This weekend, we talked about how Mike Montgomery wasn’t selected for the rotation coming out of Spring Training, but immediately talked about how he was excited to fill his super utility pitcher role, because he just wanted to help the team win. We’ve also talked before about how Javy Baez is ready to repeat in his role as a super utility player, despite starring in the postseason and WBC as a second baseman.
Now, I won’t say that those two guys encapsulate the entirety of what it is to be a baseball player on the Chicago Cubs, and I also won’t say that anyone who says differently encapsulates the entirety of what it is to be a baseball player on another team.
But I will say that it all struck me as a stark contrast from Kolten Wong’s comments this weekend about his expected platoon role on the Cardinals, just a year after signing a significant extension.
“When you are given a contract, you are expected to get a chance to work through some things and figure yourself out,” Wong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, all these guys never figured their stuff out until later on down the road. It’s the big leagues. It’s tough, man. For me, the biggest thing is I just need people to have my back. When that comes, it will be good. But, I think right now, it’s just staying with my play, understanding I’m working toward getting myself more consistent, understanding what kind of player I can be. If that’s going to be with another team, so be it ….”
When asked if that meant he wanted to be traded if he was not going to be a regular starter for the Cardinals, he – almost unbelievably – responded with this: “One hundred percent. One hundred percent. I don’t want to be here wasting my time. I know what kind of player I am. If I don’t have the belief here, then I’ll go somewhere else.”
There’s a whole lot more in the piece from Wong, who was clearly upset.
Wong, 26, hit .240/.327/.355 last year (85 wRC+), and has a career .247/.290/.327 (71 wRC+) line against lefties in 336 plate appearances. He’s right that he’s still young, in terms of big league experience, but it’s hard to argue with an approach that would seek to maximize his value as a defensively-inclined player who can post a near-league-average line against righties, especially with righty Jedd Gyorko otherwise on the bench.
To say Wong’s reaction to being part of a platoon was over the top would be underselling it.
It seems clear that the Cardinals thought so, too – or Wong realized it – because he then reached out to the Post-Dispatch trying to clarify his earlier, awfully clear (“One hundred percent”) comments. Wong said that he was trying to get himself right in Spring Training, and the word “platoon” simply set him off, because he’s working so hard, and he’s not trying to be traded.
You can read the article for his full comments, and the full context in which they took place. Whatever the case, it’s not what you’d want one of your young players saying just before the season opens up.