12 days ago, Chicago Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A Iowa to make room for Chris Coghlan, who was being activated from the disabled list. But La Stella didn’t report to Iowa within the usual 72-hour timeframe, and has continued to not report ever since. On Tuesday he was placed on the inactive list.
There’s a lot more to the story than that, of course. La Stella, 27, didn’t disappear, he wasn’t abducted by aliens, and he wasn’t living it up on a party bus like fellow demotee Yasiel Puig. (Though Puig had actually reported to Triple-A.) La Stella did an interview with ESPN on Tuesday and told them that he’s at his home in New Jersey, in constant contact with the Cubs, trying to figure out what his future will be now that he’s been demoted to Iowa.
La Stella’s assertion that he doesn’t want to play for any team but the Cubs is at the heart of this. His decision to go home wasn’t about being demoted, but about having to play for a non-Cubs team. And as La Stella told ESPN, he feels very strongly about staying with the Cubs.
“I’m not going to go play for someone else. That’s not something I have any interest in doing. I’m here for a reason. This is where I want to be…I’m just waiting to hear back from the team and keeping up with all the workouts and training and hitting.”
Of course, being demoted means that playing for the Iowa Cubs is what he’d have to do to continue playing baseball. But continuing to play isn’t foremost in his mind.
“There wasn’t much more that went into it than ‘this is where I want to be,'” La Stella said. “It was as simple as that. It didn’t feel right to me to go be somewhere else just to continue playing. That’s not what my thoughts center around, being a ballplayer and making it happen anyway possible. We all have a right to dictate what we do to some extent.
La Stella considered retirement last season, according to ESPN. Baseball isn’t all that he is, it’s just his job. But he decided to return because of how he felt on the field.
“That’s not who I am as a person. I don’t need to make every life move centered around my profession, because that’s not who I am. I kind of disassociated with that identity. It felt a lot better to me going out there playing because that’s what I felt in me, not because I felt obligated to do it. It was a lot more enjoyable this year.”
According to La Stella, the front office and manager Joe Maddon have been very understanding. In an interview with 670 The Score on Tuesday (via CBS Chicago), Maddon said that “the ball’s in Tommy’s court” and that everyone has different priorities in life. Though Maddon also said something that will make it difficult for La Stella to return.
Of course, in order to ameliorate the clubhouse, you can’t take him from there (in New Jersey) and bring him right back to the club. He’s probably going to have to settle and go back to Triple-A at some point if that’s what he wants to do.
It looks like Triple-A is inevitable for La Stella if he ever wants to rejoin the Cubs. But if he maintains that he only wants to play for the Cubs, then the two parties may be at an impasse. Regardless, GM Jed Hoyer told CBS Chicago that there’s no timetable on La Stella’s decision.
So the Cubs and the world will wait for Tommy La Stella to make his decision. And as they’ve been waiting, the Cubs have built an eight-game winning streak and continue to cruise toward the postseason. But if the siren call of the playoffs isn’t enough to keep La Stella in the organization, perhaps nothing is.
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