The game of baseball has been littered with bad trades: Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio, Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen… the list goes on and on. In February of 1988, the Kansas City Royals engaged the Cincinnati Reds in a trade, sending their outfield prospect Van Snider to Cincy for young pitcher Jeff Montgomery. Snider flamed out with the Reds while Monty went on to save 304 games–19th in baseball history.
Not an imposing figure on the mound, Monty wasn’t quite six-feet tall nor was he in the excess of 170 pounds, but he got the job done. Utilizing a terrific curveball, Jeff got by on his hook. He first flashed his curveball in the Majors with the Reds in 1987. Used in 14 games, Jeff went 2-2 with an ERA above 6.00. Before Spring Training in 1988, Jeff was in a Royals uniform. In what was his rookie campaign, Jeff posted a .778 winning percentage for the Boys in Blue.
Monty’s breakout year came in 1989 when he and KC bullpen stalwart Steve Farr each saved 18 games apiece. At the top of his game, Jeff posted an amazing 1.37 ERA over 92 innings with just 66 hits allowed. His WHIP was a terrific 0.989, as the little right-hander showed the Royals he could handle fireman duty with aplomb. The closer’s role was his in 1990 as the Royals used Farr as Jeff’s setupman. Montgomery used his stellar curveball to average a strikeout per inning pitched.
More than just a one-inning gunslinger, Jeff worked 94 innings in 73 games in ’90 and 90 innings in 67 1991 contests. In top form in 1992, Monty saved 39 games on a 2.18 ERA. Adept at getting batters to chase his curve, Jeff issued an average of just 0.735 hits per inning–better than star closer Lee Smith’s 0.827 mark.
Jeff’s highwater mark for saves came in 1993, when he nailed down 45 saves–tied with Toronto’s Duane Ward for the American League lead. After an off 1994 campaign, known for the Player’s Strike, Jeff was back on track in ’95 with 31 saves. In 1996, Jeff struggled with placing his curveball on the clothesline–hanging the pitch out to be swatted 14 times in just 63 innings. Due to his susceptibility to the gopher-ball, the Royals platooned Jeff with youngster Hipolito Pichardo in the closer’s role in 1997.
But Jeff won his job back in 1998. With his curve kept in check, Jeff saved 36 games for the Royals. However, the ’98 season would be Jeff’s last good campaign. The Royals bullpen imploded in a big way during the 1999 season as Jeff posted an atrocious 6.84 ERA in his final season. Despite his struggles, he was still one of the more reliable arms out of skipper Tony Muser’s bullpen, which over the course of the season featured eight different pitchers with earned run averages well above Monty’s mark.
W 46/L 52/PCT .469/ERA 3.27/G 700/SV 304/IP 869/H 785/BB 296/SO 733