Cardinals activate Mark Ellis, demote Pete Kozma to minors

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Mark Ellis is back from a spring training knee injury, so the Cardinals have activated the veteran second baseman from the disabled list. And to make room on the 25-man roster they demoted last season’s starting shortstop, Pete Kozma, to Triple-A.

Kozma’s impressive 26-game rookie stint with the Cardinals in 2012 had some people convinced he could be a long-term solution, but nothing in his minor-league track record suggested that was the case and sure enough he hit just .217 with one homer and a .548 OPS in 143 games last year. St. Louis made upgrading shortstop a priority this offseason and replaced him with Jhonny Peralta.

Ellis signed a one-year, $5.25 million deal with St. Louis as a free agent and it’ll be interesting to see how much playing time he takes from rookie Kolten Wong at second base. Wong hasn’t hit much through 13 games, but he’s done a nice job controlling the strike zone and brings a lot more speed to the table at age 23. And he hit .303 with an .835 OPS at Triple-A last season.

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.