Jesus Montero Is In The Best Shape Of Brett Wallace’s Life
I want to give Jesus Montero the benefit of the doubt. I’m usually inclined to give the benefit of the doubt — life tends to be complex, and people tend to have reasons for doing the things that they do. Maybe Montero didn’t quite understand the question. Maybe Montero gave more of an answer, that wasn’t included in the post. Maybe Montero still isn’t entirely comfortable with and confident in his English. Maybe there are legitimate reasons for this, but I can’t get over how poorly this reads:
“I gained a lot of weight in my country,” [Montero] admitted. “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.”
Last year, Jesus Montero got hurt. He also got moved away from a premium defensive position, and he struggled to perform, and while he was in the minors he got suspended for a PED violation committed earlier on. Montero’s value has disintegrated into near-nothingness, and given a player like that, still young, you’d think the player would do everything possible to show up to camp ready to impress. Yet after winter ball, Montero says he was “just eating”. Not even eating responsibly. Eating sufficiently irresponsibly that now the Mariners have put him on a diet to get him down to a reasonable playing weight. So that he can be at a reasonable playing weight in Tacoma, since he’s sure as shoot not making the big club.
This offseason, Jesus Montero got pudgy. Last offseason, Jesus Montero had to try to learn how to run. The Mariners have had Jesus Montero for two full offseason, and each of them has been differently embarrassing.
Not that this seals any deals, of course; last spring, Nick Franklin showed up weirdly fat after eating nothing but like Olive Garden baked butter pasta several times a day for a few months. The Mariners were horrified and worked to get Franklin back into shape, and he wound up good enough to bump Dustin Ackley to the outfield. But at least Franklin’s heart was in the right place, and he thought he was working to get himself better. I don’t know what Montero was doing or thinking, but if it was more than just lazily eating, he might consider a more extended explanation.
Two years ago, Jesus Montero was Baseball America’s No. 6 prospect. Two years ago. He was the kind of prospect you could flip for a Michael Pineda. If he were that prospect today, he’d be the kind of prospect you could use as a centerpiece to land Giancarlo Stanton. Instead, Montero today is the kind of prospect you could exchange for Mike Stanton, the other Mike Stanton, maybe, perhaps as long as you threw in some cash. He’s so without value the Mariners have nothing to do but try to allow him to rebuild some value. Montero is a month younger than Brad Miller.
From the most optimistic perspective, Montero puts the Mariners and Mariners fans in an interesting position where everyone’s given up on him, but he might still re-establish himself. The talent has to be in there somewhere, and who knows, maybe Montero actually comes out and hits like the player he was supposed to become. Nobody thinks he’ll do anything — everyone’s already accepted that he’s currently garbage — so at this point he’s pure upside. He achieved his maximum downside so quickly there’s still time and room for improvement.
It reminds me of a story from when I was younger. I’ve loved watermelon all my life, but perhaps never more than I did when I was nine. My grandparents grew a lot of fruit in their backyard, and I thought, why not me? There’s plenty of space and every watermelon has seeds in it. So one day I had some watermelon, and I collected the black seeds, and then I went out back and buried some of them under a few piles of dirt. I wasn’t sure entirely what I was doing, but that’s how you plant plants, right? You put their seeds in the ground? I covered them up and for the next few weeks I made sure the area was steadily watered. I couldn’t wait to have my very own watermelon plant.
I’d planted seeds before, so I had some understanding of what you’re supposed to observe, when things are going well. In time, I grew frustrated that I wasn’t seeing any sprouts. The seeds weren’t doing anything. Maybe I’d done something wrong. Maybe there was something wrong with the seeds. Maybe it was just bad luck. But before too much longer I gave up and stopped watering that part of the yard. It was worth an attempt, but despite all my excitement, it wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t going to live my dream.
I continued to do whatever nine-year-olds do for a while. I made stupid jokes that I thought were clever. I built Legos. My body expanded. I probably ate a lot of watermelon. There was school. I thought about the things that I thought were important to life, and then one day I went out back with my brother to start making a little mini-golf green. We’d recently come into some golf clubs, see, and everybody enjoys a round of mini-golf. We figured out where the hole was going to go, then I glanced over at where I’d planted the watermelon seeds so many months earlier. It’s not that I expected anything to be there — it was nothing but a casual glance. But something was different. I walked over, and, sure enough, there were green sprouts sticking out of the earth. Watermelon was growing. Watermelon was growing in my own backyard. I didn’t have a lot of big dreams as a kid, but this was among the biggest, and I was going to be able to live it.
Jesus Montero might well go on to become those watermelon plants. That’s currently the optimistic view. After we’ve all given up on him, Montero might still surprise and bear legitimate fruit. I should also note that story never happened. Not the end of it, at least, and growing plants is hard work. I sure did bury a lot of watermelon seeds, though. And my mom never hesitated to pick up another fresh watermelon from the grocery.