When Joe Maddon announced on July 29 that Tommy La Stella hadn’t taken the news that he was being demoted to AAA Iowa very well, I think we all empathized with him.
He was being sent to Des Moines only because he still had an option left, and the guy who was going to be taking his spot on the roster was career-mediocrity Chris Coghlan. And not even the somewhat productive version of Coghlan that played for the Cubs in 2014 and 2015, but one who was objectively one of the worst players in baseball this season.
For the Cubs, the move was pragmatic. With only a month before roster expansion, they could send Tommy to Iowa and not have to make a decision on whether to designate Coghlan for assignment yet.
They were trying to keep as many assets 1 as possible. They did the same thing when they demoted a once-again productive Justin Grimm to clear a spot on the roster for the ill-fated cameo start of Brian Matusz.
They had to do it again when they DFA’d Joe Nathan to open a roster spot for Jorge Soler. But the Nathan move was also strategic. It’s very possible that he’ll clear waivers and he’ll be back in September.
So, when Joe said Tommy did some yelling when he was told to “go Greyhound” most of us thought it was funny and that Tommy was right to do it.
But when several days passed and Tommy hadn’t shown up at Iowa, you knew something else was up.
On The Score yesterday, Matt Spiegel and Jason Goff interviewed Maddon who didn’t laugh off La Stella’s delay in reporting to AAA, as we all expected he would. It was our first glimpse that something serious was going on. Tommy had gotten “permission” from the team to take more than the 72-hours he was allowed before he reported to Iowa. But now we were past 10 days, and still no Tommy. And the Cubs had been forced to put him on a minor-league restricted list.
According to Dan Bernstein’s “sources” 2 Tommy told Joe during his hissy fit that he would never go to Iowa.
I can’t blame a guy for not wanting to spend any time in Iowa if he can avoid it, but there’s something really strange going on here.
Yes, it sucks to get demoted when you’re in the middle of a productive season, but Tommy knows the demotion was temporary. Albert Almora was mad when he got sent back to Iowa when Dexter Fowler came back, but he went, and he’s playing well, and he knows he’ll be back before the season’s over. Grimm has been optioned out twice in the last week, and he can’t like it at all, but he’s going.
You want to just tell Tommy to suck it up and get back to work. There’s a pennant to win here. But what you never know is if there is a bigger problem, a family issue, a mental health issue, or maybe
Tommy spent some time with an unclean woman when he was on his rehab assignment in Iowa last month, and he just doesn’t want to see her again. The state fair starts in Des Moines tonight, and maybe Tommy has an aversion to deep fried Twinkies, country music, and Iowans of all genders wearing bib overalls with no shirts under them cut off at the knee.
So now what do the Cubs do? La Stella told his good friend Jesse Rogers that he won’t play for any team but the big-league Cubs. The Cubs insist that before he can come back he has to play at least a few minor league games. This is true for two reasons. First, he hasn’t had an at bat in almost two weeks. Second, they can’t set the precedent that if you get sent the minors but you don’t want to go that you can fly home, and eventually they’ll just bring you back and let you play.
There seems to be a realistic chance that Tommy never comes back. Whether he retires, or quits, or just stays on the restricted list, he might be done. It puts the Cubs in a little bit of a bind. The only lefthanded bats on the bench most nights are Miguel Montero and Coghlan, and those aren’t really bats this year. So the Cubs will probably have to trade for one, and post waiver-deadline that’s not an easy feat. It also means the Cubs will give up an asset because Tommy didn’t want to play anymore.
If he chooses to come back, and goes to Iowa or Tennessee or wherever for a few games, will his teammates welcome him back? They seem like a pretty mellow bunch, but this also seems like the kind of thing that would really piss off veterans like John Lackey, 3 Jon Lester and David Ross. It should also piss off guys like Grimm who went to Iowa because the team told him to.
If they don’t make a trade, and Tommy doesn’t come back, it means Coghlan’s going to be on the goddamned playoff roster. Part of me assumes that because I loathe him, that he’ll get a big hit in a playoff game. But that probably won’t happen because I like the Cubs more than I detest any single player so it would make me happy, plus I don’t think Coghlan is physically capable of it.
So we’re left to just wait and see what happens here.
The Cubs are back to being the best team in baseball again, and with Aroldis Chapman anchoring the bullpen, they appear even more formidable than they did early in the season. Kind of seems like the kind of team you’d do anything to stay on.
Even spend August in Des Moines.