At the beginning of spring training players greet the press with the same familiar sound bites: “I’m in the best shape of my life, I’ve never felt better,” or “I tweaked my swing and I’ll probably hit for the Triple Crown this year.”
Rarely does a player come into camp and say this (emphasis mine): “I gained a lot of weight in my country. So, now, I’m on a program to lose weight. I’m working really hard to get my weight back. I wasn’t doing nothing (after finishing winter ball), just eating.”
That quote is from Jesus Montero, who reported to reporters that he reported to camp overweight and is now on a weight loss program with the team. It sounds pretty bad, but we should remember that English isn’t Montero’s native language. He probably didn’t mean the quote to come off so embarrassingly blunt. Plus, I imagine he wasn’t just eating, he was probably also watching tons of TV and sleeping too.
But no matter what, that’s not the sound bite you want to let loose into the swirling snark of twitter after a disastrous 2013 that saw Montero “hit” .208/.264/.327, get demoted, miss 50 games for the Biogenesis suspension (which he also apologized for, which is nice, I guess), and tear the meniscus in his left knee.
I don’t want to judge Montero too harshly. Maybe he’s depressed at seeing his career fall apart so rapidly. It’s easy to forget he’s still just 24-years-old and only two years removed from being Baseball America’s no. 6 prospect. But Montero has a lot to prove, and showing up to camp like Rob McElhenney during season 7 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia isn’t going to impress anyone in the Mariner’s organization.
Maybe this is all part of Montero’s master plan to lower expectations to the point where it will be a shock if he ever plays another professional game in a Mariners uniform. Perhaps with no one expecting anything of him, he’ll be able to play without pressure and re-find the swing that had scouts raving.
I’m not holding out hope. Of all the M’s highly touted prospects that failed to meet expectations, Montero might be the most disappointing. He’s only 24, only a month older than Brad Miller, but he’s been trending downwards for a while now, and the only thing that’s keeping him around is the memory of his former potential. Maybe he’ll tear the cover off the ball throughout spring training, and this story will just be a humorous anecdote, but more likely it’s a sign of the beginning of the end of Jesus Montero’s Mariners career.