And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

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Padres 3, Dodgers 1: The coolest thing about baseball is that all of us yakkers can spend two months talking about teams’ strengths and weaknesses and How It Will All Go, and then the games start and none of it matters one damn bit. Like the back end of the Dodgers’ bullpen, for example. Brian Wilson came in to protect a 1-0 lead, gave up a tying home run to pinch hitter Seth Smith and then a bunch of clownshoes play by Wilson and the other Dodgers allowed two more in and that was the game.

Yes, I do believe that over the course of 162 games the Dodgers bullpen — particularly Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen — will be a team strength. So this isn’t me reading too much into one game at the expense of those 162 and thus tossing out previous predictions and analysis. But we don’t consume baseball over 162 games. We consume them one game at a time, and in those individual games, anything can happen. Like Brian Wilson getting lit up for three runs in the eighth. We can never predict that, even if we can predict what may happen in six months worth of his appearances. When all you can really know with even a moderate degree of certainty is how things will play out over long periods of time, the short periods of time become that much more exciting. Unless you were a Dodgers fan last night of course.

Tough luck for Hyun-Jin Ryu, who hardly broke a sweat in keeping the padres scoreless on three hits thought seven innings, while tossing only 88 pitches. If it’s later in the season he probably comes out for the eighth here. But dude, Wilson and Jansen! That’s how it was all planned out!

Well, Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht. As do the makers of the 162-game schedule.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Opening Day’s games (March 31). It’s $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Starts at 1:05pm ET on Opening Day. Here’s the FanDuel link.

 

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.