Call it Mike Maddux's little slice of revenge for the Yankees crushing his brother Greg's dreams in the 1996 and 1999 World Series, but the veteran pitching coach certainly unlocked something that New York's braintrust didn't see in Rangers ace Jordan Montgomery.
When the Yankees dealt Montgomery to the St. Louis Cardinals last summer in exchange for Harrison Bader and a walking boot to be named later, the left-hander found an eager teacher in Maddux, employed as the Cardinals' pitching coach at the time. Maddux had watched Monty and recommended that he emphasize his fastball, a pitch that the Yankees coaching staff wasn't enamored by. He also recommended that his curveball remain his focus, as opposed to the cutter the Yankees preferred he use.
The results were nearly immediate; Montgomery posted a 3.11 ERA for the Cards last summer after finishing his time in the Bronx with a 3.69 mark. He pitched well again in 2023 in St. Louis (3.42 ERA), but the offense didn't match the tone he set, as the team fell into the NL Central. He was dealt again at the deadline, this time to Texas -- where, luck would have it, Maddux had landed after leaving the Cardinals at the end of the 2023 season.
Montgomery, who Brian Cashman didn't envision as a factor in the Yankees' 2022 postseason rotation, completed his fourth career playoff start without a loss on Sunday night, shutting out the Astros over 6.1 innings while whiffing Yordan Alvarez three times. After the game, Alex Rodriguez asked Monty on the FOX postgame, with a knowing wink, about how it felt to show "some people" who thought he didn't belong in the playoffs.
A-Rod, Jordan Montgomery commiserate at ALCS over Yankees misusing him
Would those "some people" by any chance happen to be the same "some people" who forced A-Rod into retirement four home runs shy of 700? Just wondering.
Montgomery wasn't shy about calling out the Yankees ahead of his Game 1 Wild Card round start in Tampa, making it clear he believed they'd given up on him. Now, here he is on national television, one more dominant playoff start in the books in hostile territory, having a laugh with a former Yankee star over his "doubters," many of whom still work in the Bronx.
The lefty's dominance sent the Astros to an 8-11 record in ALCS games that did not include the Yankees in the other dugout, as if his powerhouse performance didn't rub enough salt in the team's gaping wound. The Astros struggle in the ALCS, actually! Except. You know. When we're around.
Rumor has it the Yankees want Montgomery back, now that he's defied all of their orders circa 2022 and thrived. Showering someone you rejected with make-up money after someone else taught them the finer points would be a classic conclusion to a typical Yankees saga.
Maybe Mike Maddux would be a worthier use of money, though. You know, in order to figure out what else the Yankees are doing wrong and why A-Rod's giggling.