A.J. Burnett is giving Daniel McCutchen’s daughter a college fund in exchange for his jersey number

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We often hear about veterans coming to new teams and asking younger players for their old jersey numbers.  Often there is payment involved.

Last year Julio Borbon gave Adrian Beltre his customary number 29 in exchange for a watch. The year before, Jim Thome gave Alexi Casilla a Rolex in exchange for his number with the Twins.  My favorite of all time — which I mention whenever this comes up — was former Giants punter Jeff Feagles who got Plaxico Burress to pay for an outdoor kitchen at his vacation home in Phoenix in exchange for number 17 and — before that — got Eli Manning to send the Feagles’ family on a vacation to Florida in order to give up number 10. Dude was a ninja.

The latest in this sub-sub-sub genre of baseball news comes from Pittsburgh, where new Pirates starter A.J. Burnett wanted to wear his lucky (Lucky? Sure, lucky) number 34. Except Daniel McCutchen wears it.  Or, wore it, because A.J. has ponied up:

Some players get a watch when a veteran who joins the team takes their jersey number. Daniel McCutchen got a college fund. For his unborn daughter, due in May.

It was McCutchen’s idea, by the way. Burnett asked him what he wanted and McCutchen said a college fund.

Now, to be sure, a 529 fund can be in all manner of amounts and, as McCutchen notes in the article, its true value will be determined in 18 or 19 years when it matures and his daughter goes to college.  The initial investment by Burnett could very well be less — much less — than a Rolex.

But the optics here are pretty great. Way better than a vacation or a watch or a grill. Good for McCutchen for thinking of it and Burnett  for doing it.

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.