Carlos Gomez is one of the dozen best players in baseball

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I was looking up some of Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez’s numbers today, basically just to make myself sad as a Twins fan frustrated by his becoming another player to thrive after leaving Minnesota. I then tweeted about how good Gomez has been, calling him one of the dozen best players in baseball, and I was surprised by how many replies I got acting like that was a ridiculous notion.

It’s not.

Look at how he’s developed as a hitter during the past three seasons:

2012: .260 batting average, 19 homers, 42 total extra-base hits, 37 steals, .768 OPS in 137 games.

2013: .284 batting average, 24 homers, 61 total extra-base hits, 40 steals, .843 OPS in 147 games.

2014: .317 batting average, 11 homers, 27 total extra-base hits, 9 steals, .974 OPS in 47 games.

Add it all up and during that two-and-a-half year span Gomez has hit .281 with 54 homers, 60 doubles, 16 triples, 86 stolen bases, and an .838 OPS in 331 games. Among the hitters with a lower OPS during that span: Evan Longoria, Nelson Cruz, Bryce Harper, Albert Pujols, Ryan Zimmerman, Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran, Mike Napoli, Justin Upton, Adam Jones, Adrian Gonzalez, Alex Rios, Jay Bruce.

Oh, and Gomez is a Gold Glove center fielder too.

Wins Above Replacement attempts to measure a player’s offensive, defensive, and baserunning contributions and dating back to 2012 he has the eighth-highest WAR total in all of baseball among position players. It’s fine to be surprised by how good Gomez has been lately, but at this point the only reason “he’s one of the dozen best players in baseball” might be mockable is that it undersells just how good he’s become at age 28.

And trust me, as a Minnesotan it pains me a great deal to say that.

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.