Cubs only want company line, so Miguel Montero is gone
Well, somebody had to speak up. About something.
The Cubs are almost to the midway mark of the season and, despite ridiculously underachieving so far, have carried on as if they are running away with the division instead of bear-hugging .500.
Miguel Montero’s criticism of Jake Arrieta’s slow delivery to home plate of course is being framed as a selfish catcher trying to make excuses for his weak arm. Anthony Rizzo rushed to Arrieta’s defense because the comfortable tend to protect their own.
And that’s why the Cubs designated Montero for assignment Wednesday morning. They don’t want anyone disrupting the storyline that everything will turn out all right this season.
This isn’t really about the Nationals stealing seven bases off the Cubs on Tuesday night. It’s about a team floating on a sea of mediocrity led by a skipper who hasn’t demanded much from his players. The team’s motto this season might be “That’s Cub,’’ but it really should be, “You Win Some, You Lose Some.’’ And a photo of manager Joe Maddon shrugging to go along with it.
That it took half a season for something to boil over isn’t a miracle. It’s an indictment. You follow up a World Series title with an up-and-down season, even though you have more talent than almost every other team, and nobody seems mad about it?
“We win as a team, and we lose at a team,’’ Rizzo told ESPN 1000 Wednesday, responding to Montero’s comments. “When you start pointing fingers, I think that labels you as a selfish player.”
You know what’s worse than publicly calling out a teammate? Playing like crap for a long time. And that’s what the Cubs have done.
Arrieta hasn’t been close to the pitcher he was the previous two seasons, but nobody seems concerned. Not Arrieta. Not Maddon. It’ll happen, they say. When? There is very little in his 7-6 record, 4.67 earned-run average and majors-leading 13 wild pitches to indicate there’s a corner about to be turned. Nobody says anything about that.
But when a veteran catcher lets frustration take over and blames the pitcher for being slower than a tortoise to home plate, the villain is the one wearing the mask and padding. He’s the one who has to go.
“Sometimes people can’t handle the truth,” Montero told the Sun-Times on Wednesday. “That’s my biggest issue. I’m just straightforward, man, a straight shooter. I’m not going to say you’re pretty when you’re ugly.”
There are favored sons on the Cubs, and Montero wasn’t one of them. After the World Series, he had the nerve to say that Maddon didn’t treat him with respect and didn’t communicate his playoff role to him. He also said of overworked closer Aroldis Chapman, “Of course he was tired’’ in Game 7 of the World Series. A shot at the manager. Also the truth.
Players sometimes say things in the heat of the moment. Some are allowed to; Montero wasn’t. It as simple as that. He was frustrated with the Cubs’ performance Tuesday night, and he lashed out.
“It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time,” Montero said after the game. “So it’s just like, ‘Yeah, OK, Miggy can’t throw nobody out,’ but my pitcher doesn’t hold anybody on. …
“That’s the reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that. It’s a shame that it’s my fault because I didn’t throw anybody out.”
He knows he hasn’t thrown runners out this season. That fact makes him an easy target. But in their rush to run him and his mouth out of town, his critics forget to mention who knocked in a 10th-inning run the Cubs dearly needed in Game 7 of the World Series. It was Montero. It’s convenient to criticize him over a few silly comments and forget what he has done for the franchise.
He’s blunt, sometimes to a fault. But he also was a leader in the Cubs’ clubhouse. When he talked, lots of people listened.
The Cubs want Rizzo to be a leader. They also wanted Kyle Schwarber to be a leadoff hitter.
You watch this team night after night, and you want to scream. Poor play. Bad decisions. Self-absorbed managing. But it’s the backup catcher’s fault. You can’t have him blaming one of the stars for doing something poorly!
Maybe Montero is wrong. Maybe he’s the one responsible for all the steals Tuesday night.
But the team reacts by designating him for assignment? The message is not that it’s wrong to call out a teammate. It’s that the Cubs don’t want their blue-sky worldview disturbed by someone’s alternate version of the truth. Yeah, this move will solve everything.
Welcome aboard the Good Ship Cub, where everyone is happy, never mind a half season of spiritless baseball.