Who earns the highest percentage of his team’s payroll?

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Would you believe it’s Houston’s Carlos Lee?

Over at the Baseball-Reference blog, Neil Paine has listed the top 100 salaries as a percentage of a team’s payroll, and Lee holds an edge over Travis Hafner for first place.

Five players are earning more than 20 percent of their team’s payroll (salaries in millions):

1. Carlos Lee (Astros) – $19.0/$70.1 – 26.9%
2. Travis Hafner (Indians) – $13.0/$49.2 – 26.4%
3. Todd Helton (Rockies) – $20.3/$88.1 – 23.0%
4. Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners) – $18.0/$86.5 – 20.8%
5. Joe Mauer (Twins) – $23.0/$112.7 – 20.4%

Alex Rodriguez, the game’s highest-paid player comes in at No. 19. His $32 million salary accounts for 15.8 percent of the Yankees’ $202.7 million payroll.

The Red Sox stand out as being exceptionally well balanced. Their high earner, Josh Beckett, makes just 10.5 percent of their payroll ($17.0/$161.8), placing him 80th on the list. To put that in perspective, he accounts for a lower percentage of their payroll than Lyle Overbay does the Pirates or Randy Wolf does the Brewers.

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.