We’re approaching the end of The Miguel Tejada Era

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That’s the name Jorge Arangure proposes for the past couple of decades over at Sports on Earth. And he makes a lot of sense, noting that not unlike Forrest Gump, Tejada has been involved in nearly every notable controversy, movement, trend or occurrence over the course of his career.

His poor Dominican roots mirror those of the players who have literally changed the face of Major League Baseball (as did his role in an age-lying scandal). He was on the “Moneyball” A’s. He was involved in BALCO and The Mitchell Report. He also represents a breed of players who some figured would just go away but never have: guys who made their millions and ceased being superstars but continued to hang on and transform into a role player because, despite what people like to claim about rich athletes, he really, really loves to play baseball.

It’s a nice full profile of a player who, like a lot of Latin ballplayers, unfortunately, we’ve only really gotten to know in caricature. Kudos to Arangure for writing profiles like this and bringing us the stories of players who, for multiple reasons, tend to be kept at arm’s length from most fans.

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.