Saturday, December 20, 2014

Friday Five: Thank You Charlie!

I had walked my students outside to their busses yesterday afternoon when I paused a minute to check the news and saw this tweet staring back at me on my iPhone.  I stopped for a minute on the sidewalk and soaked it in.  Earlier this offseason I had hoped that Montoyo would have a chance to move up to the Rays as the team's manager.  After watching Charlie navigate the Bulls for the past 8 seasons I know he would have done a great job.  For awhile I guess, as Bulls fans, we were in limbo about Charlie.  A few Cubs fans on my Twitter feed had speculated that Charlie could end up with the Cubs in some capacity.  After pausing for a minute and reading a few of the comments below the tweet I decided to be happy for Charlie.

Baseball fans in the Triangle are losing a great baseball manager in Montoyo, but after spending his entire managing and coaching career in the minors it is great to see him get his day in the sun working for the Rays as their third base coach.  I thought Charlie would make a great manager and know he will also make a great third base coach.  I've seen Charlie make that run out of the first base dug out down the third base line dozens of times each of the past eight summers.  He does a great job of talking, coaching, and working with the players throughout the game.  I have no doubt that he will be successful at the Major League level.

Montoyo leaves the Bulls after eight sevens which resulted in 7 division crowns, a pair of Governors Cups, and a Triple A National Championship.  He also leaves as the Durham Bulls all-time most winningest manager after passing the legendary Bill Evers by last summer.

I took a little bit of relaxation time this morning and combed through the managerial record of Charlie Montoyo and ranked, in my opinion, his five best performances as a manager.

5.  2007 Durham Bulls 
80-63 International League South Division Champions, Governors Cup Appearance  

The first season Montoyo spent as the Bulls manager resulted in an International League South Division Title and a trip to the Governor's Cup Championship against the Richmond Braves.  Ultimately the Bulls lost the Cup that year, but Montoyo did a great job of turning around a team that had struggled on and off the field the season before.  More than 30 players appeared on the Bulls that season who eventually appeared on a Major League roster at some point in their career.  The highlight of the season was an appearance by top Rays prospect Evan Longoria for a 31 game cup of coffee on his way up to Durham.  The roster also featured Jonny Gomes, Joel Guzman, Chris Richard, Justin Ruggiano, Shawn Riggans, Ben Zobrist, Andy Sonnanstine, Jeff Niemann, Jason Hammel, and J.P. Howell.  Montoyo had actually managed many of the players the year before while he was working for the Rays Double A team in Montgomery as their manager.

4. 2014 Durham Bulls
75-69 International League South Division Champions, Governors Cup Appearance 

I cannot possibly do a good enough job of explaining what a wonderful job Montoyo did this last season with the Durham Bulls.  I watched the team all the way to the Governors Cup and was truly amazed the entire way.  The Bulls dispatched with the rest of the International League Southern Division the way that their fans have come all too accustomed to seeing.  The Bulls won their division by 9 games, defeated the Columbus Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, and took the Pawtucket Paw Sox all the way to a final fifth game of the Governors Cup Series before yielding the cup to the Red Sox Triple A team.  What was so impressive about 2014?  While I can point out dozens of talented prospected on other Durham Bulls teams during Montoyo's eight year run as the Bulls manager, this summer's squad lacked a big name.  Kevin Kiermaier appeared for 34 games, but was gone by the half way in the season.  Mikie Mahtook seems like a nice player, but I am not sure he is a top tier prospect.  Stud pitching prospects Enny Romero and Alex Colome struggled with consistency.  Mike Montgomery threw a no-hitter and was unhittable at the beginning of the year before struggling down the stretch with an ERA of 6.86 in July and 5.91 in August.  Veteran players like Vince Belnome and Wilson Betimet failed to provide the Bulls any spark on offense.    Even Snorting Bull favorite Hak Ju Lee only hit .203 and found a seat on the bench frequently towards the end of the year.  There were so many reasons why this team should not have won, but Montoyo willed them into the playoffs and within a game of taking home the International League Championship.

3.  2013 Durham Bulls
87-57 International League South Division Champions, Governors Cup Champions 

The 2013 Durham Bulls were a great team.  They had talented players, but they worked really well together.  I would have loved to see how many games they could have won with a full season of players like Will Myers and Chris Archer.  Hak Ju Lee was hitting .422 through his first 45 Triple A at-bats before he blew out a knee.  Motoyo got great performances out of prospects like Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome, Tim Beckham, and Kevin Keirmeir, but also got a lot of some key veterans like Leslie Anderson, Jason Bourgeois, Shelley Duncan, Rich Thompson, J.D. Martin, and Matt Buschmann.  Plenty of other players like Cole Figueroa, Merrill Kelly, and Brandon Guyer mixed in too.  The team won the South Division by 10 games, swept the Indianapolis Indians in the first round of the playoffs, and defeated the Pawtucket Red Sox to win the Governors Cup.  The team ultimately lost in the Triple A Championship to the Omaha Storm Chasers, but still were a great success in large part due to the managing of Charlie Montoyo.

2. 2006 Montgomery Biscuits 
77-62 South Division Runner-Up, Southern League Champions 

It's hard to ignore Montoyo's work with the Montgomery Biscuits before he jumped up to manage the Durham Bulls.  The year before taking the reigns with the Bulls, Montoyo managed roughly a dozen of the players who appeared on the 2007 Durham Bulls, his first as the team's manager, to a Southern League Championship with the Rays Double A team.  That team included Longoria, Ruggiano, Reid Briganc, Elliot Johnson, Jeff Niemann, and Mitch Talbot.  All of those players were a huge part of his success during his first season in Durham, which really began the year before in Double A.  The 2006 season was Charlie's fourth at the helm of the Rays Double A team and his first winning season at that level of managing in the minors.

1.  2009 Durham Bulls 
79-65 International League South Division Champions, Governors Cup Champions, Triple A National Champions 

The crowning gem of Montoyo's time as the Bulls manager was the 2009 Triple A National Championship team.  The team had young prospects, veteran's playing out the end of their careers, pitching, hitting, defense.  Everything.  Let's start with the prospects.  The team featured Desmond Jennings, John Jaso, Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, Matt Joyce,  Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, and an appearance by David Price early in the season.  There were some veterans too.  Jason Isringhausen, Akinori Iwamura, Shawn Riga's, Chad Bradford, and Jorge Julio also spent time in Durham that season.  Unlike many seasons, where the Bulls easily win their division, they spent the summer in a fight with the Gwinnett Braves winning the division by two games.  The team won their first round playoff matchup and advanced to the Governors Cup against the Scranton Yankees.  The Bulls swept the Yankees and made up for the previous season when the team had been drubbed badly in the deciding game of the Governors Cup against the same team.  In the Triple A championship game the Bulls ran into a talented team in the Memphis Redbirds who featured future Cardinals World Series winners in Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and David Freese.  The game went into extra innings and the Bulls won a wild pitch.  

It was a great run for Charlie Montoyo as the Bulls manager and I hope you enjoyed my take on his five best performances as a manager.  It was a tough list to make and it's difficult when you make a list of teams and have to leave out three other talented Durham Bulls teams which also won their divisions and made it into the playoffs.  I know I can safely say I speak for baseball fans all over the Triangle and many Rays fans too when I say: Thank you Charlie.  

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