Stellar is exactly what LA Angels’ Tommy La Stella’s 2019 campaign has become. From disposable bench option for the Cubs, to infield institution for the Angels, it’s been a pretty wild last several months for Tommy Boy.
November, 2018- Tommy La Stella is traded to the LA Angels for cash and a player to be named later. Most people wouldn’t know that La Stella actually batted .266 with a .672 OPS over 123 games with the Chicago Cubs last season. They might not pay attention to a glorified utility infielder who had 24 hits, batted .312, and was second in RBI’s among pinch-hitters who qualified in 2018 with 50 or more attempts. Others choose to pay attention to the flashy All-Stars with the big names and even bigger contracts. Meanwhile Tommy Tomorrow has been on the verge of erupting each and every today.
His dynamic play in 2019 is an accumulation of putting together skills, then finding opportunities to test them. Glove work, bouncing balls, stances at the plate, hand positioning, balance in his career no matter the location. A focus on today to get better each tomorrow. From Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, all the way to the 8th round of the 2011 Draft where ambiguity tried to bury him whole in an infield deep Braves organization; La Stella definitely did not have a clear path to the BIGs.
After a single season with the Braves big league club in 2014(.251 w/26 walks), he was dealt for pitcher Arodys Vizcaino with International bonus slot swaps to the Cubbies. The Cubs also had some real infield options with names like Javier Baez, Starlin Castro, Logan Watkins, Arismendy Alcantara, oh, and another guy Angels fan have heard of, Luis Valbuena.
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Years of platooning turned all that skill glitter into solid gold by 2016. Breaking a curse and ascending with Theo Epstein to the highest MLB perch, champion. Tommy had reached the pinnacle, sort of, he had one at bat in the Division series, and none in the NLCS or WS. Individual goals were still aloof, despite the rings of pure team jubilation proof. The next year, in 2017, he had a career high 5 home runs in 125 chances. Boy, talk about perspective and never being satisfied…
La Stella is NOW batting a healthy .304 in Anaheim. His power numbers have surged resulting in 44 runs batted in on 16 bombs in 276 opportunities, already.
After his selection was assured on Sunday, former Angels Championship Bench Coach(02′), and World Series winning Cubs Skipper(16′), Joe Maddon, praised La Stella and admitted it was time for him to “demonstrate his wares.”
When asked about his 2019 success, Maddon said he was “reveling in this” because “even Tommy didn’t see” this coming. “He will be the first guy to tell you that,” Maddon said at the Cubs media pregame interview.
This selection also gives GM Billy Eppler a smirk toward all the hecklers claiming he has not given perennial stud Mike Trout “enough help.” Trout was the solo LAA representative in 2016, 17′, and 18′ for the Halos at the midsummer classic. In fact, 2015 was the last time he had current All-Star credentialed help to pursue a postseason birth in an awfully competitive American League West Division.
Hector Santiago and Albert Pujols were his ASG running mates that year, the campaign after their AL best 98 wins before their blink-and-you-missed-it sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals in 2014.
Fast-forward to 2019, and Trout is hoping to find that 2014 stride once again with a cast that includes former selections like Justin Upton, and future hopefuls like Shohei Ohtani and David Fletcher. Erick Aybar in 2014, and the 2012 trio of Mark Trumbo, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson round out the only other such help the Angels have had before La Stella as All-Stars. Of course, 2012 was Trout’s first and relatively incomplete Major League season, so most don’t really even count those guys as career help for Trout.
See, but when it really matters… beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Which is exactly what makes this All-Star such an honest reflection of the Halo Way. The very Angel brand. A guy who worked hard and exceeded expectations in the face of ambiguity.
Do I even need to restate never say die-ers like David Eckstein, Darin Erstad, Chone Figgins, and Kole Calhoun? Or over-achievers like Adam Kennedy and the red-bearded brute Scott Spiezio? Or even grinding gamers who did more with less like John Lackey and Troy Percival?
LA Angels team history is filled with guys like La Stella. Not all of them made it to this accolade. Maybe that’s what makes us all pause a little longer this time. Because no matter how players have begged, borrowed, or burned through years of triumph or sorrow, there’s something different about Tommy Tomorrow.