Within the span of a week, Miguel Montero went from galvanizing face (“#weareback”) to discarded pariah. Things move quickly when a team is struggling as badly as the Cubs.
Not that the decision to designate Montero for assignment yesterday was taken lightly, or was necessarily designed to make him the scapegoat for a season’s worth of troubles.
Each of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Joe Maddon spoke about the decision to move on quickly from Montero after he blamed his pitcher(s) for struggles to contain the running game when he was behind the plate. You can read their full comments here, here, here, here, and here, among many other places.
I’ll touch on some of their comments below …
- You get the sense from all of the comments that the front office and Maddon felt a significant statement was necessary about not blaming your teammates publicly in the face of adversity, and passing the buck to someone else when it is possible to simply own your struggles. As Epstein put it, “This was an example of someone publicly not being a good teammate and making comments that weren’t accountable and supportive and furthered the team concept, and we felt we had to act on them.”
- You also get the sense that, had the Cubs been playing very well, and had there been no history of past comments from Montero, perhaps they could have worked through this situation. Maybe they even could have benefited from working through the situation as a team. “That was not my read on it, knowing the dynamics, present and past,” Epstein said, however. “This was not something that we would benefit from – trying to pursue a path of putting it all back together again.”
- Epstein hinted that there may have been more going on behind the scenes: “Not everything comes to public light. There’s always a history involved, there’s always things behind the scenes. Ninety-eight percent of the stuff that happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse. You guys aren’t always privy to. Just try to put things in proper context, understanding the dynamics involved and history involved, whether some of that stuff is public or not.”
- Jed Hoyer conceded that a lot of things go into a decision like this, not just the specific comments Montero made. “Given where we are as a team, we felt the things he said were against what we’re trying to accomplish right now and it was right to move on without him …. That means his performance on the field. It means where we are in the standings. All those things. I think that you don’t make any decision in a vacuum, and we factored in everything.” That said, without the comments, Hoyer said the Cubs don’t make this decision at this time.
- Maddon was concerned about the impact Montero’s comments could have on his younger teammates, who may not be in a position to properly contextualize the remarks and not wonder about what it means for their standing on the team.
Clearly, this was the confluence of a lot of factors that led to a roster move that would have been borderline unthinkable just a few days ago. The throwing issue was going to become a problem. Like with Jon Lester, teams were testing Montero more and more, and it only figured to get much worse after Tuesday’s highly-visible exposure. But given Montero’s other areas of value, that was probably something the team could have figured out a way to work with.
As things stand, Montero’s comments tilted things too far in the other direction, and the organization decided it was the right time to move on, and, in conjunction, make a broader point about what it is to be a Chicago Cubs player.
From here, perhaps there’s a team out there with pitchers who are faster to the plate that might want to bring in Montero for his bat and his glove, and that isn’t worried about his unspoken takes. If so, the Cubs might be able to save a little of the $7 million he’s still owed, which could be significant as the Cubs look to avoid topping the luxury tax cap this year.
The DFA period is a week, so Montero will be traded, waived, or released in the coming days. And the Cubs will move on.