The Washington Nationals ran wild on the Chicago Cubs last night, stealing seven bases, which contributed directly to the runs they scored in the game. There was a clear design and intent in the game to be aggressive on the bases, and they executed it well.
In retrospect, it wasn’t especially surprising to see, given the speed on the Nationals’ roster, a pitcher in Jake Arrieta who is slower to the plate and a catcher in Miguel Montero who has caught just one of 32 would-be base-stealers this year.
Still, the volume of steals in such a short sequence early in the game, paired directly with runs, made for an especially ugly scene, and the weight of it – in the eyes of angry fans, at least – fell to the Cubs’ veteran catcher.
And he had some thoughts on that. Surprisingly honest thoughts. Maybe too honest.
“It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me,” Montero said, per Sahadev Sharma, Carrie Muskat, and Jesse Rogers, among others. “And when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. So, it’s just like, ‘Yeah, OK, Miggy can’t throw nobody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough because it doesn’t matter how much work I put on footwork and throwing and everything, because if I don’t get a chance to throw – that’s the reason they were running left and right today, because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that. Yeah, it’s a shame. It’s my fault I didn’t throw anybody out.”
That’s not the kind of thing you see a player saying publicly too often these days, but with a guy like Montero, who is proud and outspoken, you can see why he might go there after a loss like that. Not that he should. Every time I read the quote, I cringe a little.
It’s not as if Montero is totally wrong, from a baseball perspective. Runners will tell you that they so often steal a base off of the pitcher. Montero told the Tribune that he feels strong, and feels like he still has a good arm, and Joe Maddon conceded that Arrieta is slow to the plate. Moreover, Trea Turner, who stole four bases off the Arrieta-Montero combo, told ESPN that he was not really thinking about the catcher in those situations so much as he was thinking about the pitcher.
Even still, so directly throwing your pitcher(s) under the bus for stolen bases is not something you want to be doing. Moreover, Montero’s speed getting his throws off is below league average (Cubs.com), so he is not blameless in these situations.
Clearly this is a known issue on both sides of the battery, and maybe (hopefully?) this won’t be a huge internal issue for the team. At this point, I really can’t say.
Either way, it’s not the kind of distraction these Cubs need right now, as they struggle through a yo-yo season of ups and downs, typified by the first two games of this very series.
I’d imagine there will be some kind of response to this, either from Montero or the organization or both.