Jesus Montero, Normal-Sized Person
You guys know the story of Crater Lake, right? I just kind of assume so, because the story is so familiar to me, but then that’s probably not fair; other people have other interests, and for most it’s just a piece of insignificant trivia. Who cares how a lake came to be? But let me at least run through this real quick: where Crater Lake is, there once stood a majestic snowy peak, the Mount Mazama Cascade volcano. The volcano erupted, as volcanoes are wont to do, and this particular eruption was inconceivably enormous, and much of the peak was destroyed. Some matter flew away; other matter collapsed inward, as the underground magma chamber emptied itself. When the dust settled and the rains and snows came, a lake formed within the giant crater, a lake where the water has nowhere to go.
The eruption took place around 5,677 BC. That is, the estimated date is 5,677 BC, plus or minus 150 years. There’s a 300-year window within which we believe the mountain destroyed itself. This is, scientifically, a very precise estimate. Oftentimes you get calculated windows stretching thousands or hundreds of thousands of years.
Meanwhile, Jesus Montero just missed his reporting weight by one year. Last year, they wanted him to weigh 235 pounds, and he instead weighed 275 pounds. Now? Now, one year later, he weighs 235 pounds on the nose. And they want us to think his weight was some kind of big deal a season ago? He barely missed his target. In the grand scheme of things, there’s nary a blink between 2014 spring training and 2015 spring training, so, as far as I’m concerned, kudos to Jesus Montero for doing what he was supposed to do, basically. People are always in such a hurry these days. Slow down and don’t worry about expiring deadlines. If you get it done late, you’re not really late. We just have a warped perception of the passing of time.
The message from the Mariners is this: there’s reason to be encouraged about Jesus Montero. They’ll tell you they never gave up on him. And it’s true, they didn’t, at least based on his remaining on the 40-man roster. Maybe that was faith, and maybe that was stubbornness, but here we are, and Jack Zduriencik is happy to tell anyone he knew Montero could figure things out. The organization didn’t give up on Montero, even if one scout in particular did. And maybe, in some small way, that very scout helped motivate Montero to whip himself in shape.
Motivation, you can try to identify in retrospect. Montero clearly wasn’t very motivated, that one time he said he spent the whole winter eating. That was one of the dumbest athlete quotes I’d ever heard, exactly on par with that caloric nonsense from Nick Franklin. Since then, the Mariners have blasted Montero in the press. They essentially removed him from his big-league peers, and they tried to make him learn a new position. Montero had that suspension to deal with, and then he finally got sent ice cream in a dugout. What just happened was a very embarrassing year. An extraordinarily embarrassing year. Somewhere, somehow, Montero was able to search within himself and find a little nugget of pride.
What’s being suggested, what’s being sold, is that Montero might be fixed as an individual, which would be the key to fixing him as a player. That seems too quick, too hasty, too easy. Montero is just 25 years old, and he’s experienced several years of hype. You can sort of see how he was able to lose his own way, and you know you are or were a completely different person at 30 than 20. Changes do happen, based on maturity and life experiences, and Montero just experienced a hell of a year. But you still need to have a little healthy skepticism. Sufficient self-motivation is among the Earth’s less prevalent resources, and Montero had none of it at 24. It’s hard to believe he’s just a whole new person. It’s almost impossible to create whole new people. But, it’s also not possible to lose as much weight as Montero has without being committed. So there’s at least evidence of Montero doing something hard, where he didn’t just rely on his god-given talent. Talent makes you a professional; drive lets you stick.
Understand what we’re talking about here. Jesus Montero now weighs about 40 pounds less than the previous version of Jesus Montero. That would be fantastic, if the Mariners were competing for the Team Weight Loss World Series. Instead, they’ll be competing for the regular old baseball World Series. Ultimately, what we want is for Montero to be a better baseball player. His defense wasn’t just about his weight. His swing wasn’t just about his weight. His discipline wasn’t just about his weight. Jesus Montero wasn’t bad because he was heavy. A lighter version of Jesus Montero, with the previous Jesus Montero’s approach, will just suck a little more per pound.
But this lets you have a little hope about the other stuff. Montero has been committed enough for long enough to get into playing shape. That suggests he might also be committed enough for long enough to get better at the game he plays for a job. His body should also no longer hold him back as much, not that he’s suddenly going to not run like a refrigerator rolling down a hill. It seemed like, before, when Montero would receive instruction, it just bounced off of him, like hail on a windshield. Now, perhaps, the instruction will be more likely to stick, like mosquitoes on a windshield. That’s the dream, anyway. Again, one generally doesn’t become a good student overnight, but Montero didn’t do this overnight. He did it over dozens of nights, hundreds of nights, after having been reduced to a punchline.
Think about it this way: if Montero were to come all the way back, and turn himself into a legitimate big-leaguer, this would be the first step, if you were to start a few months ago. This first step could lead down any number of paths, but it’s tough to envision Montero headed down the right path without doing this first. Let’s say, he just got himself to the proper trailhead. He still has to go practically the whole rest of the way, but at least he’s not badly lost.
The Jesus Montero career resurrection. That’s what we want to believe in, because at this point anything from Montero would be like free money. This guy here, who lost weight? We already wrote him off. He’s a seed that didn’t sprout, and we planted a whole other garden. Now there’s a shoot emerging from the soil. And, conveniently, if Montero did work out to some extent, this very team has a place for him, as a partner at first with Logan Morrison. The bench kind of needs a righty-hitting pseudo-slugger, and maybe that’s Montero’s job. Maybe he can be the last piece.
Take it as far as you want to. Stretch it out. It’s Friday evening — no one’s going to mind. These Mariners, they look like a pretty good baseball team. A team that could win its division. A team that could win the whole thing. Now imagine Montero on the team. Imagine him on the playoff bench. Imagine him in the playoff lineup, against a lefty like, I don’t know, Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner or Aroldis Chapman or who knows who. Imagine Montero as a contributor. Imagine Montero as a postseason hero. Imagine him delivering one hit you’ll never forget as long as you live. One swing of the bat can earn a guy a ballpark statue. What if it’s October, and in the moment we love Jesus Montero like we love no one else?
It’s easy to dream, and dreams are pleasing, as long as you know that they’re dreams. Dreams usually don’t come true. But, Jesus Montero usually doesn’t lose 40 pounds. Why wouldn’t he be exactly the player to deliver the Mariners’ first-ever championship? I mean, it’s kind of obvious. You’d be a fool not to see it.