The Toronto Blue Jays dropped another close game yesterday, losing in extra innings to the Detroit Tigers and only taking one game out of the three from the sub .500 club this past weekend. An errant throw from Marcus Semien to first base with two outs in the ninth kept the Tigers alive and eventually the Jays bullpen was not able to keep the opponents off the scoreboard as the batting order failed to put runs on the board, leaving runners on base for most of the series.
The month of August has been a rollercoaster for the Blue Jays, starting with a return to the Rogers Centre and a great homestead before getting beaten around on the road to a 3-6 record and eventually returning home to drop this most recent series against the Tigers. The bullpen has not been coming through as of late and the batting order just can’t bring runners in from scoring position, a combination that isn’t going to win many ball games, even against teams they should be beating on paper.
Nobody has been hearing it more than Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, who is bearing the brunt of a lot of fan’s frustrations – some he has earned, some he has not.
Looking at the overall picture, Montoyo was brought in when the Jays were at their lowest during the rebuilding years, bringing his coaching pedigree from working with the Tampa Bay Rays and as a manager in their minor league organization before signing on as the 13th manager in Jays’ franchise’s history. While the Blue Jays were being thumped and the young core was getting their feet wet against some of the top players in the league a few years ago, Montoyo was navigating the waters with them, learning the ropes when there really was no pressure on the line.
The Toronto Blue Jays fanbase is none to please with Charlie Montoyo at the moment, making one wonder if he will last the off-season as the club’s manager.
That all changed last year when the Blue Jays front office got serious and acquired some veteran players, realizing that the “rebuilding” waters were starting to fade away and it was time to start winning; a change of focus if you will. They made it to the Wild Card under the expanded playoff format, where Montoyo would make his first high-stakes questionable decision in pulling Matt Shoemaker when he was dealing in Game 1 against the Rays.
Whether the reason came from analytics, gut instinct, or a little birdie in the front office telling him what to do, the move was met with a lot of criticism due to how well Shoemaker was pitching. The Jays offence being silenced by the Rays (they lost 3-1) was the main reason the team lost that day but it was a risky and quite odd decision from those who questioned why one would pull a pitcher who was throwing well at the time with a good pitch count.
Fast forward to this year, and the narrative has changed slightly in that the team does still expect to win, but they’ve actually added more pieces to get the job done like George Springer, Robbie Ray, Jose Berrios, etc over the course of the year. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays are not near the top of the AL East and are starting to see their playoff chances slip away in the AL Wild Card.
This season, more of the criticism regarding Montoyo stems from his bullpen management and the questionable actions of when to pinch-hit for players in high-pressure situations.
There have been a few scenarios that has fans really questioning his game time management skills in regards to the bullpen, like when Montoyo let Tyler Chatwood walk four batters in a row before replacing him or not using the more effective relievers like Trevor Richards or Jordan Romano in late-game situations that turned sour because Brad Hand, Rafael Dolis, or another member in the pen gave up the lead.
Fans were also upset when he replaced Alejandro Kirk in the game on Friday with Breyvic Valera in the bottom of the ninth inning with Teoscar Hernandez on second base. Valera was supposed to get the bunt down and the plan obviously backfired, but to take the bat out of Kirk’s hands seemed like the wrong move at the time and the team paid for it in the extra-innings loss.
Overall, it appears that fans are none too happy with Montoyo and his decision-making as of late, and it makes one wonder if he is going to survive the off-season as the Blue Jays manager or whether he is the right man for the job, given that the club is moving away from a young, rebuilding team to a more established core focused on playoff baseball and nothing less.
On the flip side, I think one of the qualities that makes Montoyo a good manager is that he is a personable guy in that he has good character and tries to bring out the best in people. In his interviews and the way he communicates with the players, you can tell that he has a way of speaking to people that fits the persona of being a “locker room” guy. Truth be told, you need someone like that in the dressing room, whether it be a manager, a coach, or a veteran player.
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However, accountability lies with him if things are not going right. You have to trust that your catcher, who is known for his hitting ability, can get the job done and not take an important bat out of the lineup. If Dolis can’t get out’s in the later innings and isn’t in a groove, then you can’t keep putting him out there hoping he will fix himself. If Brad Hand couldn’t find the strike zone in Seattle, maybe don’t bring him out in the extra innings against Detroit.
The issue with Montoyo stems from his decision making on the field, where he pulls relievers who are doing well to go with a lefty/lefty matchup or puts trust in the pitchers who are slumping in high-pressure scenarios only to see the runs pile up for the opposing teams and leave fans with more heartbreak than a high school relationship. Almost focusing too much on the analytics and less on the “see what is going on in front of you” that older scouts believe in – an eye-test of sorts.
At a certain point in time, the Jays will have to weigh the pros and cons of having a personable manager who gels with the team versus a manager who can create a winning team by making the tough calls and the right moves at the right time. I don’t expect Montoyo to be perfect 100% of the time but these close losses over the course of the season are adding up to be too much and will most likely be one of the main reasons the Blue Jays might not make the playoffs this year.
I know this is a hot topic issue/debate and I know fans can go either way when it comes to whether a scenario or a play is Montoyo’s fault versus the player or the front office. Right now, it just seems like the tides are starting to shift where the team just can’t win the close games based on his decision-making and with him at the helm.
I also don’t expect the front office to make any rash decisions with just over a month to play, as that would most likely make things worse rather than better even though fans may disagree. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out and if the franchise decides to change things up or keep Montoyo at his post, especially if the club misses the playoffs this season
Could his job be saved if the team makes the playoffs? If the Jays make the playoffs and they get bounced early, is Montoyo still on the chopping block?
What do you think about Montoyo being the Blue Jays manager?