When the Diamondbacks traded Trevor Bauer and received a semi-prospect in return, it was natural to wonder about the team's motivation. Was Bauer uncoachable? Was he a complete ass? There were whispers and educated guesses, but little more.
Miguel Montero wasn't shy about what went on, though, and now we have a clearer understanding of why the Diamondbacks were eager to deal. From Arizona Sports:
"It was tough," Montero told Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo at FanFest Saturday. "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."
Montero said the goal was to simplify things for the rookie, but the cerebral Bauer wanted no part of that.
"He would make it even harder," Montero said.
Bauer rankled some people who mattered. If he rankled Montero, he probably rankled pitching coach Charles Nagy. If he rankled Nagy, he probably rankled Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers. And when he rankled those guys, he became the kind of pitcher who could be traded for an injured, no-hit shortstop so fast, the team didn't even bother with the physical on the returning player.
If you can't work with a young player, it's not about the value that fans think he might have one day. It's about getting any value for him at all, and the Diamondbacks were worried they wouldn't even get a young shortstop if Bauer continued his rankling ways.
Apologies, but you're about to head into the Anecdote Zone. You can close the tab now if you're so inclined.
I've had jobs where I've been talking with higher-ups, and the whole time their lips were moving, all I could think was, "Wait, are they serious? Is this an actual conversation? If they start chewing on their tongues, should I get a spoon and shove it in their mouths? How do they make more money than me? Is Allen Funt recording this? Where am I?"
You're nodding your head because you've had those conversations, too, where a higher-up is telling you what needs to happen, and you know that approach is exactly wrong. I've been that arrogant young kid. And I've been right, too. If my employers listened to me in a few specific situations, they would have made more money and pissed off fewer people. But because I didn't say anything, everything done got messed up in a serious way, even as my reputation as a good soldier remained intact.
I've also been a supervisor. And I've had to listen to people who thought they were smarter than me, and when doing passive-aggressive things like taking their sandwich out of the break-room fridge and licking it didn't work, I'd have to confront them and tell them how horrible their ideas were.
And when I was both the supervisor and supervised, I had my share of awful ideas, too. It turned out that my supervisors were right, and I was horribly wrong. Or it turned out that the smarmy young punk had a point, whereas my experience had given me extreme tunnel-vision. This isn't a both-sides-of-the-story thing. We're talking about situations where there's a binary, successful/unsuccessful result.
When Miguel Montero says that Bauer needs to stop throwing so many damned pitches, and Bauer says, "No, this works for me," maybe Bauer is right. When Bauer told teams before the draft to pass on him if they were wary of his delivery, conditioning, or warmup routine, maybe he was right to do so. Because even if it's a little arrogant to suggest that you know better than the collective knowledge of an entire organization, it's not like any team or organization has figured out the secret to keeping young pitchers healthy.
It's not like any team or organization seems especially close, either. And that high failure rate for young pitchers is pretty danged visible. So if Bauer thinks he's reinvented the wheel … hell, maybe he has. And when approached by the organization that couldn't prevent Daniel Hudson's UCL from tearing or Ian Kennedy's fastball velocity from declining, maybe you feel justified in blowing them off.
Or maybe the Diamondbacks are right, and they have built the credibility to say, "Look at all of the young pitching we've drafted and developed, like Wade Miley and Patrick Corbin, Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy. Look at the players around the league, like Brett Anderson and Max Scherzer, who have pitched well after graduating from Diamondback Tech. Now shut up, and listen to us."
Don't know. But I'm not going to assume that Bauer is a head case, a problem child, or an arrogant twit just yet. He might be all of those things, but he also might know what he's doing. It's clear that he takes the study and biomechanics of pitching pretty seriously -- it's not like we're dealing with a kid who doesn't want to put in the time because he's lazy.
Reminder: We're talking about pitching. Men spend their lives studying it -- literally their entire adult lives -- and leave this place not knowing exactly how to develop pitchers and keep them healthy. If teams had a better track record of keeping young pitchers healthy and effective, maybe it would be easier to dismiss Bauer out of hand. As is, though, his theories might be as good as any. And maybe he's perfectly justified in telling teams espousing the same ol' orthodoxy to back off.
Maybe it's just the way he disagrees. Dunno.
Eight "maybe"s so far. I think that's enough hedging for today. Long post short: If Bauer pitches well for a long time, you won't hear so much about how difficult he is. At least, not until his Delaware video-game company goes under, but that will be decades from now. Because all Bauer is right now is a guy who thinks he knows how to keep young pitchers healthy and effective. And while a lot of people think they know, too, no one's perfect.
Alright, maybe the Rays. But that's it.
Now let's shake hands and all agree that we can at least laugh at his endeavors as a rapper together.