Grit isn’t enough: now the Dbacks general manager wants his team to be dirty too

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Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers inspired a lot of jokes last winter when he insisted that his team be “gritty” and proceeded to trade away Justin Upton for Martin Prado (among other moves) that he claimed were about instilling a blue collar attitude. That wasn’t enough, though, apparently. Now he wants his team to be out-and-out dirty.

He went on a radio show yesterday and talked about how upset he was that his team seemed to be something less than dour in the dugout during some losses and how, when he saw them on a monitor goofing off “if I would have had a carton of baseballs I would have fired them into the dugout from where I was sitting behind home plate.” UPDATE: I got this wrong. Apparently it was the Dodgers goofing off he didn’t like and said he’d throw baseballs at them if he could. Which, either way, seems kinda messed up.

But more offensive to him was the fact that, in his mind anyway, Dbacks pitchers didn’t hit opposing batters enough. Really, he said that:

You’d think the GM comes down and makes it a point to talk to the staff about it that at we need to start protecting our own and doing things differently,” he said. “Probably a week later Goldy gets dinged, and no retaliation. It’s like ‘wait a minute.’

“Not that I don’t take any of our guys from a lesser standpoint, but if Goldy’s getting hit, it’s an eye for an eye, somebody’s going down or somebody’s going to get jacknifed.”

Towers went on to claim that part of the reason pitching coach Charles Nagy was fired was because his pitchers didn’t hit enough guys. Worth noting, as Rob Neyer noted on Twitter last night, that Arizona’s batters were hit by 43 pitches in 2013 while Arizona’s pitchers hit 60 batters. So apparently he doesn’t want an “eye for an eye.” He wants something more on the order of two eyes.

If Kevin Towers fired Nagy for not instructing pitchers to hit more batters I hope Nagy told him where to shove it when he walked out the door. If he wants Dbacks players “jack-knifing” the opposition, I hope he gets out of his friggin’ armchair when the benches clear and starts mixing it up with other players.

And, if he continues to stand by these comments — and if he really did instruct Nagy to have pitchers plunk guys — I hope Major League Baseball disciplines him, just as it would discipline any pitcher it was convinced intentionally threw at a batter. Indeed, MLB should discipline him more for ordering it from the position of authority he inexplicably continues to hold.

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.