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The Last Pennant Race Before Armageddon?

It really wouldn’t mean the end of the world if the Toronto Blue Jays make the the playoffs in 2020 – or would it?!


Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase

 


 

 

 

In the wonderfully absurd short story by W.P. Kinsella The Last Pennant Before Armageddon, a long-suffering minor league manager suffers through a streak of nightly apocalyptic dreams while his team seems poised to end years of fan suffering by winning the pennant. Turns out God had been listening all those years to Cubs fans who endlessly petitioned for their beloved team to finally be allowed to win a pennant, and agreed to intercede. The catch was it would be the last pennant before the end of the world, which everyone except for the team’s manager was okay with. Al Tiller, the  middling anti-hero of Kinsella’s tale of “be careful what you wish for”, is haunted by the foretelling of the situation by an archangel who calls a sports talk show and the rising international tensions that shadow his team’s rise in the standings. All his life Tiller wanted to be considered a winner and a respected major leaguer. But at what cost?

 

This is a question every Blue Jays fan needs to ask themselves as the club finds itself in a projected playoff spot in what often seems like a doomed 2020 season. Toronto most certainly has not suffered the heartbreaks and long stretches of no hope for post-season baseball Cubs fans had-it just seems like we have. As thrilling as 2015-16 seasons were, they were not the World Championship seasons of  1992-93. The false hope of 2017 turned to frustration with their team and manager John Gibbons in 2018 and nightly instances of painful heartburn in 2019 under Charlie Montoyo. The career minor league player and manager plucked from obscurity by the Toronto braintrust to change the misfortunes into bright futures. Just like Kinsella’s Al Tiller.

 

This is not to say that the Jays fans who have shuffled off this mortal coil are badgering their Higher Power with requests to influence the outcomes of baseball games. Afterall, MLB commisioners often act in a holier-than-thou manner and would no doubt suspend Yahweh, Allah or Jehavoah for life should he/she be found guilty of such an affront to the “integrity of the game” I’m sure there is the scattered sacrifice of Tampa Bay voodoo dolls or hanging of Yankee bobbleheads in effigy. But as a fan base, Blue Jays Nation tends to be a rational, if cheerfully optimistic lot. Which is what I find a bit unsettling. Do we really expect the Jays to earn a berth in an expanded playoff field and bring a pennant back to Toronto/Buffalo without (perhaps) sacrificing future sustained success?

 

There is no doubt Toronto possesses the core pieces to build a sustainable winning franchise. Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Nate Pearson are generational talents. Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr, Randal Grichuk and Jordan Romano are not only good players, but likable people you want to root for.  The front office is sending positive signals to players and fans about their belief in the team’s abilities to win enough to make the post-season by adding useful, if not spectacular pieces as an upgrade to carry-over pieces from a 95-loss 2019 roster.

 

A break here, some ‘divine” intervention there, and the 2020 Blue Jays can make the playoffs, or at the very least grow more comfortable with future roles as perennial contenders. As opposed to short-season pretenders. Which is what they may prove to be without a steadier hand from their manager Charlie Montoyo.

 

Many Blue Jays followers may be befuddled by the return of Montoyo in 2020 after the stream of missteps he committed in 2019. There is no arguing Charlie’s success as a minor league manager, or his acumen at assessing talent. There is a role for Charlie Montoyo in the Blue Jays organization-just not in the dugout. Any perceived wiggle room Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro may have as far as finding a bonafide managerial upgrade will disappear if Montoyo leads this team to a playoff spot.

 

If it is possible for a baseball team to finish ahead of their manager in the standings, the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays may just do that. This young group truly has the talent to overcome their own mistakes, which have occurred and will continue to frustrate. But the haphazard lineups, in-game strategic miscues, and general sense of “oh no, what will he do now” will prove more harmful to on-field successes than any player mistakes will. Some will point to fellow minor-league lifers Mike Shildt and Brian Snitker as examples of major league success stories. I shall counter that neither St. Louis nor Atlanta have advanced deep into the post-season during the tenures of their current managers and that they most likely will not prove more than a playoff spot holder going forward. Jimy Williams begat Cito Gaston. If Toronto is to be considered a world championship caliber franchise moving forward, it is time to ascribe Charlie Montoyo to the annals of history and find a worthy inheritor of the talent and promise of this team.

 

Fact: If the Blue Jays make the playoffs in 2020, Charlie Montoyo will be the manager in 2021. Fiction: It will be because of Montoyo that the Jays secure a playoff spot. Should you really believe that it would be the end of the world if Blue Jays make the playoffs and Montoyo returns to the dugout? Admittedly, no. But should my premonition prove to be accurate, such a scenario will prove to be the end of long-term hopes for contention and development and may seem like an endless stream of hellish nightmares.

 

 

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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