Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A by the Cubs on July 29. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella has options left so, despite the fact that he has been an effective player this year, it made sense to send him down. Sorry, baseball is not a pure meritocracy. Sometimes the politics of contracts, options and service time play into such decisions.
At the time, Joe Maddon mentioned to the media that La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. It’s a bit unusual to hear that said publicly, but it’s understandable that a guy who has spent his whole life trying to make the big leagues doesn’t like it when he’s asked to leave. Indeed, you probably want guys to be at least a bit miffed when they get sent down and you hope they use it as motivation to work hard and get back up.
La Stella, however, is still taking it hard. Players have 72 hours to report to the minors when so designated. La Stella has not reported to Des Moines going on 11 days now. He’s back home in New Jersey, still working out and talking to Cubs on a regular basis, but he’s not reporting to Triple-A.
This, obviously, is a problem. The Cubs can’t just bring him back to Chicago, even if a space opens up tomorrow, because to do so would create a super bad precedent and essentially reward his insubordination. The longer he doesn’t report to Triple-A, however, the more angry and less understanding the Cubs will get. And justifiably so. No matter how nice everyone is being here, this is a temper tantrum, make no mistake about it.
La Stella has hit .295/.388/.457 and has hit eight homers in 51 games this season. That’s useful. So useful in fact that, at some point, it would’ve made a lot of sense to bring him back to Chicago before the season is out and maybe, if things break just right, have him on the postseason roster. But La Stella’s behavior has made that an increasingly unlikely possibility.