- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has five categories for MLB players.

Each player, he says, fits into one of the categories at different stages of their major league careers. There’s happy to be here, survival, wondering how long they can stay in the major leagues, wanting to get paid as much as possible and finally: solely concerned with winning.

So when catcher Miguel Montero pointedly blamed his pitcher, Jake Arrieta, for the Nationals’ seven stolen bases during a 6-1 loss to Washington Tuesday, Maddon and Cubs president Theo Epstein knew Montero, a two-time All-Star, had to go. The Cubs designated Montero for assignment Wednesday, effectively ending his time in Chicago.

The reason? The Cubs, despite winning the World Series last year, are too young and too impressionable to have those sort of comments in a clubhouse. Chicago has floated around .500 all year and has trotted out lineups with inexperienced players because of injuries.

“You really want to be careful,” Maddon said. “Veteran players can both be good and bad. Veteran players can really elevate a group and veteran players can really drag down a group, depends on their agenda.”

Maddon said the Cubs have so many young players concerned with not making mistakes — “Stage 2” as he calls it — that club officials felt it was important to send a clear message regarding comments like Montero‘s.

Montero’s rant came after the Nationals tied a franchise record for stolen bases, including four by Trea Turner.

“It really sucked because stolen bases go to me,” Montero said. “And when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. … that’s the reason they were running left and right today, because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that.”

By the time the Cubs arrived to Nationals Park on Wednesday, Montero was gone. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said they wouldn’t have made the decision to designate Montero if it weren’t for his comments.

The move came down to being a good teammate.

“We have to have each other’s back,” Hoyer said. “Everyone who plays a team sport knows you don’t deflect blame onto a teammate or teammates after a game. That’s a pretty simple rule and obviously that was violated.”

Before Montero’s release, first baseman Anthony Rizzo appeared on a Chicago radio show and called Montero a selfish player, pointing out that the Cubs‘ starting catcher, Wilson Contreras throws runners out.

Montero was 0-for-31 in throwing out base stealers this season.

Rizzo stood by his comments in a meeting with reporters. He defended the team’s chemistry as well during an uneven season.

“I think we have a great clubhouse,” Rizzo said. “Guys get along really well and we’re all having a good time. We’re not 25 games over .500, so we’ve got to keep winning, keep playing good baseball and come together. Continue to fight.”

Montero thanked Chicago in a series of tweets after being demoted. The 33-year-old catcher played a big part in the Cubs‘ rise to the top. He coined the mantra “We Are Good,” yelling it during the Cubs‘ 2015 season. Last year, Montero hit a grand slam in the Game 1 of NLCS in the bottom of the eighth to help beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He also privately apologized to Arrieta, who took the comments in stride. Arrieta noted that Montero’s main point was right — he has been slow off the mound.

“I love Miggy,” Arrieta said. “As you guys know, he’ll say some things from the heart and the way he feels. And he’s open and honest. That’s what Miggy is. I think he regretted what he said and I told him I’m not upset or mad at him. … It’s unfortunate it had to happen that way, but it is what is.”

Nationals manager Dusty Baker was unaware Montero had been DFA’d in his pre-game press conference. But he has had experience of players and teammates speaking out against each other through the press.

“That’s going to happen,” Baker said. “There’s a cool down period in between. That’s why I’m supposed to have a 15-minute cool down period before I see [the media]. … You try to let these things stay in house. Sometimes they get out there. You try not to let it fester on your team.”

The Cubs made the swift decision to move on from Montero. Maddon acknowledged they probably wouldn’t have made the move if Montero had been a more productive player or if the team was 30 games over .500 (“But if you’re 30 games over, this probably never occurs,” he said.)

“We’ve been about being a very tightly knit group, been about supporting one another,” Maddon said. “It’s hard to defend those kind of comments when you’re trying to build that kind of culture.”

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