For want of a nail: the Braves stun the Giants and then the Giants stun them right back

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For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

Or was that about second basemen?

Before I start in on the Brooks Conrad sturm und drang, allow me to say that no matter who wins this series, it has been a fantastic one.  Close. Exciting.  Filled with the unexpected.  That went for Friday’s game without question, but perhaps it went even more for tonight.

The Giants led most of the way behind a strong performance from Jonathan Sanchez.  Meanwhile, the only damage the Giants could do resulted from Jason Heyward slamming against the wall to give Mike Fontenot a triple, followed by a Brooks Conrad error that allowed Fontenot to score.

Well, at least he got that out of his system, right?

Flash forward to the eighth inning where pinch-hitter Eric Hinske hit a two-run homer.  It’s the kind of thing, combined with Rick Ankiel’s home run on Friday, that truly makes you marvel at the blinding star power the Braves are riding in this series. Frank Wren had put a call in to Francisco Cabrera to ask if he wanted to pinch hit and Cabrera turned him down because the gig was way too low-rent for him.  Hinske was dramatic enough, however, yelling and pumping his fist at one of the more improbable home runs in recent memory.  If the game could have ended right there, oh how memorable it would have been.

But with Billy Wagner at a field hospital someplace, no lead is a sure thing for the Braves.  After getting two outs and allowing one baserunner, Craig Kimbrel allowed a Freddy Sanchez single to center.  Bobby Cox — who is so damn trusting that he doesn’t even remove Brooks Conrad for a defensive replacement — doesn’t trust Kimbrel to get one more out and brings in Mike Dunn to face Aubrey Huff. Huff singled in the tying run.

What happened next was just so . . . appropriate.  Peter Moylan comes in and induces a grounder to second by Buster Posey.  That goes right through Brooks Conrad’s wickets. It was his third error of the game.  If Bobby Cox wishes to manage more than one more game in his career, it will be the last defensive chance Conrad ever receives.  Seriously, put Tim Hudson in at second base. It couldn’t be worse.

It was lost in rage-haze, but I’m told that the Braves eventually got the third out and then went down mostly quietly in the bottom of the ninth.  Game over: Giants win 3-2.

If they could take a man’s life for the thoughts that’s in his head . . .

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.