Pedro Alvarez homers, Pirates win a wild one

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Let’s play a game.  I’ll give you a real-life baseball scenario, you tell me where it took place:

A 23-year-old third baseman hits a walkoff three-run home run in front of a raucous sellout home crowd.

Gotta be a place like Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, New York, or St. Louis, right?  Where sellouts are commonplace and top prospects perform like they’re supposed to.  No, that was a scene from PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Pedro Alvarez, 23, has blasted 10 home runs in his first 163 major league at-bats and played the hero on Saturday evening in front of a massive crowd that was aided by the promise of a George Thorogood post-game concert.  Dejan Kovaceivc of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote this morning that it was “one of the great finishes in PNC Park history,” and there’s no doubting that.

The Pirates have struggled through some really rough seasons in the past decade and they’re going to finish 2010 with a losing record for the 18th straight year.  But Alvarez and players like Andrew McCutchen have allowed the fans in Pittsburgh to imagine a light at the end of the tunnel.

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.