Miguel Montero on Trevor Bauer: “He never wanted to listen”

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It was understood that the Diamondbacks trade of pitching prospect Trevor Bauer had more to do with the team’s opinion of his attitude than its opinion of his talent. Yes, he struggled during his callup last year, but he just turned 22 and struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings in two minor league seasons. A bit better control and this kid could be a star.

In light of that, unloading him for Didi Gregorius and Tony Sipp had just as much if not more to do with the Dbacks not liking the cut of Bauer’s jib than his pitching chops.

Adam Green of Arizona Sports.com spoke to Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero and Montero was unusually forthcoming about just how little Arizona cared for that jib:

“When you get a guy like that and he thinks he’s got everything figured out, it’s just tough to commence and try to get on the same page with you … Since day one in Spring Training I caught him and he killed me because he threw about 100 pitches the first day,” Montero said, adding he told Bauer he should take it a bit slower and work on locating his fastball first before working on his breaking pitches. “And he said ‘yes’, and the next time he threw I saw him doing the same thing,” Montero said. “He never wanted to listen … Good luck to Carlos Santana.”

Yikes.

It’s hard for me to not have a bit of sympathy for Bauer. Smarts + youth + confidence + stubbornness is not an easy set of attributes to carry in a lot of settings. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I will say I’m a pretty smart guy. But I am also stubborn and when I was young I didn’t just sound arrogant, I often was, and I had an unwarranted confidence in my own abilities.  When I got out of law school I got into a professional environment where there was a Way of Doing Things, and I didn’t especially cotton to it. I’d buck it and think I knew better. Sometimes, yes, I actually did. I still think a lot of things I was expected to do as a baby lawyer were dumb and unnecessary.

After a while, though, I came to realize that the Way of Doing Things was in place for a lot of good reasons. It still chafed. I still often felt that I knew better. I still had an awful time trying to conform to the Way of Doing Things. But that Way, when I gave it a chance, usually made my life easier and helped me learn and grow. I learned and grew way more slowly, however, than the people who came in with some humility, an open mind and the realization that the folks who were in charge of the Way of Doing Things had at least some method to their apparent madness.

This is not to say that Kirk Gibson, Miguel Montero and the Arizona Diamondbacks have a monopoly on wisdom when it comes to how to integrate a then-21 year-old phenom into a big league setting. To the contrary, there are a lot of ways to skin a cat. Especially when that cat is a smart, young, confident and stubborn pitcher. Indeed, because a talented pitcher is a far more rare and valuable commodity than a kid out of law school, a team can and should at least try to tailor their Way of Doing Things to the talent they have as opposed to insisting on some My Way or the Highway approach. There have been flaky pitchers in the past and there will be flaky pitchers in the future. If they’re good, they always find homes.

But if what Montero is saying is true, and Bauer was unwilling to at least try to meet him and the Diamondbacks halfway — to at least give their far more experienced Way of Doing Things a chance — it suggests that the young man is going to have more trouble than most navigating the path between phenom and ace. Maybe Terry Francona and Carlos Santana are guys who can handle Bauer and tailor a system to suit his needs. But maybe they’re not. Maybe it will take two or three more stops and contentious spring trainings before Bauer either changes or finds someone with whom he can click.

I managed to eventually make peace with the Way of Doing Things in my legal career. But it was a rough peace, it took longer than it should have and, ultimately, it probably contributed to that career not being as long or as successful as it could have been had I been on board from day one.  Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen to Trevor Bauer.

Or, if it does happen, here’s hoping he finds a place where he can work by himself all day like I did. That’s a pretty great setting for smart, overly-confident and stubborn people. We’re a very hard to work with bunch.

Rays beat Mets 8-5, clinch 1st AL East title in 10 years

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Confetti instead of champagne. Silly string instead of beer.

The Tampa Bay Rays, long accustomed to doing more with less, figured out a way to maximize the division-clinching celebration they were allowed to enjoy during a 2020 season shortened by the coronavirus.

Randy Arozarena homered twice and the Rays clinched their first AL East title in 10 years Wednesday night with an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.

“I’m completely dry right now, which I’m not a huge fan of,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Rays player, said with a grin. “But you have to adapt to what we’re asked of.”

With teams instructed to celebrate in a muted and socially distant style, the Rays went old school – or maybe elementary school – with their clinching party.

The team filed slowly onto the field after Nick Anderson fanned Andres Gimenez for the final out. A couple of players shot off canisters filled with confetti that eventually dotted the grass and dirt at Citi Field. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged before the Rays doused one another with silly string and lit some cigars in the visiting clubhouse.

