Miguel Montero, the unsung Cub, gets his due — at least here
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There was no shortage of standouts as the double-decker buses rolled along the parade route Friday.
Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo. David Ross, Ben Zobrist, Jon Lester, Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Joe Maddon.
When their mothers first gazed lovingly upon these people, it would turn out to be nothing compared with the universal adoration they’d receive from this crowd all these years later.
You win a World Series for the Cubs, you get a janitor’s key ring of keys to the city. That’s how it goes.
On and on the buses went, and on and on the praise will go. I don’t see it stopping for, oh, ever.
But I want to take a moment to acknowledge someone who deserves more than he got, in terms of attention and appreciation. Miguel Montero was the forgotten catcher throughout the playoffs — until the Cubs really, really needed him.
Nobody done him wrong, but nobody done him right enough.
It was his pinch-hit, eighth-inning grand slam in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series that broke a 3-3 tie. Wrigley Field literally shook from the roar of the crowd.
And it was his bases-loaded single that scored the Cubs’ eighth run, a run they would dearly need, in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series. The Indians scored a run in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to 8-7. It was as far as Cleveland would get. Zobrist got all the love for knocking in the go-ahead run with a double.
Ross was lauded for his leadership skills this season, but Montero was at least as big an influence in the Cubs’ clubhouse. He was the guy who often talked to players when they were struggling. He was the guy who told the truth to the media when Maddon painted in pastels. He did so Friday on ESPN 1000, criticizing Maddon for pitching Chapman in the last three games of the World Series.
“Of course he was tired,” Montero told “the Waddle and Silvy Show.” “The guy threw 40 pitches two days ago. You have guys in the bullpen doing the job all year — they should be able to help, too.”
Montero was the guy who helped calm down Chapman after he gave up the Game 7 homer to Rajai Davis that almost ruined a season. In the ninth inning, he called for more breaking balls when it was clear that Chapman’s fastball had lost some of its speed. Chapman pitched a clean inning.
Montero was the guy who convinced a surly Chapman to talk with reporters after the closer initially refused to do so after his first appearance as a Cub.
Montero was also the guy who kept his mouth shut this season when he could have complained about his treatment and his playing time. He didn’t hold back Friday.
“I think the toughest part for me is they never communicated with me,” he said. “I’m a veteran guy. They talk about veteran leadership. I have 11 years in the game and two All-Star [appearances]. I expected to be treated a little better. I was expected to get communication. Just let me know. Put me in the loop. That was the toughest part for me because I never understood what my role was going to be.”
Ross got the lion’s share of the attention this season, and it wasn’t just any lion. It was the biggest lion in history. The team loved the 39-year-old catcher and, because of it, the city loved him too. Willson Conteras was the catcher of the future, and he had a gun for an arm. That left Montero as an afterthought – until the Cubs needed something in the playoffs.
“It was a different emotion because I didn’t get a chance to play,” he said. “I was a little disappointed, to be honest, because I felt like I did a good job in the regular season but was left out a little bit. It made me feel a little like not important or maybe not as good to be in this lineup.”
He turned out to be very much a reason the Cubs won a World Series. Just as he should have been.