The Rundown: Why Montero’s Gone, Bird Flips, Rolled Ankles, Lackey Leads MLB in Something Bad

What a weird day for the Cubs.

The biggest news, of course, came with the designation for assignment of Miguel Montero following his critical comments directed toward Jake Arrieta after Tuesday’s loss. It wasn’t a matter of Montero being factually wrong, but of choosing an inappropriate time and place to let loose his famous candor.

Theo Epstein was right there with fans who were calling for Montero to be released, though he chose not to react immediately with a decision he said “screamed out as something we should do.”

“I just came to the conclusion that now more than ever we really need to be a team,” Epstein explained. “This was an example of someone being a bad teammate publicly, and that we’d be better off moving on and not standing for it, because we do hold our players to a higher standard than that.”

Make no mistake, this is also about Montero being a diminished piece of a team that isn’t in the position it was last season. His playoff heroics were great and all, but you don’t keep a guy around just because of a grand slam in the NLCS or a huge hit in Game 7 of the World Series. You laud him for it at Cubs Convention in the future, maybe, which is something I’m sure we’ll see at some point.

We can’t forget that this is the same guy who put up -0.1 fWAR last season and who has become a liability behind the plate this season. Montero has picked off a single baserunner and has allowed 31 steals as runners have realized that they can take off on him with impunity. In 2016, runners — who were successful 59 of 66 times — attempted to steal on him only once every 8.45 innings. While the Nationals’ exploits certainly impact the numbers, attempts are coming every 6.7 innings now.

That was only going to get worse as the season progressed, which is why Montero had so little leeway when it came to grace from the front office or in the clubhouse.

“When you point fingers you’re a selfish player,” Anthony Rizzo said on ESPN 1000 Wednesday. “We have another catcher that throws everyone out.”

Tire marks from the bus he was thrown under still fresh, the man at the heart of Montero’s criticism actually stuck up for him, though.

“I love Miggy,” Arrieta said prior to Wednesday’s game. “As you guys know, he’ll say some things from the heart, the way he feels. He’s open and honest. That’s the way Miggy is. He regretted what he said. He felt bad about it. I told him that I’m not upset or mad at him.

“I didn’t do him any favors. I was slow to the plate and Turner’s one of the fastest guys in baseball, so it just makes it look worse than it was. It’s unfortunate it had to happen that way, but it is what it is.”

Given how the Cubs have struggled to really find themselves on a number of levels this season, designating Montero was really the only way to go. Perhaps this will lead to a few more t-shirts to add to Joe Maddon’s screen-printing empire. Here are some thoughts:

  • You go, you go. No, seriously, you go.
  • #WeAreGone
  • Don’t Fault Arrieta

In all seriousness, Montero had been a big part of the Cubs’ resurgence and I really do think he’ll be looked upon fondly down the road. This was all the product of bad timing, poor play, and way too much honesty.

Almora’s rare bird

It was clear from a close examination of the viral image of the Cubs’ White House trip that Albert Almora Jr. had his index finger out too. But between the coy grin on his face and the prominent appearance of the finger dangling out of his pocket, it looked as though the centerfielder might have been flipping the bird.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Almora said when reporters asked him about the gesture. “I’m getting ready to take a picture and I’m posing there. But you guys know that I would never do that to the president of the United States.”

It probably didn’t help that social media had already determined that Almora was indeed showing the world what he thought of “45.” Always one to toot my own horn, I’ll take a small measure of credit or blame or whatever for some of that whole business.

Kris Bryant out with sprained ankle

How long can you hold your breath? A lot of you found out last night after seeing Kris Bryant carried off the field when he rolled his ankle on third tracking a pop-up. X-rays came back negative and the ankle sprain was classified as mild-to-moderate, which will keep Bryant out of Thursday’s game but shouldn’t merit a trip to the DL. Whew.

Stuff like that always gives me the willies, especially after I was involved in a similar incident playing third base in a softball game a couple years ago. Turning to my left to chase a short fly, my cleat caught at the lip of the outfield grass and I rolled my left ankle. No biggie, right? I mean, it hurt like a mug, but I got some ice and popped a couple Advil and figured it’d swell up but I’d be good. Eight weeks later, my cast was finally off and my snapped fifth metatarsal had healed.

Bryant clearly avoided that fate, but it was still scary as hell in the moment. But despite the good news on the x-rays and what I’m sure will be a strong desire from him to get back out on the field, I wonder whether the Cubs will be a little more cautious with him. I’ve lamented the way they’ve dealt with several other nagging injuries this season, and KB is too important to put at even the slightest risk.

Plus, they’ve got Javy Baez, Tommy La Stella, and Jeimer Candelario to slot in at third for the time being. Baez would be my preference, provided Addison Russell is able to return to short. Either way, we’re quickly finding out that there’s no such thing as having too much depth.

Lack leads the pack

If you ain’t first, you’re last, or so I learned from my good friend Ricky Bobby. To that end, I guess John Lackey finally got fed up with being behind Bronson Arroyo and Ricky Nolasco when it came to most home runs allowed. The three dingers he gave up to Washington last night gave the big Texan 24 on the season.

Now he just needs to do something about a 22.4 percent home run/fly ball rate that still sits behind Tyler Chatwood (23.7) and Masahiro Tanaka (23.6). A lot of people have been down on Lackey this season, but I have the utmost faith in his ability to lead the league in this category as well.

Zobrist to start rehab assignment

I had figured they might wait until after the Reds series, but Ben Zobrist’s wrist (say that five times fast) has healed enough to allow him to begin a rehab assignment with AA Tennessee today. With Smokies Stadium only a four-hour drive from Great American Ball Park via I-40 and I-75 (or a little faster via chartered plane), Zobrist could be ready to go by the time the Cubs open in Cincy.

More news and notes

  • MLB umpire John Tumpane saved a woman from a suicide attempt yesterday in Pittsburgh and you need to read this story
  • The Brewers have put Chase Anderson on the DL with a strained oblique
    • Brewers beat writer Adam McCalvy tweeted that Anderson “faces a long absence” and that it “felt like he got stabbed”
    • With a one-game lead in NLC, this could really hurt Crew
  • The Cardinals optioned Aledmys Diaz to AAA
    • Been a rough year for the Cards and breakout stars
    • Randal Grichuk is back though
  • Mark Melancon has hit the DL again with a recurrence of the same arm issue from earlier this year
  • The Yankees outrighted Chris Carter to AAA
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