When the Blue Jays fired Charlie Montoyo, their GM, Ross Atkins, put himself directly in the hot seat and perhaps into a corner
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The Toronto Blue Jays fired their manager, Charlie Montoyo. This old news by now and we’ve all heard enough that we can put together a semi clear picture of the reasoning behind it. Regardless of the reason(s), Montoyo was let go and the team will now be tasked with trying to meet the expectations that were oh so palpable just over three months ago.
In order to do that, players need to play better, sure. As a group, they need to win games, it doesn’t come down to just one of them. However, it could very well come down to the man who took the blame for the team falling below expectations to date. General Manager, Ross Atkins had the following to say when he announced Montoyo’s dismissal:
During a press conference about Montoyo, Atkins did a masterful job of not actually talking about him. Instead, he pointed the finger back at himself, which some may call a classy, professional move. Others may say it is pretending an air of that accountability the organization seems to covet so fondly. Still others may see it as an indication that there really is no other direction in which to look.
During the offseason (we’re going to pretend the lock out didn’t happen, OK?) the Blue Jays had very clear needs to address and it was Atkins’ job to address them. He did. He signed Kevin Gausman, he signed Yimi Garcia and eventually traded for Matt Chapman. He did exactly what needed to be done: he addressed areas of need. That would be complimented by the signing of Yusei Kikuchi (the 5th starter they needed) and the trades for Bradley Zimmer and Raimel Tapia (Tapia, the lefty bat and both being defensive outfield bench guys). The season was ready to begin with needs having been addressed.
Or, so we thought. As the season aged, injuries cropped up as well as poor performances. Neither of these can be pinned on a manager, but if we take Atkins’ comments seriously, they kind of do fall on the GM. Part of his job is to oversee the physical training side of things. If Atkins is sincere, this is also on him. This is not to say that it is directly Atkins’ fault for Hyun Jin Ryu having lost his season. The body wants to do less and less as it enters the mid-30’s. That’s life, not poor GM-ing. Though, you could argue that signing Kikuchi for three years was…and I won’t stop you.
The argument could also be made that the pitching depth required to cover for the loss of Ryu, the poor performances of Jose Berrios (early on) and Kikuchi (ongoing) and so on. The bullpen was hit with injuries with very few quality depth pieces to step in and keep the machine rolling. Atkins’ belief in his pitching depth may have been misplaced, lulling him into a state of satisfaction.
Maybe, he thought the Blue Jays were deep enough to be in a good position heading into the Trade Deadline and the finishing touch type pieces would be identified and could be added then. OK. That is an acceptable response. This is a GM (and front office) that plans well and sticks to said plan. Whether you like their methodology, or not, it is what they do. So, let’s say for a minute that this was the plan.
Well, now is the time where that plan gets carried out. At the All Star break, the Blue Jays sit with a record of 50-43, 3rd in the AL East and holding the final Wild Card spot. So, they are in that ‘good position’ part of the plan. They’ve been good enough, technically, I suppose. It feels more like they’ve been a disappointment for many, though. If Ross Atkins was waiting for this moment, he now has to act.
The wait has revealed a team that is technically good enough for a Wild Card spot, but capable of more. With some consistency and additions (which could provide consistency) that patch the holes, they could just play like they’re capable. They have actually revealed what is needed. They need bullpen help, a couple arms are needed, or a Jordan Romano 2.0 at the very least. They also need a starter, the better, the better. They really could use a lefty bat that isn’t playing over their head a la Tapia. Now, Atkins could have more information than I do and feel like Tapia is for real, which makes a new acquisition less necessary. That will certainly be what he tells those who were disappointed that a lefty bat wasn’t acquired.
And, this brings us to the real question: Is Atkins on the ‘Hot Seat’? He has made it public that achieving highly is the expectation and failure to do so results in firings. He also made it clear that the Toronto Blue Jays not achieving is on him. Players can’t be fired, really, so there is only one place to point the finger and he has already told you to do so. Has he painted himself into a corner?
On the one hand, it makes sense that there very well could be some sort of fallout for Atkins. It could happen…maybe. It certainly would make sense if he does nothing at the Deadline, if he believes in what he has currently. It would certainly be bold…and difficult to explain. But, what is more likely is that there will be moves made and more press conferences about focusing on getting better to explain said moves.
On the most recent JFtC podcast, Karen Soutar said she thinks the Toronto Blue Jays will have the biggest Trade Deadline, which would certainly put an end to this discussion, at least for now. It wouldn’t be surprising if the reality was somewhere between doing nothing and doing everything. I know, that is not a bold prediction, but it’s safe. As is Atkins’ job. With so much not being said about the Montoyo firing and Atkins trying to say something by saying nothing, there may not be as much at all to what Atkins has said (unless we feel like writing about it).
Usually, the Trade Deadline brings drama enough, but for some, we may be paying particular attention to how Atkins navigates this next few weeks since he’s put himself out there as directly responsible for the fortunes of his Blue Jays, which could be hanging in the balance.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.