Ben Cherington says Jackie Bradley, Jr’s coachability “absolutely not” the reason for his demotion

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On August 18, the Red Sox demoted rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. to Triple-A Pawtucket. In the time since, there have been rumors that Bradley’s stubbornness while working with coaches — it was reported that he was unwilling to change his swing — contributed to his demotion.

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington put the rumors to bed, as WEEI’s Alex Speier reports:

“First of all, as far as the question about whether that was part of the decision to send him down, I can say absolutely not. The decision to send him down was based on our feeling at the time that the offensive part of the game — that he needed to develop a routine that worked for him and it was going to be easier for him to do that for some period of time in Pawtucket,” Cherington said in Yankee Stadium. I’€™m not a coach. I know that every player is different, is going to respond differently to guidance. We know that Jackie has had a ton of success in his life as a baseball player, at the major league level, at the minor league level. It hasn’€™t come as quickly for him, at least on the offensive side at the major league level, and that’€™s not easy for a guy to deal with. There’€™s never been an issue from the Red Sox’€™s perspective of whether he’€™s willing to work or whether he cares, anything like that. We’€™re trying to find the right way to reach every player, including Jackie, and then the player has to have a responsibility then too. That’€™s a relationship that we strive to reach. We want to build a good, functional relationship with any player. And if one is struggling it means we still have to work on that, but it had nothing to do with sending him down to Pawtucket.”

In 387 plate appearances at the big league level, Bradley posted a disappointing .216/.288/.290 slash line with one home run, 30 RBI, and eight stolen bases. His results have not been much better with Pawtucket. In 69 plate appearances over 14 games, he is slashing .212/.246/.273 with one home run, five RBI, and no stolen bases. Bradley is expected to rejoin the major league roster later in September, however.

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.