Cubs

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero drops truth bomb, throws Jake Arrieta under the bus after Nationals run wild

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero drops truth bomb, throws Jake Arrieta under the bus after Nationals run wild

WASHINGTON — Within 24 hours, the Cubs followed up maybe their best win of the season with one of their ugliest losses and a classic Miguel Montero rant. Next stop: The Trump White House.

Montero walked out of the showers and across the room late Tuesday night with towels wrapped across his waist and draped over his shoulders. He didn’t even bother to change into his clothes before calling the waiting reporters over to his locker after a 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.

Montero dropped a truth bomb in the middle of the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park, calling out Jake Arrieta without directly mentioning his name and talking in the third person after Washington stole seven bases in four innings.

“It really sucks because the stolen bases go on me,” Montero said. “When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. It’s just like: ‘Yeah, OK, Miggy can’t throw nobody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough, because it doesn’t matter how much work I put in.

“If I don’t get a chance to throw, 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.”

Now 0-for-31 in that department this season, Montero namedropped Jason Hammel — the ex-Cub now pitching for the Kansas City Royals — to show the de-emphasis on holding runners.

“We talk every year in spring training, but it’s frustrating, because it seems nobody really cares about it,” Montero said. “Like: ‘OK, yeah, I got to pitch. And if they run, they run, I don’t care.’

“Perfect example: We got Salvador Perez, the best throwing catcher in the game, and Jason Hammel’s got 10 stolen bases and only one caught stealing, so what does that tell you? They didn’t give him a chance.”

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This pitching philosophy didn’t stop the Cubs from winning 200 games and a World Series title across the last two seasons. Even with his rocket arm, Willson Contreras would have trouble stopping Washington leadoff guy Trea Turner, who stole four bases and now has back-to-back 30-steal years, even though so far he’s never played more than 73 games in a season.

“It always goes to the catcher and I’m the bad guy there,” Montero said. “It really sucks, but it is what it is and I got to take full responsibility. But in the end, I would like a little help.”

Montero is a two-time All-Star catcher known for his brutal honesty and willingness to mentor players like Contreras. But Montero is about to turn 34 and making $14 million in the final year of his contract and clearly aware of his uncertain future.

“I feel like I can still throw,” said Montero, who rushed one throw to third base and fired the ball into left field, allowing Michael Taylor to score. “I got a good arm. My arm felt great. I just try to be quicker. I try to be perfect. And to make those two go together, it’s hard to do.”

This is Miggy Being Miggy.

Joe Maddon requested a sit-down meeting with Montero in spring training after he criticized the manager’s communication skills and in-game World Series decisions during a WMVP-AM 1000 interview ... on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally.

Over red wine at an Italian restaurant near the team’s complex in Arizona, the two cleared the air and posted to social media a photo of them toasting drinks. The frustration is building again for a team that is supposed to do the little things well.

Why are the defending champs 39-38 and so inconsistent?

“That’s the million-dollar question right there,” Montero said. “If I would have known the answer, I would be talking to the guys to figure it out and get it going. It’s tough. It’s one of those days that you get beat.

“We played sloppy. Simple as that. We all did. It’s going to be hard to sleep on it, because it was just a bad game.”

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.