Don Mattingly on the reaction to Puig and Gomez: “we have to loosen up a bit”

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Don Mattingly was never a showboat as a player. He was about as straight shooting, business-is-business kinds of guys out there. As a manager he still is. I mean, you don’t get the nickname Donnie Baseball for nothing. He’s the epitome of a “baseball guy,” which is a descriptor most people around the game use to describe people who take the game seriously and never ruffle people’s feathers.

But he has a supreme feather-ruffler playing for him in Yasiel Puig. And he’s well-aware of another feather-ruffler in Carlos Gomez. And over the weekend he said something which a lot of other baseball guys should probably listen to: relax, fellas:

“Guys play with emotion, and that can get on your nerves,” said Mattingly. “Gomez plays with a lot of fire, and it rubs people the wrong way. Every team has guys that bug you. It’s just the way it is. Puig is a guy on our team, he draws as much attention as anybody. But it’s a little silly. You can still be respectful of your opponent and carry yourself with class.

“I do think we have to loosen up a bit or there will be more and more times that guys take offense. I’m not talking about the Giants. It’s all around baseball.”

Sure, he’s obviously defending his own guy here, as these comments came the day after Puig and Madison Bumgarner jawed at each other when Bumgarner took offense at a Puig bat flip. But including Gomez in it too suggests that this is something Mattingly believes even when it doesn’t apply just to a Dodgers player.

And he’s right. Looking to take offense at even the most insignificant of deviations from baseball’s conventions of formality is “all around baseball.” I have no idea whether that strain of no-fun-allowed thinking has increased or if it has merely been flushed out into the open by a couple of flamboyant players, but it’s such a drag.

And if someone as conventional as Don Mattingly is saying it, it’s probably worth listening to.

Mike Piazza presided over the destruction of a 100-year-old soccer team

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Mike Piazza was elected to the Hall of Fame in January of 2016 and inducted in July of 2016. In between those dates he purchased an Italian soccer team, A.C. Reggiana 1919, a member of Italy’s third division. In June of that year he was greeted as a savior in Reggio Emilia, the small Italian town in which the team played. He was the big American sports star who was going to restore the venerable club to its past and rightful place of glory.

There were suggestions by last March that things weren’t going well, but know we know that in less than two years it all fell apart. Piazza and his wife Alicia presided over a hot mess of a business, losing millions of dollars and, this past June, they abruptly liquidated the club. It is now defunct — one year short of its centennial — and a semipro team is playing in its place, trying to acquire the naming rights from Piazza as it wends its way though bankruptcy.

Today at The Athletic, Robert Andrew Powell has a fascinating — no, make that outrageously entertaining — story of how that all went down from the perspective of the Piazzas. Mostly Alicia Piazza who ran the team in its second year when Mike realized he was in over his head. She is . . . something. Her quotes alone are worth the price of admission. For example:

Alicia, who refers to Mike’s ownership dream as “his midlife crisis,” offered up a counter argument.

“Who the f**k ever heard of Reggio Emilia?” she asked. “It’s not Venice. It’s not Rome. My girlfriend said, and you can quote this—and this really depressed me. She said, ‘Honey, you bought into Pittsburgh.’ Like, it wasn’t the New York Yankees. It wasn’t the Mets. It wasn’t the Dodgers. You bought Pittsburgh!”

In their Miami living room, Mike tried to interject but she stopped him.

“And imagine what that feels like, after spending 10 million euros. You bought Pittsburgh!”

At this point it may be worth remembering that Piazza is from Pennsylvania. Eastern Pennsylvania to be sure, but still.

Shockingly, it didn’t end all that well for the Piazzas in Reggio Emilia:

One week later, the Piazzas returned to Reggio Emilia, and were spotted at the team offices. More than a hundred ultras marched into the office parking lot, chanting and demanding answers. Carabinieri—national police aligned with the military—showed up for the Piazzas’ safety. The police advised the Americans to avoid the front door of the complex and exit through the back. Mike assured them it wouldn’t be necessary—he had always enjoyed a good relationship with the fans.

The carabinieri informed him that the relationship had changed. The Piazzas slipped out the back door, under police escort.

The must-read of the week. Maybe the month. Hell, maybe the year. The only thing I can imagine topping it is if someone can tell this story from the perspective of the people in Reggio Emilia. I’m guessing their take is a bit different than the Piazzas.