Chris Sale has no use for statistics and that’s totally fine

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Yahoo’s Jeff Passan has a story about Chris Sale and what makes him tick. One thing that doesn’t make him tick? Attention to advanced metrics. Or any metrics, really. He says he doesn’t look at his ERA or anything else all season. He just pitches. What’s more:

“All I know I’ve got to do is give up less runs than we score,” Sale said. “I don’t care about anything else. Not the numbers. Not the ISPFMLBLSSRs and whatever else Brian Kenny has come up with to define what makes a good player or not.”

Reminded the numbers love him, Sale said: “I don’t love them back.”

Sad. Because now he’ll never realize that when he lost his no-hitter by giving up a homer to Xander Bogaerts last night it was a textbook case of ISPFMLBLSSR regression. How he doesn’t care about that I have no idea.

In all seriousness, though: baseball players have no more of a need to know about or even care about advanced metrics than supernovas have to know about or care about telescopes. The stats aren’t for them, they’re for people trying to understand or explain what they do or trying to put teams together. And ballplayers did everything they do long before Henry Chadwick wrote down the first box score.

It’s one thing if a ballplayer seems to have no grasp of what he needs to do in order to perform his job well. That’s kind of a problem. But there’s no reason on Earth a ballplayer needs to understand why what he does is significant as long as he knows what the heck he’s doing. And Chris Sale knows what the heck he’s doing.

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.