We all knew that the Chicago Cubs would have a tough time against the Washington Nationals, who trotted out reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer on Tuesday night. He was opposed by Jake Arrieta, 2015’s Cy Young winner, who has frankly not pitched like that version of Jake Arrieta in recent memory. We can get into that later, and perhaps you can also peruse the list of names that the Cubs may consider in trade to spell Jake next season after he leaves via free agency (likely), or perhaps even this season if he can’t figure himself out.
There are various reasons to think that Joe Maddon knew what he was doing when he paired Arrieta, a notoriously poor holder of baserunners, with Miguel Montero, who is bad at throwing out baserunners. Miggy is usually very good at working with his pitchers, great at framing, good at blocking pitches in the dirt. He is also left-handed, which matches up better against Scherzer, a pitcher who normally is murder against right-handed hitters. He just doesn’t have the cannon of an arm that Willson Contreras has. And tonight, the Nationals took advantage, setting a new team record with seven total stolen bases in the game.
See Nats. See Nats run. Run, Nats, run! pic.twitter.com/nifOWg4msj
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 28, 2017
Before we get into the things Miggy said after the game about the Nationals running wild (you can order the video with 3 easy payments of $9.95!), let’s again affirm ourselves of the fact that he simply sucks at throwing out base stealers:
— Harry Pavlidis (@harrypav) June 28, 2017
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s look at his potentially controversial comments:
Let me begin by saying the Miggy has a point. Arrieta either is incapable or unwilling to hold baserunners by doing what Jon Lester at least tries to do, by quickening his delivery, altering his timing, stepping off, whatever. And that exacerbates the deficiencies that we already know Miggy to have.
That being said, holy cow, Miguel Montero. That was an extreme deflection of blame there, even if he did have a point. I don’t think a player should throw his teammate under the bus like that. Nay, Miggy basically rammed Jake into a wall, backed up, let the body peel off the wall, and then drove back and forth over the carcass until it became a mere stain in the asphalt. At the moment I haven’t seen any major repercussions of the comments, whether from the coaching staff, the front office, or Jake himself. But the optics aren’t good at all from my point of view.
This is also somewhat intriguing from a roster point of view, because there is at least some wondering if this could be the end for Miguel Montero as a Chicago Cub. For the longest time, even starting last year and persisting into this offseason, we have been pondering whether the Cubs would trade or release Miggy in favor of a Contreras/Kyle Schwarber tandem, or Contreras and someone else in the organization, such as Victor Caratini. The throwing issues may eventually move Miggy out of the picture, but we will see. This is the last year of Montero’s contract, and he still has some clubhouse value to the team as well as being a mentor and backup to Contreras.
I think for now, given the lack of pushback, we assume that the Cubs (players and staff alike) are just letting Miggy blow off steam, unfiltered, like we’ve come to know of him. He’s still a fan favorite, still fun with the hashtags and the #wearegood, and he has been at least solid at the plate most of the season. Every now and then, he can pitch an inning or so to help save the bullpen. If the Cubs players let this blow by, there is no controversy. But there is always still the possibility of a future procedural move to phase him out of the team, and I guess we’ll see if this actually catalyzes anything when all is said and done.
UPDATE 6/28 9:52 AM: Shots fired! Shots fired!
Rizzo calls Montero rant about Jake unprofessional. Points out it's second time Miggy was "barking" to media about something. #ByeMiggy
— Paul Sullivan (@PWSullivan) June 28, 2017
Rizzo on Miggy's comments:
"When you point fingers you're a selfish player. We have another catcher that throws everyone out."
— ESPN 1000 (@ESPN1000) June 28, 2017
"This is all over TV last night. Now I gotta talk about it today. We win as 25 lose as 25. To call teammates out? What’s the point?"
— ESPN 1000 (@ESPN1000) June 28, 2017
Cue Ron Santo “OH NOOOOOO” sound byte. We have at least a small bit of strife here, still probably able to quell this with a player meeting but certainly troubling now that the cat is out of the bag from Anthony Rizzo, the pretty much undisputed team leader.