Tigers and Athletics still knotted up at 0-0 through seven innings in ALDS Game 2

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Folks, if you’re not watching this game, flip over to TBS on your TV. If you’re not the TV-owning type, head to your nearest sports bar because you’re not going to want to miss the conclusion of this game, as it’s been a complete pitcher’s duel through the first two and a half hours.

Tigers starter Justin Verlander retired the first 11 Athletics he faced and has allowed just four hits through seven frames. Overall, he has struck out 11 and walked one. The closest Verlander has been to danger came in the bottom of the fifth when the Athletics led off the inning with consecutive singles. However, a failed bunt attempt by Josh Reddick followed by two strikeouts put the kibosh on that rally. The A’s tried to put together a two-out rally in the seventh when Reddick singled to right to put runners at first and third, but Verlander escaped after a ten-pitch at-bat by Stephen Vogt, resulting in a strikeout. Vogt fouled off seven of the ten pitches he saw.

Athletics rookie starter Sonny Gray has matched Verlander, also holding the Tigers to three hits and two walks while striking out eight. Like Verlander, the fifth inning was a bit dicey for Gray. Omar Infante walked to lead off the inning, then advanced to second on a Don Kelly ground out. Jose Iglesias then reached on an infield single, putting runners at first and third with one out. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the Athletics executed a strike-him-out/throw-him-out double play, retiring Austin Jackson on strikes while catcher Stephen Vogt nailed Iglesias at second base.

Gray is at 97 pitches, Verlander 117. It looks like it will end up being a battle of the bullpens. Hold on to your seats.

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.