Cubs Giving La Stella His Space, I May Owe Him an Apology

I’ve been chronicling the Tommy La Stella saga since last Thursday in a running dialogue that has seen several updates, but the recent revelations by Cubs leadership and La Stella himself required more than a blurb tacked to the end of a post. Besides, I’d taken kind of a humorously antagonistic angle in that piece and wanted to step back and gain a new perspective.

Until Tuesday, the Cubs had remained mum for the most part, save for some brief comments from Joe Maddon on Sunday. We knew that La Stella hadn’t taken his assignment to AAA Iowa well and that the Cubs had given him some additional time to report, which likely coincided with the I-Cubs return to Des Moines.

What we learned Tuesday is that the Cubs did not know that TLS would be returning home to New Jersey and that they’ve placed him on the temporarily inactive list. Maddon has been in contact with his former charge and says he and the Cubs are letting the situation breathe. He added that La Stella has spoken with a sports psychologist during his absence from the team.

“He’s just at that point where he doesn’t know what to do,” Maddon explained. “Tommy hears his own beat. He’s a very interesting young man. He’s also a very good baseball player.”

I found a couple of those lines very telling, and I don’t mean the one about being a very good baseball player. I want to address that in more detail here in a moment, but not before we have a look at some more of what the Cubs had to say.

“We’re trying to understand where he’s coming from, empathize with him, give him his space,” Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. “Obviously, we want him back, and we want him playing. He makes us a better team and a better organization. We’re thinking of him, and allowing him the time to process what he needs to process to get back on the field.”

Jesse Rogers spoke to the MIA 3AM by phone and shared the conversation, much of which speaks to the point I want to address shortly, in a column that went up right around the end of the Cubs game. Rogers wrote that La Stella only wants to play for the Cubs and that he’d retire if traded. I’d love to cull all the quotes from that piece because I think they really shed light on where the La Stella’s coming from, but that wouldn’t be entirely ethical.

I will, however, share an excerpt and recommend that you click the link above.

[beautifulquote align=”left” cite=””]They’re doing what’s in the best interest of the team. I understand that 100 percent.[/beautifulquote]

“It’s a reflection of where I am in my life and my career,” La Stella said. “I told them I know you have a business decision to make. I completely understand where they’re coming from. I don’t fault them for making that choice one bit. They’re doing what’s in the best interest of the team. I understand that 100 percent.”

La Stella even contemplated retirement last offseason but returned to the Cubs out of a desire to be with his teammates who have backed him [emphasis mine].

“Everybody that walks through those doors, we’re happy to have them,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “Especially someone like La Stella, who contributes so much even when he isn’t playing. He’s a guy that spoke up during the game, rooting us on and things like that. Stuff like that is missed. If you see someone like that, who brings that every day, when he comes into the clubhouse you welcome him back with open arms every time.”

La Stella spoke publicly for the first time on Tuesday in order to take some pressure off his teammates who have had to answer questions about him over the last several days. He also said he expressed his thoughts to the team in the spring.

“Going into this season it was a shift in how I looked at it,” he stated. “I said if I’m going to do this I’m going to do it the right way. I’m going to be here because I want to be here. That was pretty much what I told them in spring training when we had that sit down meeting. I thought that went well.”

Huh, well, I think I may owe Mr. La Stella an apology. I drew some conclusions about his actions that may not have been entirely accurate. Is it possible that this is all a well-crafted bit of propaganda meant to curry sympathy? Sure. But it sounds more like a guy who was playing for the love of the game and who had that love stripped away. I can’t relate to being paid large sums of money to play baseball, but I know a little something about being paid next to nothing to blog.

I’ve been doing this indie writing thing for a while now, so you can imagine how excited I was when I reached out to a bigger outfit with a major byline and was brought aboard as a contributor. After having one piece published without authorial credit, a trial run of sorts, subsequent columns did include my name. Awesome, I thought, I might be good enough to get paid to do this. So I asked if I was good enough to get paid to do this.

They told me I was not.

There’s more to it than that, though nothing that’s really germane to the conversation. It’s not that I needed to be paid or that the money involved would have changed my life in any measurable way, just that I’d only ever written because I loved it and that particular experience made me not love it. There have been several other occasions when I have very seriously contemplated scuttling Cubs Insider. You might be surprised by how much time and effort goes into running this thing, and I sometimes wonder if life would be simpler without it.

I used to get jealous of bigger blogs and better writers and that fueled my doubts. In the end, though, I love doing this. Letting go of that envy and realizing that I just need to be me has made running this site much more enjoyable. That’s where I can relate to what La Stella is saying and where his head’s at. It sounds as though he’d achieved a great deal of peace and that he was in his sweet spot in Chicago.

Losing that may really have been enough to call into question his desire to continue playing the game.

It probably sounds crazy to most people would gladly play a child’s game for a salary they could only dream of earning otherwise. Maybe it is. Some will see La Stella as a petulant child who took his ball and went home when he didn’t get to play by his rules. Maybe he is. While I don’t agree with his recent actions, which would appear to be in conflict with his words about doing it the right way and supporting his teammates, I can appreciate that La Stella opened up.

[beautifulquote align=”full”]I think I’d prefer to just take the guy at his word at this point.[/beautifulquote]

I’ve speculated enough, maybe too much, on this topic already and I think I’d prefer to just take the guy at his word at this point. There’s a lot to work out when it comes to what happens between the lines, but the most important thing at this point is that Tommy La Stella is at peace with what’s going on between his ears. I just hope he’s able to do what makes him happy because grinding through life feeling like you’re risking either physical or mental well-being is miserable.

If that includes coming back to the Cubs, I’ll be here to write about it.

[poll id=”3″]

I chose to run a poll on Twitter as well and I’m intrigued by the stark differences in the responses between the two. While the one above is very much in favor of greater sympathy, the results on Twitter are much more even, with sympathy trailing the pack. Why do you suppose that is? My guess, and that’s really all it is without collecting answers from each voter, is that those who responded to this poll likely read Rogers’ article and/or what I wrote and the Twitter voters may not have. Any other thoughts?

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