WASHINGTON, D.C.: Trea Turner stole four bases on Chicago Cubs’ starter Jake Arrieta and veteran catcher Miguel Montero on Tuesday night. Michael A. Taylor took two of his own, and Anthony Rendon swiped a bag as well for seven total in Washington’s 6-1 win in Nationals Park.
Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker talked after the game about taking advantage of the Cubs’ trouble throwing out runners with Arrieta and Montero working together, and using speed as a weapon with his lineup as opposed to the power that’s usually on display from the Nationals, who finished the night with an NL-leading 117 home runs on the season.
“You have that especially when you have a guy that you can run on on the mound,” he explained, “and Montero isn’t throwing like he was before, earlier, so you have to take advantage of every situation that you can and also you’ve got to have different games, so sometimes you win with speed and contact and sometimes you win with power. So it’s nice to know you can call upon both of those games whenever you need them.”
Montero was left 1 for 31 (3% CS%) on the season after a rough night behind the plate in the nation’s capital, but the 31-year-old, 12-year veteran let reporters know that it wasn’t all on him when he spoke shortly after the game.
"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," Montero told reporters in the visitor’s clubhouse in Nationals Park.
"So it's just like, 'Yeah, OK Miggy can't throw nobody out,' but my pitcher doesn't hold anybody on. ...
"That's the reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that. It's a shame that it's my fault because I didn't throw anybody out."
After his comments late on Tuesday night, Montero was designated for assignment early on Wednesday afternoon.
Baker met with reporters before the third of four with the Cubs in D.C., and the topic, of course, came up.
Here’s the exchange, which began when a reporter asked Baker if he heard Montero’s comments from the previous night and Baker acknowledged that he had, though he apparently hadn’t heard that the catcher was DFA’d.
“I hope I didn’t precipitate some of that by what I said, that he wasn’t throwing as well as he used to,” Baker started.
Reporter: “He was [1 for 31].”
Baker [half-joking]: “So, it wasn’t me.”
Reporter: “Did you ever have a teammate speak out of line with the press and not the team, and how’s that usually handled?”
Baker: “That’s going to happen, especially if there’s not much cool down period in between. That’s why I’m supposed to have a 15-minute cool-down period before I come see you guys, but [the Nationals’ PR rep is] rushing me a lot of times... but you’re supposed to have that cool-down period, because you end up probably saying how you feel, but you really shouldn’t say it, you know. I’ve had it happen. You try to hope that these things stay in house, but sometimes they get out there, and you just try not to let it fester on your team, so I’m sure they’re probably meeting with those two guys probably right now.”
Reporters notified Baker at that point that Montero had in fact been designated for assignment, which seemed to take him by surprise.
“See,” Baker said. “Yeah, so that’s what happens sometimes.”
Cubs’ President Theo Epstein addressed the decision to DFA Montero before the start of Wednesday’s game in Nationals Park.
"When something goes wrong on the field we expect our players to take the blame, step up and proactively assume the blame for it, even if it's not their fault," Epstein said, as quoted by ESPN’s Jesse Rogers.
"That's the way to be a good teammate. He completely agreed when it was pointed out to him and he apologized.
"After thinking about it some more, I just came to the conclusion that now more than ever we need to be a team. This was an example of being a bad teammate publicly and that we'd be better off moving on and not standing for it."
Chicago’s skipper Joe Maddon too said the move was made for the sake of the Cubs’ clubhouse:
"Regardless of Jake saying it would not have impacted the clubhouse, I think it would have. There are too many young guys in there that are impressionable. You don't want to foster, nurture or condone that kind of message."
The Nationals know clubhouse drama, and what it takes to clear it up, from the recent past. This time it was the visiting team bringing the clubhouse drama to the nation’s capital.