Jays decision to fire Montoyo goes against front office support

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A 3-9 start to July and a brief dip in a tie for the third and final wildcard spot in the American League led to the Blue Jays changing managers midway through a season for the fifth time in history. of the franchise.

Charlie Montoyo, hired to oversee the Jays’ transition from the Jose Bautista-Josh Donaldson era to the Vladimir Guerrero Jr.-Bo Bichette era, was fired Wednesday afternoon, the day after the Jays ended a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies to open their last homestand before the All-Star break.

Given the timing, it’s reasonable to conclude that Montoyo would have been fired upon returning from the 1-6 road trip through Oakland and Seattle had he and the coaching staff not gone to attend a memorial service on Monday for Julia Budzinski. , the 17-year-old daughter of first base coach Mark Budzinski who was killed in a July 2 river tubing accident.

John Schneider, who was on staff as a major league coach for three years before being promoted to bench coach this season, replaces Montoyo for the remainder of this season. Schneider led Blue Jays affiliates in Dunedin and New Hampshire to back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018 before getting the call from the big club.

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Montoyo is the third manager to be let go this season, joining Joe Girardi of the Phillies and Joe Maddon of the Angels, and the common thread is that the three teams at the helm who were expected to be championship contenders and performed well below expectations.

The main difference is that when Girardi was fired, the Phils were 22-29 and six games away from a playoff berth. When Maddon lost his job, the Halos had lost 12 games in a row and missed a game and a half on the last joker. The Blue Jays are currently 46-42 and hold the last of three wildcard spots in the American League, just a half game ahead of Seattle but also just a game and a half behind the Tampa Bay Rays, who hold the first joker.

The decision to fire Montoyo goes against the front office’s unwavering support for their now former manager. It seemed Montoyo’s job was to implement front office plans and maintain a positive atmosphere within the clubhouse far more than being an X and O type between the lines.

The 56-year-old kept the team together last season in a year in which they only played a real home game on July 30, earning praise from several players who suggested Montoyo should be named American League Manager of the Year.

“He’s a great manager for us,” Guerrero said last September. “I think he should be manager of the year.”

Bichette also praised the skipper at the time, saying: “I think (Montoyo) allows us to be ourselves every day, relieving the pressure of our circumstances off the pitch, where we live. , being nomads, all that . I think he helped us a lot.

Clearly, things weren’t the same this season.

During the four-game Seattle sweep that capped out last week’s road trip, some Jays pitchers were unhappy with some of Montoyo’s (accurate) postgame comments in which he said he was hard to win games when the team wasn’t pitching hard.

Those comments came on a run where the Jays have allowed four or more runs in the first five innings six times in seven games.

In Tuesday’s win over the Phillies, Montoyo’s last game at the helm, Guerrero was demonstrative on the field, visibly frustrated by the Jays’ decision to contest a first base call when he knew he had missed the bag.

After the game, Montoyo said the decision to contest came from the Jays’ replay room and the team was rushed into a decision by the refereeing team who, in effect, denied the Phillies a replay later. in the game because they didn’t call him in 20 seconds.

Montoyo joins Jimy Williams (1989), Buck Martinez (2002), Carlos Tosca (2004) and John Gibbons (2008) as managers of the Jays who were let go mid-season. Williams then managed the Boston Red Sox for 4 1/2 seasons and the Houston Astros for 2 1/2, Gibbons returned to manage the Jays from 2013 to 2018. Martinez and Tosca have failed in the major leagues since.

When Montoyo was hired, many saw him as the manager to guide the Jays through the transition, but not necessarily to stay once the team became a contender. He had great success developing young players as a manager in the Tampa Bay system for 19 seasons before spending four years in the majors with the Rays, first as a third base coach and then as a as Kevin Cash’s bench coach.

He guided the Jays through a 95-game losing streak in 2019, then took them to the expanded playoffs of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. They missed a game before returning to the playoffs last year.

Schneider, who was drafted by the Jays in 2002, spent six years with them as a minor league catcher and has coached or managed in the organization since, winning minor league championships with players such as Guerrero, Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Jordan Romano and Santiago Espinal.

He inherits a team that holds a playoff spot with 74 games left in the season and if he can help them get back on track he has a shot at a big league title with plenty of the same. guys.

Mike Wilner is a Toronto-based baseball columnist for The Star and host of the “Deep Left Field” baseball podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @wilnerness

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