Later, hooting and hollering could be heard from the visitors’ dugout.

“We’re little kids trapped in grown men’s bodies,” Kiermaier said.

Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe also went deep for the Rays to back Tyler Glasnow‘s six solid innings. Tampa Bay will be home at quirky Tropicana Field for a best-of-three first-round playoff series beginning next Tuesday.

It is the third division crown for the thrifty Rays, whose payroll this season is just over $28 million – more than only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Tampa Bay, which began play in 1998, also won the AL East, home of two big-spending powers in the Yankees and Red Sox, in 2008 and 2010.

“It feels great to win the division, no matter what division you’re in,” Kiermaier said. “But especially the American League East – it’s just a different animal.”

After missing a chance to clinch Tuesday, the Rays went into Wednesday again needing just a win or a Yankees loss against Toronto to lock up the division championship.

The Rays (37-20) broke a 2-all tie in the sixth on Arozarena’s two-run homer off Michael Wacha and pulled away, taking care of business themselves while New York was routed 14-1 by the Blue Jays.

“At the end of the day, a clinch is a clinch,” said Wendle, who homered in the second. “But to do it on a win – everybody’s kind of riding the high of winning the game along with the division. We didn’t want to see it come down to them losing a game.”

Tampa Bay also is closing in on wrapping up the top record in the AL and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Lowe, who had an RBI fielder’s choice in the third, hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Willy Adames added an RBI single later in the inning and Arozarena homered again in the ninth.

The insurance came in handy for the Rays when the Mets scored three times off Oliver Drake in the ninth – via an RBI groundout by Robinson Cano and a two-run homer by Todd Frazier – before Anderson closed the door.

“I think we had the game pretty much in control (and) certainly recognized what was going on in Buffalo, but I don’t know if you can ever prepare for a moment like that – it’s pretty special,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Glasnow (5-1) allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

Gimenez and Dominic Smith homered off Glasnow in the final home game of the season for the Mets, whose long-shot playoff hopes were further damaged with the loss. New York began the day 2 1/2 games out of an NL wild-card spot.

“We still have a shot with the four games left and we’re competing,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We’ve just got to do what we do – just keep fighting like we did in the ninth.”

Wacha allowed four runs on six hits and struck out four in six innings.

STABLE SHIRT

Rays pitcher Charlie Morton sported a T-shirt picturing a stable of horses as he spoke with reporters during a pregame Zoom call. Morton did little to discourage the notion the shirt was inspired by Cash’s viral rant earlier this month, when he declared the Rays have “a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph” after Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw near Mike Brousseau’s head in the ninth inning Sept. 4.

“The stable shirt?” Morton said. “It was in my locker last week and I like horses.”

With a grin obviously growing even behind his Rays mask, Morton said he rode horses as a kid.

“So I was ecstatic to see this shirt in my locker and I wore it,” he said.

As for the fireballers on the Rays’ pitching staff?

“We’ve got some guys that throw really hard,” Morton said.

ANOTHER LOSING SEASON

The loss guaranteed the Mets (25-31) will finish with a sub-.500 record for the ninth time in the last 12 seasons – a total matched or exceeded only by the Chicago White Sox (nine), Miami Marlins (10) and San Diego Padres (10). The White Sox and Padres have already clinched playoff spots and a winning record, while the Marlins are in second place in the NL East.

New York made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 and went 86-76 last year.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: LHP Jose Alvarado (shoulder, lat) is scheduled to throw batting practice to 3B Yandy Diaz (hamstring) and 1B Ji-Man Choi (hamstring) at Tropicana Field on Thursday. Cash said all three players are progressing and he hopes they are available for the playoffs. . Brousseau (oblique) missed a fourth consecutive game. Cash said he would have been available off the bench if needed

Mets: RF Michael Conforto (hamstring) returned to the lineup as the designated hitter after missing two games and went 0 for 4. . The Mets activated RHP Dellin Betances (lat), who last pitched Aug. 29, and optioned RHP Corey Oswalt to the alternate site.

UP NEXT

Rays: After a day off Thursday, Morton (2-2, 4.64 ERA) is scheduled to get his postseason tuneup in the opener of a series against the Phillies on Friday.

Mets: Rookie LHP David Peterson (5-2, 3.80 ERA) opens a four-game road series against the Nationals. Peterson struck out a career-high 10 against the Braves last Saturday.