Greener Pastures Up North...Hopefully
Image from ESPN.Com
I was in the middle of writing about my Hot Take Wildcard teams, and then I got a notification about the Blue Jays; I had assumed it was a trade or a transaction. However, the most unexpected transaction honestly shocked the baseball world.
Often a team will blame the Manager and use it at cop out to keep the front office in line and together. The ol' saying that poop runs downhill, and it did in Toronto as the Jays FIRED, yes, FIRED a back-to-back finalist for Manager of the year in Charlie Montoyo. I call this the worst firing of the season, the most giant cop-out, and worse cop-out than the Angels did with Maddon.
We have seen both sides in how firing a manager goes. First, the Angels, who are 11-50 and have a winning percentage of .080 since the firing of Joe Maddon. To add to it, the Angels were a .500 team in the thick of the playoff race when they fired Maddon. To remind you, Joe Maddon held a record of 130-146(6/5) since taking over as the Angels Manager entering the Pandemic Shortened 2020 season for a .471 W-L%. With two MVP players and a $185MM payroll going into the 2022 season, it was easier to justify the firing of Maddon.
Next, we look at the other side of the coin, the legend of Philly Rob. The Phillies have won 8-11 since Thompson took over as their skipper. Thompson was also the first Canadian Manager of an MLB team to manage a game on Canadian soil on 7/12. The Phillies were 21-29 when Thompson took over, and the team is now 46-42 and only 0.5 games out of the wildcard. To remind you of the disaster that was Girardi in Philly, 3rd season with the team, with the reigning MVP, 5 All-Stars from 2021, and a payroll above the Luxury tax, the early return should not have been 22-29.
Now to Montoyo, a product of the Kevin Cash system in Tampa Bay. He took off at the helm for the Jays in 2019 and went 67-95 with a team amid a rebuild north of the border. Then came the 2020 season, where he went 32-28 and helped get the Jays into the postseason. However, they did get swept in the first round. In 2021, the stakes were raised again as Montoyo took the club to 91-71 and barely missed the playoffs in the stacked AL playoff race. At the time of his firing today, the Jays are 46-42, got swept in the 4-game set against the Mariners, who are now tied for the 3rd wild card. The AL East is the best division in baseball as each team is a .500+ team.
In his 3.5 seasons, he is 236-236 and finishes in 4th place on average, just ahead of the Orioles in the AL East. With a team of Vlad Jr. Bichette, Springer, Gurriel, Teo, and Chapman to support one of the best offenses in the MLB, not just the AL. With a pitching staff of Manoha, Gausman, and Berrios, among others, which give the Jays a top-10 payroll in the MLB, the results should be better than the 46-42. Injuries to Hyun Jin Ryu and Nate Pearson, and poor performance from Yusei Kikuchi, haven't helped the Jays keep pace with the Yankees and didn't help Montoyos's case.
Injuries aside, the performance on an offense led by Vlad Jr, Bichette, Chapman, Springers, and others has underperformed to expectations. Marcus Semien signed with the Rangers after posting a career year. It is worth noting the ages of some of these core pieces, Vlad(23), Kirk(23), Bichette(24), Manoah(24), and most of this team are under 30 years old. Most players are only in years 2-5 in the MLB. Keep that in mind, as a team on the season, the Jays are slashing .259/.325/.431 with a .7565OPS, which are all 2nd best in the AL. The Jays are also 2nd in Hits(777, 4th in HR(112), and 1st in total bases(1293). The offense is excellent, even with regression and not playing to "expectations."
A rotation with Alek Manoah, Jose Berries, and Kevin Gausman would be great. Well, 2/3 of that is accurate, and missing critical 4th piece Hyun Jin Ryu(out for the season) and Kikuchi driving the struggle bus hasn't helped the pitching staff. The staff as a unit has a 4.08ERA to a 4.01FIP while being bottom half in the AL in W-L, ERA, SHO, H, R, ER, and HR. The top 6 categories for the AL CG are SV, IP, BB, and SO. Outside of Manoah, Gausman, and CL Jordan Romano, the pitching staff is underpaid and underperforming. Losing CY Young winner Robbie Ray hurts, Berrios having a career-worst year, and the bullpen's myriad issues have been a critical factor in the struggles of the 2022 Jays.
I'll leave it up to you, Ball Boys and Ball Girls. Was the firing justified? Was it a cop-out by the front office? Was it an issue of leadership and having a grip on the clubhouse?
The Jay's now hope the grass is greener as they turn to bench coach John Schneider who will assume management duties the rest of the way. We will likely see Montoyo back in a dugout as he has an incredible track record in the minors and spent four seasons with the Rays as a bench coach. Now, we wait and see what happens next for the Jays.