Adding Damon would be too little, too late for Red Sox

12 Comments

The Red Sox pretty obviously have a need for Johnny Damon. No, mediocre defensive left fielders with 764 OPSs aren’t particularly valuable, but Damon is getting on base 36 percent of the time and he’d likely improve his numbers with a return to Fenway Park, where he’s a career .305/.376/.440 hitter.
Damon, though, probably doesn’t need Boston. Sure, the Red Sox are stil theoretically in contention for a playoff spot, while the Tigers are clearly dead in the water, but it’s highly unlikely that the Boston will make up 5 1/2 games on the Rays or 6 1/2 on the Yankees with just 37 games remaining.
And Damon isn’t the kind of player who would affect their chances much one way or the other. For one thing, they’ve actually gotten steady production from the likes of Bill Hall and Darnell McDonald in the outfield. Damon, who would replace either Ryan Kalish or Daniel Nava on the roster, would only be an upgrade against right-handers and probably not a particularly big one. He wouldn’t deserve to play over either Hall or McDonald against left-handers.
For that reason, Damon is probably better off staying where he is. The Tigers are going to keep playing him every day, and they could well have interest in re-signing him this winter. There’s very little chance the Red Sox would attempt to bring him back in 2011.
Damon doesn’t exactly control his own destiny here: the Tigers have the right to pull him back off waivers even if he says he wants to go to Boston. Damon, though, can’t be moved with his approval. He has until Wednesday to decide if he wants out, and it sounds like he’ll probably take his 48 hours to decide.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.