On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers renewed contracts for pre-arbitration players Michael Grove and Andrew Toles, which sounds like a routine piece of baseball business printed in tiny black-and-white below the more attention-grabbing headlines.
Not in this instance, though. This particular renewal involved one young star, and one young man who will more than likely never play baseball again. But, in this often-cruel business, that hasn't stopped the Dodgers from paying attention to him and sending love his way.
The 30-year-old Toles was a core playoff starter in 2016, hitting .462 in an NLCS where the Cubs' first World Series appearance in decades ultimately dominated the narrative. In 2017, he hit .271 with 5 home runs in 31 games. Even then, it was likely he was battling unseen demons, which can affect anyone from your happiest friends to someone performing exceptionally on a national stage.
Toles tore his ACL on May 9, 2017, and was unable to recover his budding power stroke when he returned healthy for the 2018 season -- physically healthy, that is. He failed to report to Spring Training on time in 2019, ultimately leaving the team. The year prior, unbeknownst to anyone, he'd been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and opted to spend time with his family rather than try to rehabilitate his injuries and find his stroke.
Since then, things have only gone further downhill. Toles was arrested in 2020 for sleeping behind a Florida airport, and continues to battle his issues far away from the spotlight. But the Dodgers haven't let him go. Last year, they renewed his contract so he could maintain access to mental health services.
On Wednesday, they did it again for another season.
Dodgers continue to extend Andrew Toles for mental health care
Even in a sport overflowing with bad publicity and ruthless decision-making, there's still room for organizational empathy.
The Houston Astros? They're McKinsey'd from the top down, cutting ties with long-term employees in the name of incremental upgrades and innovating on a cheating scheme that many players agreed didn't help that much just because they could push the envelope. Evan Drellich's "Winning Isn't Everything" will make anyone who already hates the Astros despise them even more; Jeff Luhnow's organization was rotten to the core, discarding common sense in the name of devaluing players and observing them as pure assets.
The Dodgers? With a payroll this high, it's admirable that they've still carved out a slice of kindness to help Toles in any way they can.