Johnny Damon has a mohawk

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When I started this gig I was so smitten with my personal freedom and the lack of any expectation to maintain a professional appearance that I grew out a big ugly beard. After a month or two the concept of rebelling got old so I shaved it off.

Johnny Damon is going through the same thing right about now. Freed from the need to keep his hair short and shave now that he’s no longer a member of Yankees, Inc., Damon was a bit scruffy in the spring and the early regular season. But now he’s realized that one need not rebel. One can simply move on. Sort of.

If there were any Johnny Damon fans still holding onto hope that he’d
grow his hair out again now that he’s out of New York, Monday might’ve
been the final blow against that. He emerged in the visiting clubhouse
at Angel Stadium with a mohawk-style cut.

Ever since Damon signed with the Tigers in February, there’s been the
lingering question of whether he would grow out his hair or grow out a
beard now that he’s no longer under the Yankees’ rules on hair length
and facial hair.

Damon has never really gotten into the speculation, and by the sounds of
his remarks, he definitely isn’t into the long hair.
“I’ve been wanting one of these for a long time,” Damon said. “That long
hair is long gone out of my system.”

The real tragedy of this is that no one thought to snap a picture of Damon’s mohawk. If anyone sees one, please let me know.  I’m picturing a perfect cross between DeNiro during the climax of “Taxi Driver” and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

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.