Albert Pujols hits kid with a homer, but it's all good

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Pujols swing.jpgAlbert Pujols hit a solo shot in the sixth inning of last night’s game, but a kid — who thought he had some pretty sweet seats in the first row of the bleachers — got smacked in the chest with it.  He was soon seen crying, though whether it was because of the pain of the ball or because he missed the catch with the glove he brought with him is an open question. But there was a happy ending: Albert Pujols saw the replay of it and sent the kid a bat.

Or maybe it wasn’t happy. Because now Pujols has created a perverse incentive against catching balls heading into the bleachers. Children everywhere will now thrust themselves, face-first, into home run balls, hoping against hope that they too will get a valuable piece of baseball memorabilia. Once this trend — that I’m no doubt not the first to recognize — becomes obvious, Mr. Pujols will be sued into the poorhouse and chain-link fences will be erected around the stands at every ballpark, transforming ballgames into something not unlike a prison rodeo.

Wait. That’s all crazy. Sorry. Just had a flashback to the old legal practice. I’m much better now.

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.