Miguel Montero‘s comments following what turned out to be his final game as a Cub, led to his dismissal from the team and designation for assignment. The Cubs quick response moving on from him was definitely the right one. However, it was by no means a given that they would respond that way and without question, some other clubs would have handled it differently. This situation has provided a free lesson in leadership, as well as why keeping your mouth shut, while not in vogue today, is often the best thing you can do.
Miguel Montero: Free Lessons In Leadership and Running Your Mouth
Stars Get More Slack
It’s a well-known fact that regardless of the sport, the better the player you are, the more slack you will be given when it comes to doing stupid things. A star can mitigate off-the-field trouble or publicly running their pie hole much easier than a role player.
If Montero was playing every day, batting .310 and hitting with power, it’s doubtful he would have been released. But he is a backup catcher, and while he was hitting a respectable .286, he had thrown out exactly zero base runners attempting to steal this season. That’s right, 0-for-31. Those kind of numbers in a limited role are clearly insufficient to weather the storm and stay with the team. This is especially true, when you said them about the star pitcher, Jake Arrieta.
Not His First Rodeo
Incredibly, this is not Montero’s first time popping off at the mouth. He was overtly unhappy with his playing time during the Cubs run through the playoffs last year en route to their first World Series win in 108 years. But being a world champion was not good enough for Montero and he had to talk about his dissatisfaction over his role. That the Cubs were willing to work past that was largely due to the retirement of last year’s feel-good story, backup catcher David Ross. Montero was not going to get another chance after this escapade, especially with Victor Caratini hitting .343 with 54 RBI at Triple-A Iowa, waiting in the wings.
Setting The Tone
Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon wasted no time in dealing with the problem, releasing Montero in less than 24 hours. Their comments made it clear that they will not tolerate their players being a “bad teammate”. Fortunately for them, he was an expendable player, which allowed them the opportunity to make an example to everyone that throwing a teammate under the bus will get you kicked off the bus. It cost them nothing on the field to release Montero and it was the perfect response.
A Different Team Would Have Handled This Differently
Leadership is a tricky thing and for sure, some teams would have handled this situation differently. More often than not, be it due to financial considerations or lack of intestinal fortitude, some would have tried to put a happy face on this. The response would be something along the lines of publicly stating that Montero apologized for his comments, Arrieta accepted his apology, the issue is put to rest, all is good now and the team has moved on.
But the truth is that they would not move on. The issue would continue to fester, especially with the pitchers, and they would have a smoldering problem for the rest of the season. But the Cubs leadership handled this like good leaders do and sent a strong message to their team.
Galvanizing The Locker Room
It has been suggested that this will galvanize the Cubs locker room. However, it will not be because Montero was a polarizing teammate. There is no indicator of that. It will bring them together because the team leadership has shown everyplayer that if you don’t back up your teammate, you could be looking for a new job.
Epstein and Maddon would probably like to buy Montero dinner and thank him for this opportunity. The Cubs are slumping and this kind of thing can bring a team together, turning the tide on the season. Leave it to an expendable player to provide such a moment.
Arrieta said he forgave Montero for his comments, but that is the party line. That is what a good teammate says. Young athletes should seize on this free lesson that running your mouth can immediately undermine everything they have been working for. As for the Cubs, Montero’s comments and their response could very well be the catalyst to change the direction of their season and their chance to repeat as World Series champions.