the Rockies’ center fielder next year, with Gonzalez presumably playing regularly in left or right.

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.