Charlie Montoyo’s tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays abruptly ended Wednesday, with the team announcing the manager had been relieved of his duties effective immediately. Managerial firings are never a particularly pretty exercise, but this one seems a bit more sudden than most.
At the time of Montoyo’s firing, the Blue Jays were fourth in the AL East baseball standings behind the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, with a record of 46-42. They are a long way from the worst team in the MLB right now, but considering they had lost nine out of their last 11 games as of Wednesday, it objectively could and should be a lot better.
Statement from the Toronto Blue Jays: pic.twitter.com/mSylN7TyDE
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 13, 2022
Montoyo has been with the Blue Jays since October 2018 and leaves his position with an even 236-236 record through parts of four seasons. He led Toronto to the playoffs in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and saw the team finish 91-71 in 2021 despite having to split home games across three different cities due to COVID-19 restrictions. One week before Opening Day this year, Montoyo signed a contract to extend his tenure through the 2023 season, with club options for 2024 and 2025.
Following Montoyo’s rather unexpected firing, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins stated, “I truly wanted this to work with Charlie and wasn’t able to make that happen. I’m extremely disappointed with where we are. I think we are better than how we have played… I think we’re just not playing to our potential. I see some small opportunities to help that, and this was one of them.”
— Baseball Today (@dailymlbtweets) July 3, 2022
With Montoyo’s firing, Blue Jays bench coach John Schneider has been named the interim manager through the end of the 2022 season, and Triple-A Buffalo skipper Casey Candaele has been appointed as the interim bench coach.
So what does all this mean for the Blue Jays?
Challenges In July
The Blue Jays began the season with a bang and were quickly pegged to be a major contender. The team ended June in second place in the AL East with a record of 43-33, but that’s when things took a turn.
— Baseball Today (@dailymlbtweets) July 10, 2022
On July 2, Toronto was swept in a doubleheader against Tampa Bay. The following day, they returned for the final game of the series, and Toronto lost again. From there, the team took on Oakland and lost two out of three games, despite the Athletics holding the worst record in the MLB. The Blue Jays then traveled to Seattle for a four-game series, where they were promptly swept by the Mariners. It was clear that things had gone a bit pear-shaped.
Is It Really All So Bad?
If you view Toronto’s recent 2-9 record in isolation, it definitely looks rough, but context is everything — and the Blue Jays aren’t doing that terribly.
If the regular season had ended at the time of Montoyo’s firing, the Blue Jays would have advanced to the postseason in the third AL Wild Card spot, even with their recent shaky run. Fourth place out of five teams in the AL East doesn’t sound great, but it needs to be noted that they are in arguably the most difficult division in the entire league, with the Yankees and Red Sox always being extremely strong competitors.
So why fire Montoyo mid-season? Was there an issue among the players?
On Tuesday night, Montoyo challenged a call on the field even though first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. motioned toward the dugout that he shouldn’t. The Blue Jays lost the challenge, which meant they couldn’t dispute the call when they nearly picked off Matt Vierling on the next play. Guerrero Jr. was visibly frustrated, sparking a reignition of complaints online about Montoyo apparent failure to listen to or stand up for players this season.
I doubt this incident alone would have been enough to result in the Blue Jays firing their manager, but after a string of recent losses, could frustrations on the pitch have been the last straw?
Charlie Montoyo ignores Vlad Guerrero Jr, final game as Blue Jays manager: pic.twitter.com/kfaDff9WOt
— Chris H (@the_manekin) July 13, 2022
Perhaps we will learn more about locker room issues over the next few days, but regardless of the reason, if you’re going to change your manager to shake up the team, now is the time to do it.
The Blue Jays are still contenders for the postseason, with World Series odds of +1500. The Trade Deadline is creeping up on August 2, and I’ll be interested to see whether the Blue Jays’ new aggressive energy carries across to acquiring some depth in their bullpen, something the team desperately needs.
On Wednesday night, their first game with Schneider at the helm, the Blue Jays beat the Phillies 8-2 to sweep the two-game series. Perhaps a comeback to the team’s earlier glory is imminent, and a change in the front office is all they need to go from mid-season mediocre to winning it all.
Only time will tell.