As the Blue Jays hit the quarter-pole of the 2019 season, we’re starting to learn more about the new skipper, Charlie Montoyo. What has he shown us so far?
With the Blue Jays moving on from veterans like Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, Marco Estrada and many more over the last 10 months, the face of the franchise has changed pretty drastically. However, it’s not just in the lineup where things are significantly different.
Aside from the the veteran turnover and the start of a rebuild, the biggest change for the Blue Jays this offseason was the end of John Gibbons‘ second tenure as the dugout boss, and the hiring of Charlie Montoyo. The new skipper spent last season as the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, but had previously spent from 1997-2015 coaching in the minor leagues before being promoted to work in Tampa Bay as a base coach, and eventually the bench coach.
There are different schools of thought about hiring manager’s these days, but one of the biggest things I liked about Montoyo getting the Blue Jays’ job was the fact that he had paid his dues in the minor leagues and had more than two decades of coaching experience to hone his craft. You can give a coach all the analytical data you want, but you can’t replace that kind of first-hand experience.
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It remains to be seen if Montoyo’s approach will ultimately prove to be the right path for the Blue Jays, but so far there is a lot to like about the 53-year-old, as I talked about in an article I wrote last week. He’s a genuinely likeable character, but the more important question will be whether or not he can help turn this rebuilding team into a contender.
For now though, I feel like we’re starting to learn a few things about how he likes to run his ship, and I’m curious if his style will evolve over time. He has plenty of experience as a manager already, but I would imagine that calling the shots at the highest level is a whole different world. There’s no way he’s dealing with the same media swarm while working with the Durham Bulls that he does now, for example.
I feel like he’s shown a nice mix of old-school and new-age thinking so far in his first 40 games as a big league skipper, and I’m also guessing that he’s still learning new lessons all the time too, especially as he gets to know his roster and the Blue Jays figure out which pieces will fit in the short, and longer term.
We’ve witnessed him utilize the bunt more than this team did under John Gibbons, albeit with a very different roster and set of circumstances to deal with. Montoyo also showed that he’s a fan of using a pinch runner late in the game, even for someone like Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
As much as I think his little “disagreement” with Marcus Stroman on the weekend was overblown as well, I was impressed by the way the new manager handled the whole situation. He defended his player’s reactions and explained that he wants to work with players who will fight to stay in the game, and he moved to diffuse any narrative of insubordination. That’s what good skippers do, and if he had any problem with the way Stroman handled things, I’m confident it was handled behind closed doors, where it belongs.
He’s also shown that he’s not afraid to experiment with his roster a bit, moving players around the diamond and the lineup in search of a combination that will work. He used the “opener” strategy last week as well, although you could argue that a bullpen day was a necessity for the Blue Jays and maybe not so much a reflection of Montoyo’s philosophies just yet.
One thing that I both like and feel that Montoyo and the Blue Jays will reflect on is the leash that they have given a few of their struggling players. I can’t say I blame the front office for wanting to see if they could extract some value from Socrates Brito or Alen Hanson, but it felt like Montoyo may have shown them loyalty to a fault. You could argue that there are others in the lineup who have been given the same favour, but that’s also part of a rebuilding situation and the result of widespread struggles on offence.
And speaking of that rebuild, Montoyo has the luxury of putting the pressure to win to the side, at least for this year. It’s not ideal that the team is currently 16-24 after their first 40 games, but when you consider the expectations and the roster decisions that have been made over the last year, nobody should be surprised.
Instead, if you’re looking to evaluate Montoyo’s work so far then I would focus on one thing in particular. It appears that his players genuinely like him, and even if the results aren’t there, this team is playing hard. Time will tell if Montoyo was the right hire or not, but so far, consider me a fan.