Blue Jays general manager blames Montoyo dismissal

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Two plays played – or not – by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sounded the death knell for Charlie Montoyo as manager of the Blue Jays.

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Not that it wasn’t happening anyway.

Montoyo would eventually be fired, as this Blue Jays season was unfolding. It was only a matter of time.

He was the perfect goaltender when that was all the Jays needed him to be.

When they demanded he be more than that, when they needed his team to be more, to struggle, to be great, to be among the best in baseball, that’s where it all fell apart this season. .

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Montoyo wasn’t taking the Jays to the promised land, and that resulted in his unsurprising dismissal Wednesday morning.

Symbolically, the end came on a Tuesday night at Rogers Center after a gruesome West Coast road trip, where the separation between underperforming superstar Guerrero and the manager in the hot seat became apparent, if not disrespectful.

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Guerrero missed the sack with his foot as he played at first base and advised the bench not to contest the call. Montoyo challenged and Guerrero’s body language was the kind of body language we’ve seen too often from the Jays’ best player this season. Right after the missed play early on, Guerrero made another defensive play attempt that didn’t work.

You don’t need to speak his language to understand Guerrero’s level of frustration. And Blue Jays management, watching from afar, ready after being swept up in Seattle to unplug Montoyo, did so Wednesday before the game against Philadelphia.

“I really wanted to make it work with Charlie,” said Ross Atkins, the general manager who took the blame for Montoyo’s firing.

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Now he’s in the hot seat – as if Rogers needs more trouble right now. These are Atkins players (and by extension Mark Shapiro players). It’s their team. Montoyo wasn’t just Atkins’ hand-picked manager—the first hired by that brain trust—he called him a kind of kindred spirit.

“It was like we grew up together,” Atkins said. And then, at some point, you have to find new friends.

If you want to blame anyone for the current state of the Jays, who are battling for sixth place in the American League, only in playoff position because a sixth playoff team was added this season, blame Atkins. . These are his words. It’s his finger pointing at himself. It’s supposed to be a contender – a pre-season favorite, sort of – that didn’t look like a serious contender. The team has talent and players and a huge payroll, but they lack focus, make too many mistakes, aren’t fundamentally healthy often enough, and get frustrated too easily.

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Sometimes they seem immature. They’re a team that loves to be silly, loves to have fun and there’s a place for that, as long as you win doing it. When you’re not winning or not playing to expectation, then you can question just about everything about the squad, the players and certainly the management team.

“It’s a collective setback,” Atkins said. But only Montoyo lost his job. That’s how it works in sports. When the bullpen can’t get people out and the $12 million starting pitcher can’t find his way and the $20 million starting pitcher has a bad elbow, the GM isn’t sent home in July.

The manager does.

Montoyo is a good man who worked years in the minor leagues to work his way to the big leagues. First as a player, then as a coach and more recently as a manager. It was a long and difficult road at almost every turn. He seemed perfectly suited, it seems, to be in charge in the years when the Jays went from being a contender to a team supposed to compete for a championship.

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He had the right temperament to guide the Jays through seasons without home games, across Buffalo and Dunedin, Fla.; others may not have been able to handle this. He was made for this part of the job. He was calm and compassionate enough to pull it off. The opposing side, however, that we may never know.

Cito Gaston won two World Series and never got another major league managerial job outside of Toronto.

John Gibbons managed 1,582 games in Toronto and never got another manager job.

Montoyo won 236 games and lost 236 games in his time with the Blue Jays, numbers that could best explain him as a major league manager.

Nobody knows if he will have another opportunity to manage in the big leagues.

Ultimately, Atkins couldn’t succinctly explain why the change was made — and why now — but Atkins struggles to be succinct about just about anything for public consumption.

“It’s hard to talk about it,” he said. “Good teams win, it’s not necessarily good pitchers, good bullpen. You look at history, good teams win championships… The environment matters. The level of positivity matters. Execution matters. Deployment matters. It’s not a thing.

It’s never a thing, the general manager said.

Atkins provided Montoyo with a bullpen that couldn’t make it and waiver pickups from second division teams across baseball and truly hopeless.

He set him up for failure.

He takes responsibility for it, except that he keeps his job for now.

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