Life comes at you fast if you’re Miguel Montero. After a game in which the Nationals stole seven bases on Montero and Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, Montero laid the blame on his pitcher. “It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time.” The next day, he was designated for assignment.
Montero’s comments are out of line. For a team that has been sitting around the .500 mark, it is a clear sign that there are tensions in the Cubs clubhouse, with fingers being pointed at each other rather than as a group collectively. This situation, however, shows that Montero breached the “battery code,” or the rules of the being a catcher/pitcher team.
I pitched in high school and there are some key unwritten rules that keep the relationship between pitchers and catchers positive. The only way a pitcher can have success is to have a trusting relationship with his catcher and to buy into the game plan established between the battery and the coaching staff. The situation between the Cubs, Montero, and Arrieta shows that some of those rules were broken. What rules were broken? Let’s break it down:
- Never call out your battery mate! This one seems so self explanatory, but you are a team. Your job as a pair is to be successful and get batters out. The last thing a pitcher needs to hear is criticism when they are trying to execute pitches. It’s the same thing if you tell a catcher to throw the ball better. He needs to focus on framing pitches and blocking. If there is an issue, talk about it with the coaching staff and work through it in private, NEVER through the press.
- Let the coaches talk about game strategy, not the players. This one comes down to Montero’s comments about holding runners on. Yes, the Washington Nationals exploited the Cubs battery and picked up on Arrieta being slow to the plate. Montero is not known for the strongest arm in the game either. The Cubs struggled to counter the run game of Washington. This, however, needs to be discussed by the coaching staff. It is their job to come up with a successful game plan and the player’s job to execute it. The coaches also insulate the players from the press when games don’t go well so it does not affect the chemistry of your battery.
- What you say matters. It doesn’t matter who you call out. You win as a team and you lose as a team. The burden of a loss hangs on everyone, not just one player. When you call out one player, it creates a chain reaction throughout your entire clubhouse. Coaches and players spend months trying to create an identity and a positive locker room environment, but all of that can come crashing down in a heartbeat. Cubs first basemen Anthony Rizzo responded to Montero’s comments by saying “When you point fingers you’re a selfish player. We have another catcher that throws everyone out.” These type of comments can create divides in the locker room.
Whatever is going on in Chicago better get figured out quickly, or this season will go down the tubes. After Montero was DFA’d, he simply said, “People can’t handle the truth.” Yes, tensions are high on the North Side. Yes, the loss to the Nationals was a tough one. But these type of situations can cripple any hopes you have at winning a World Series. Good teammates don’t throw each other under the bus. Good teammates accept the loss together, share credit when they win, and push each other to get better.
Take note, pitches and catchers. Miguel Montero is a prime example of what happens when a good baseball team struggles.