What Happens to a Role Deferred? Why Mike Montgomery Feels Held Back. And Why He’s Right.

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One of the more intriguing and under-reported development from the Cubs’ busy week in Orlando is the sudden malcontent of our young swingman Mike Montgomery.

In the midst of Theo and Jed’s latest plundering of the MLB free agent market, Monty thought it necessary to air his grievances with recent developments within the team’s pitching staff. Monty was displeased with the Tyler Chatwoood signing and the club’s interest in adding new arms into the mix. The Chatwood signing and interest in a glut of remaining free agent starters signaled to Montgomery that 2018 would be another year where he would not be counted on as an every fifth day starting pitcher.

This didn’t please Monty. And he made his displeasure perfectly clear, saying “I don’t know if the role I’ve been doing the last few years is in my best interest. I want them (Cubs Management) to know I’m serious about starting. I want to be a starter. I’ve proven I can do it, and I want the opportunity.”

This outburst certainly took the front office by surprise. Both Theo and Jed expressed their disappointment and concern that one of the most valuable cogs of the staff was seemingly adopting a me-first attitude and putting his own success ahead of the interests of the ballclub.

But who could blame Montgomery? He’s been a good soldier for two seasons in a thankless role. He has excelled, proven he has the stuff to be a starter in this league, and is desperate for an opportunity to expand his role.

Monty’s outburst is a symptom of a roster that is at a crossroads. The young role-playing studs who have been so vital to our success over the past two seasons are growing up. Gone is the  happy-go-lucky portion of Monty’s career. He isn’t excited just to be in The Show and on a contending club. Montgomery has tasted team success, demonstrated his own talent, and wants to grow his role.

The list of players who identify with this “Montgomery Syndrome” is long. While they may not be vocal about it, I have a hard time believing that the likes of Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr, Carl Edwards Jr, and Javy Baez don’t also feel trapped in sub-optimal roles when they consider their place on the 2018 club.

These guys have shown up, excelled at what they’re asked to do, and earned greater opportunity. But will that opportunity come?

While Theo insists the team-first character of guys like Monty and Javy will prevent this opportunity crisis from corroding the Cubs’ feel good culture, a young player can only take so much frustration before it begins to affect his attitude and play.

I cannot understate how important it is for the Cubs to create a culture in which maturing young players do not feel stifled or stuck in sub-optimal roles. Theo, Joe. Let Monty show you that he can be a plus starter in this league. Let Ben Zobrist’s disappearing bat ride the bench in 2018 and give Happ and Almora those at-bats. Give Carl an opportunity to mature and become the closer of the future we so desperately desire.

For the club to continue to grow, our role players need to grow up. It won’t always be pretty, but now is the time to give the young guys the ball and see how far they run with it.