In this space in August of 2019, way back in the before times, I wrote an article advocating for the Blue Jays to move on from Charlie Montoyo.
You can go ahead and read it if you’d like, but the gist of it was that Montoyo was a truly awful tactical manager that wasn’t only costing the team victories, but was also leading to players getting hurt. I felt those deficiencies in his style were not worth whatever intangible positives he brought to the clubhouse with his mentorship and vibes, for a lack of a better term. The Blue Jays front office clearly disagreed, as, much to the chagrin of many fans, Montoyo is still around.
I believe the time has come for this conversation to happen again. Ironically, I think Montoyo has drastically improved his in-game management since 2019. The number of mind-boggling moves that he is responsible for nowadays is much smaller than it was previously, and I would even go as far as saying that he has had numerous games this season where he has managed perfectly. Another complaint you often heard about him was that he didn’t stick up for his team enough when umpires were costing them games, and he has also corrected that flaw, getting ejected often this year to the point where he is giving John Gibbons a run for his money.
He’s made great strides and has worked on his weaknesses, to the point where it is really hard to blame Montoyo for the Blue Jays’ absolute failure of a season thus far. If you want to blame something, look no further than these two tweets from Artificial Turf Wars’ Josh Howsam, which sums up the Blue Jays’ problems succinctly:
The bullpen guys expected to perform well have done so, other than Richards. The fliers have failed.
— Joshua (@JoshuaHowsam) July 10, 2022
So why do I think the Blue Jays need to fire Charlie Montoyo if he is doing a relatively fine job and a replacement probably wouldn’t be doing any better? Because something needs to be done. This team is scuffling and has underperformed all season long. You cannot fire the players. You can, however, send a clear message that failure will not be tolerated, and they need to start playing with an urgency that reflects that jobs are on the line. That means having better plate appearances in high leverage spots and in late-and-close situations, where the team has been consistently awful for a good season and a half of baseball now. It means pitchers need to stop losing the strike zone randomly as if they have never pitched before in their lives, and start performing like they know what their job entails.
I understand that this is a ridiculous reason to make a move, but it is the only one that can be made at this point. Teams are not going to be making trades right now with impact players, so Ross Atkins’ hands are tied when it comes to improving the roster to address the obvious deficiencies in the rotation and bullpen. The only players that are available to be moved are the Anthony Bandas and Sergio Romos of the world, players that just aren’t moving the needle in terms of competitiveness.
What might inject some competitiveness into this club is making a change at manager.
There is no data to suggest that this would make a difference, but there is also no data to suggest it wouldn’t. Ultimately. the entire position of manager is something we just don’t have good data for, to the point where analyzing them is a fool’s errand and is more based on subjective opinions rather than any concrete facts. However, that is exactly why this is a no-loss scenario. I have a hard time believing that there is a large difference in win expectancy with Charlie Montoyo managing, John Schneider, or anybody else who is qualified to do the job.
The argument I keep on hearing against this idea is that it isn’t Montoyo’s fault they are underperforming. I agree with that point! But that isn’t a reason not to scapegoat him to try to light a fire under the players. It’s very easy to say to Charlie, “I’m sorry, you have been doing a good job, but we need to make a change for the sake of making a change”. Trying nothing and saying you’re all out of ideas is not a way to proceed.
He would be a scapegoat, and it would be unfortunate because he seems to be a genuinely good human, but sometimes you have to make decisions that are painful in order to grow. Maybe this will help the team grow. Maybe it won’t. Nobody knows either way, so they might as well try. Doing nothing and expecting different results? That’s not the best option. In 2008 the Blue Jays fired their manager John Gibbons, who was objectively a good manager by all measures, and replaced him with Cito Gaston, an objectively bad manager by all measures. The team was 35-39 under Gibbons and 51-37 under Gaston. The position of manager just isn’t something that makes such a difference that bringing in somebody else could hurt the club in any meaningful way. It might help though!
The only good argument against firing Montoyo in my eyes is that doing so barely a week after the tragedy of Julia Budzinski’s passing would not only be an optics disaster, but also just a downright awful thing to do. Even more so now that it appears that Julia’s funeral will be held on Monday and a good chunk of the team will be in attendance. That’s true, and I have no argument against it. The move should wait a little bit longer to the All-Star break until more time has passed. There is no need to pretend like this tiny little baseball move has any more importance than the real-life circumstances at play here, ones that should without a doubt take precedence.
In the end, the odds of Montoyo being let go are probably lower than the odds of Nate Pearson having a long and healthy career. The Blue Jays’ higher-ups love his intangibles. They tolerate his other managerial skills. They love him as a person. For some reason, they think that those things are not easily replaceable, where nothing in the public sphere suggests that they aren’t easy to come by in any number of managerial candidates out there.
I don’t see how that can possibly be true, and if it isn’t, it’s time to make a move and bring somebody else in to manage this club. Maybe, just maybe, that will be enough to turn this club around and see them not squander the immensely talented roster put together this year. If it isn’t, well you don’t really lose anything from making a change, so, why not?