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Blue Jays: Recapping what’s gone wrong in the bullpen this season

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 07: Adam Cimber #90 of the Toronto Blue Jays is pulled from the mound by Charlie Montoyo #25 in the eight inning of Game Two of the doubleheader MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on August 7, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 07: Adam Cimber #90 of the Toronto Blue Jays is pulled from the mound by Charlie Montoyo #25 in the eight inning of Game Two of the doubleheader MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on August 7, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /
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May 28, 2019; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo (right) and pitching coach Pete Walker (left) look on from the dugout during the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Who is ultimately responsible here?

As I’ve already stated, there have been times when I’ve felt bad for both the front office and the coaching staff because of everything at play with the bullpen this year. That said, there are some tough questions that need to be asked.

First of all, there’s no shortage of Charlie Montoyo slander on social media these days, and to some degree he may even be deserving of the criticism. It’s hard not to like the man and I do my best not to criticize him that much, but lately he’s made a lot of questionable decisions as the Blue Jays have been clinging for their playoff lives.

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Whether it’s been taking starting pitchers out too early, putting too much trust in a struggling veteran, or simply which pitcher he choses to use for a given situation, I’m sure there are a few decisions that Montoyo would like to have back.

Having said all that, there’s another question that I haven’t heard asked many times, so I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Why doesn’t Pete Walker seem to face any criticism about the performance of the bullpen?

He’s widely respected by Blue Jays fans as a pitching coach that can help a struggling starter reach their potential. Look no further than the way that Robbie Ray revived his career after becoming a Blue Jay, and there have been other examples over the last few years. If he has the magic touch to help starters, why has the bullpen been such a disaster this year?

To be fair, the Blue Jays have done a good job of finding value for their bullpen over the last few seasons, and Walker is part of the reason for that success. Atkins and Mark Shapiro arguably had better luck when they were bargain shopping for the bullpen than when they were willing to spend some money, such as they did at this year’s bullpen. Perhaps that’s why Walker gets a lot more slack here, in addition to his notorious work with starters, but in this case I think he deserves to be part of the equation.

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The reality is you can spread the blame around a lot of directions. The relievers have largely underperformed, or have been injured, the coaching staff hasn’t been able to manage those they’ve had to work with well enough, and the front office had some big misses, even if a lot of it comes down to bad luck. Add it all up and it’s been a problem area that persists, and may very well cost the Blue Jays at a chance to return to the postseason.

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