Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins believes his team has not played up to its potential, prompting him to fire Charlie Montoyo and deputize bench coach John Schneider as the interim manager on Wednesday.
Atkins made the move after a heavy two-week stretch that saw the Blue Jays win just two games in 11 starts.
Tragedy also struck the team when first-base coach Mark (Bud) Budzinski lost his 17-year-old daughter Julia to a fatal tubing accident on the James River in Richmond, Va., on July 2. Montoyo and others from the Blue Jays organization attended her funeral on Monday.
“It’s out of respect for Charlie,” Atkins said when asked about the curious timing of the managerial move. “Once you make the decision, regardless of circumstance, that’s the best thing for the individual.
“We’re just not playing to our potential. I see some small opportunities to help that, and this was one of them. I see a lot of individual things that are positive and some individual areas where we can improve.”
Under the 56-year-old Montoyo, the Blue Jays are tied with the Seattle Mariners at 46-42 for the third and final American League wild-card spot. The Mariners pulled even with Toronto after a four-game sweep of the Blue Jays in Seattle last weekend.
Montoyo was the 13th manager in Blue Jays’ history. Hired in October 2018, Toronto went 236-236 under Montoyo. Last season, they finished 91-71 but one game out of a wild-card spot.
In April, Montoyo was awarded a contract extension through the 2023 season. But starting pitching and middle-relief mess prevented the Blue Jays from performing as well as last year.
The Blue Jays defeated the Philadelphia Phillies at home 4-3 on Tuesday to snap a four-game losing streak. But they have dropped 18 of their last 28 outings.
“This is a collective setback,” Atkins said.
“We’re not disappointed in the individuals’ effort. Actually, there’s been so many good individual performances happening. But, we feel like we can play better as a team.”
Atkins met with the players before their game against the Phillies on Wednesday. Schneider also met with the players individually.
Schneider, 42, spent six seasons as a catcher in the Blue Jays minor-league system. He was hired in 2008 as an organizational catching instructor and then managed at various levels, winning championships with the Vancouver Canadians in 2011, the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2017 and New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2018.
He was promoted to Toronto in 2019 and became Montoyo’s bench coach this spring.
At his news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Schneider said hadn’t talked to Montoyo but planned to reach out before the game.
Schneider was on his way to have lunch with his wife and two sons at a Rogers Centre sports restaurant when Atkins phoned him.
“Over the course of a season, there’s ups and downs, and I think this has been a weird time of the season,” Schneider said. “You can say certain guys are underperforming. You can say certain coaches are underperforming.
“There are things we can all do better.”
Schneider has 74 games remaining in the regular season to see if he can push the Blue Jays to do better. He has already managed many of the Blue Jays who have come up through the club’s system and has been around the big team for four years.
“He’s fun, he communicates, he knows the game,” Toronto outfielder George Springer said. “He’s a very energetic guy. He likes to have fun. There’s never really a dull moment with him.
“Hopefully, who he is as a person will kind of ooze onto us as players and allow us to relax a little bit, have a little bit more fun and kind of enjoy the day.
“Us as players know things could be better. Things have to be better. We understand what we all can do. It hasn’t really shown yet. I think that’s the frustrating part.”