Victor Martinez has a chance to do something rare

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Victor Martinez’s seventh-inning grand slam Wednesday gave him 89 RBI with just 10 homers this year.  He’s suddenly picked up the homer pace with two in his last three games, but he still has a good chance to become the first player since Jeff Cirillo in 2000 to drive in 100 runs with 12 or fewer homers.

Only nine players have pulled that off in the last 50 years:

1. Floyd Robinson (1962, CWS): 11 HR, 109 RBI
2. Wes Parker (1970, LAD): 10 HR, 111 RBI
3. Thurman Munson (1975, NYY): 12 HR, 102 RBI
4. Willie Montanez (1975, DET): 10 HR, 101 RBI
5. Keith Hernandez (1979, STL): 11 HR, 105 RBI
6. Tom Herr (1985, STL): 8 HR, 110 RBI
7. Willie McGee (1987, STL): 11 HR, 105 RBI
8. Paul Molitor (1996, MIN): 9 HR, 113 RBI
9. Jeff Cirillo (2000, COL): 11 HR, 115 RBI

Martinez has gotten the job done by hitting .327 and collecting 33 doubles this season.  Everyone else on the list also hit .300 with the exception of McGee, who got his 105 RBI despite a modest .285/.312/.434 line and a 94 OPS+ in the high-offense season of 1987.

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.