Padres shouldn't declare Gonzalez off limits

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adrian gonzalez running.jpgWe’ve been playing this game for nearly six months now: some team is talking to the Padres about Adrian Gonzalez — usually the Red Sox — and then the report goes on to state, in some similar but perhaps not identical fashion, “yet the Padres have no reason to trade their first baseman.”
But they do. There are two very good reasons for the Padres to trade Gonzalez, even though he’s ridiculously affordable at $10.25 million for the next two years.
Reason No. 1: The Padres aren’t going to the World Series during the next two years.
There’s quite a bit to like about the group the Padres are putting together. The bullpen should be excellent once again, and a rotation comprised of a healthy Chris Young, Kevin Correia, Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Sean Gallagher could keep the team in a lot of games. The offense, though, is still a huge problem. Besides Gonzalez, there isn’t a position player in the organization sure to be an above average regular, and the Padres will likely be below average at all four up-the-middle spots unless someone new is brought in. I could see the pitching keeping the Padres in the race for a time next year, but they’re not going to be there in the end. The 2011 outlook wouldn’t be much better, barring the addition of a couple of more bats.
Reason No. 2: Kyle Blanks should never play the outfield again.
In need of some offense, the Padres tried shifting the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Blanks to the outfield last season. He came up and delivered 10 homers in just 148 at-bats, but he simply wasn’t adequate in Petco’s spacious corners and he got hurt while trying to cover all of that ground. A torn plantar fascia in his right foot ended his season in late August.
Besides Gonzalez, Blanks is likely the best hitter in the Padres organization. Yet much of what he would provide in the batter’s box would be given away if the Padres continued to use him in the outfield. Worse, the team would be inviting more injuries. He belongs at first base.
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Now, I’m not saying the Padres need to trade Gonzalez right away. Blanks just turned 23 in September, and it wouldn’t hurt him to spend another three or four months in Triple-A. Gonzalez, though, probably has as much trade value right now as he’ll ever have, and there’s been nothing to suggest that the Padres have a realistic chance of signing him for the long-term. If the right offer comes along, the Padres can’t be afraid to pull the trigger.

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.