As sports fans, we quickly get bored about the same old diplomatic answer every player gives. Stuff like “we just have to focus on the next game” or “we have to do better as a team” or something else from the Russell Wilson handbook for lame answers. We always appreciate players who speak their mind, like Miguel Montero did about his pitcher’s performance. While we appreciate honesty from an outsider’s perspective, those players with lesser roles are putting their job on the line for simply having an opinion.
For those of you who missed what happened to Miguel Montero, it was pretty easy to miss. It’s not like there was a saga that went on with the Cubs like there are in other franchises when a player speaks out. Montero simply went on a rant, and things escalated as quickly as possible. Chicago got drummed 6-1 at the hands of the Nationals, a loss that featured seven stolen bases. That’s like you playing in little league and having a cap on how many bases a team could steal an inning because the 9-year-old behind the plate can’t reach second. Montero, the catcher, was clearly pissed because of how bad that looks for the catcher, and sounded off by pointing every single finger he could at starting pitcher Jake Arrieta.
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) June 28, 2017
That is not your typical answer. He didn’t just throw Arrieta under the bus. He hit him from behind with a steel folding chair, nailed him to the ground, and then drove the bus himself over him. It’s like the movie Goodfellas. There are people you can hit, and then there are people you can’t. Montero went after a made man, a title Arrieta earned thanks to that little Cy Young award hanging on his shelf at home. Now, the veteran catcher has to go home and get his shine box.
Miguel Montero is being designated for assignment by the Cubs.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 28, 2017
As soon as he opens his mouth, all he has left to do is clean out his locker.
The Cubs season hasn’t been exactly what everyone believed it would be after they ended the century old championship drought. They were expected to run through the MLB for years to come, and instead they’re flailing around .500. It could be because of pitchers like Arrieta who are beat like they owe the opposing team money every single start, or because of big bats like Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber barely hitting their body weight. Whatever the reason may be, it’s not exactly a great atmosphere in Wrigley these days, which makes stirring the pot an extremely bad idea.
But was he wrong?
He’s right in the sense that stolen bases all fall on the catcher. He looks like a joke letting every single person that touches first base get a free trip to second. Arrieta is one of the worst pitchers in baseball at holding players on base, allowing an 83% success rate to runners over his career. In any other sport, what would’ve happened if someone was performing that bad? Like if a wide receiver dropped 83% of balls thrown his way, or if a center missed 83% of layups. Holding runners on is obviously not as significant, but it’s an issue that reflects the team poorly. When your team isn’t living up to expectations, everyone should be held accountable.
The funniest thing is, a player with a larger role would’ve been fine with saying something like this. It would’ve been handled behind closed doors, and that would’ve been that. Take Anthony Rizzo for example. As soon as he figured out what Montero said about his star pitcher, he called him out in what could easily be considered a worse way.
#Cubs Rizzo to Montero: “When you point fingers you’re a selfish player. We have another catcher that throws everyone out.” per ESPN 1000
— Major League Mayhem (@MLBMayhem) June 28, 2017
Both players have their points, but Montero’s comments make more sense. Keeping runners on is something Arrieta has to do. Rizzo basically called out a player publically for calling out a player publically. How in the world does that make sense? Rizzo could’ve taken his own advice and handled it internally, but that doesn’t matter anymore.
Just like it didn’t matter when Montero decided to do the right thing after he brutally called out Arietta.
Montero says he talked to Arrieta after Tue night’s game and apologized to him for his comments. He said Jake understood. #Cubs
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 28, 2017
Montero didn’t exactly get shipped out with a one strike policy. Right after the Cubs won the World Series, he called out Joe Maddon about not playing him enough behind other cachers during their postseason run. A two-strike policy is still a bit harsh, but Montero is a veteran who should’ve known how to handle that. That still doesn’t mean it was time to take the guy out to the woodshed because he called out a pitcher who is clearly struggling.
It’s not a surprise Rizzo was allowed to say what he did. He’s one of the best young players in baseball and a staple of the organization. Montero isn’t. He’s a platoon catcher who is far from an everyday player who is more than expendable. It makes sense while one was acceptable but not the other, but it just goes to show the position role players are in.
If stuff like this is going to happen, why ever voice your opinion? Even if you say something like that in private, who’s to say this situation would’ve been much better? Arrieta clearly handled it well and got past the moment extremely quick, but Joe Maddon isn’t somebody to stand for it, whether you say it through the media, face to face, or use a carrier pigeon. The message itself is the problem.
It’s the combination of it all. The team’s struggles and how he delivered the comments, but nothing was more important when deciding to get rid of him than his position within this team. If he was hitting around .280 with a steady RBI production, that’d be a different story. But the moral of this story is if you’re a role player don’t fly to close to the sun. Just keep your head down and watch your teammates struggle around you. Otherwise, you’ll be watching them struggle from your couch.