With a record of 70-41 as of Wednesday morning, the Chicago Cubs are far and away the best team in Major League Baseball. While there’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong, the recent signing of Aroldis Chapman only gives Cubs fans another reason to be optimistic about ending the curse this season. Having gone undefeated since the All-Star Break (sweeping a two-game series with the Miami Marlins and a three-game series with the Oakland A’s), they are currently one win away from sweeping the Angels of Anaheim.
While almost everything seems to be going well for the Cubs, the current situation with left-handed hitting infielder Tommy La Stella has raised some concerns for Chicago. Having been sent to Iowa on July 29 to spend some time with the Triple-A team, La Stella never showed up. He had expressed previously that he was only interested in playing for the Cubs. Apparently, he specifically meant the Chicago Cubs — not the Iowa Cubs. With very little communication from Tommy, some have started to wonder if the next thing they’ll hear from the La Stella camp is that he’s retiring.
The Chicago Cubs organization seems to be fully supporting La Stella as he contemplates the future of his baseball career from his home in New Jersey. Even so, as reported by WGN, they don’t have a lot of information to provide about La Stella’s future.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon talked about Tommy with the press.
“He’s not angry. He’s not upset. He’s just at that point now… he doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do. He’s working out. Honestly, that’s all I know. I don’t know exactly when he’s going to come back.”
Likely adding to La Stella’s frustration is the fact that he was performing well before being sent to AAA Iowa. Without many other left-handed hitters on Chicago’s bench, his batting numbers (.295/.388/.457) were strong after 51 games with the Cubs this season.
Adding legitimacy to the rumors that La Stella may be retiring are comments that Tommy made to ESPN Chicago prior to the beginning of the 2016 MLB season. If he was traded from the Chicago Cubs, that would be the end of his career.
“That would have been it. 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… I’m not going to fault anyone for what they say or assume about the situation. I’m OK to step away. It’s something I’ve been preparing for, for a while. It’s an accumulation of things. With injuries and stuff like that. It’s a bunch of stuff that’s personal to me.”
Hoping that La Stella isn’t retiring, Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward said that Tommy is missed in their clubhouse and that his teammates would “welcome him back with open arms every time.”
The Cubs have gone so far as to have their sports psychologist, Dr. Ken Ravizza, reach out to La Stella, and Tommy has been in talks with team executive Theo Epstein. However, Maddon did say that if La Stella wants to play in Chicago again, he will first have to show up in Des Moines to play with the Iowa Cubs.
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The Chicago Cubs host the California Angels again at Wrigley Field on Wednesday. Jason Hammel (11-5, 3.07 ERA) is scheduled to start for Chicago, while Ricky Nolasco (0-0, 7.50 ERA) will start on the mound for California. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. CT and will air regionally on CSN Chicago.
On Thursday, the Cubs welcome the St. Louis Cardinals to the first in a four-game series against their long-time NL Central division rivals. Prior to Wednesday’s action, the Cubs held a commanding 12-game lead over the second-place Cardinals, who are currently one game out of the Wild Card spot in the National League.
[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]