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With the Toronto Blue Jays battling it out for a wild-card spot rather than the AL East title, the club fired manager Charlie Montoyo on Wednesday, the Blue Jays announced. Bench coach John Schneider has been named interim manager through the end of the 2022 season.

"I just want to start by saying how difficult a decision this has been. I wanted to make it work with Charlie. I'm extremely disappointed with where we are," GM Ross Atkins told reporters, including FAN 590. "... This is a collective setback, and ultimately this starts with me." 

Montoyo, 56, signed a contract extension through the 2023 season in April. The front office and ownership must believe a change is badly needed to cut bait so early in Montoyo's extension. To their credit, the Blue Jays ripped off the band-aid now rather than keep Montoyo around just because he recently signed a new contract. They felt a change was needed and were decisive.

A year ago the Blue Jays went 91-71 and missed the postseason by one game. Expected to take another step forward and contend for the World Series this year, Toronto is instead 46-42, and they've lost 18 of their last 28 games. They are only a half-game up on the third wild-card spot. Here are the AL wild-card standings:

  1. Rays: 47-40 (+1.5 GB)
  2. Red Sox: 47-41 (+1 GB)
  3. Blue Jays: 46-42
  4. Mariners: 45-42 (0.5 GB)
  5. Orioles: 44-44 (2 GB)
  6. Guardians: 43-43 (2 GB)

The Blue Jays are underperforming a bit offensively, ranking only 11th in baseball with 4.56 runs per game, and they've really fallen short of expectations on the mound. Toronto is allowing 4.44 runs per game, tenth most in baseball. José Berríos is having the worst season of his career, Hyun-Jin Ryu had Tommy John surgery, and Yusei Kikuchi has pitched poorly.

Firing Montoyo may give the Blue Jays a shot in the arm and change the clubhouse culture, but ultimately, their play won't improve until the guys on the mound perform. They need more from Berríos and Kikuchi specifically (Kikuchi is expected back from a neck issue soon), as well as from the middle of the bullpen behind closer Jordan Romano. The trade deadline is less than three weeks away and all signs point to the Blue Jays being active.

In parts of four seasons under Montoyo, the Blue Jays went 236-236, and they qualified for the expanded 16-team postseason field in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Montoyo guided the club through difficult 2020 and 2021 seasons that saw the Blue Jays play home games in Buffalo and at their spring training park in Florida before returning to Toronto last July.

Montoyo is the third manager fired this season. The Phillies fired Joe Girardi in early June and the Angels fired Joe Maddon less than a week later. These are MLB's first in-season managerial changes since the Cardinals fired Mike Matheny in July 2018.  Also, this is Toronto's first in-season managerial change since replacing Cito Gaston with John Gibbons in 2008.  

Schneider, 42, is a former Blue Jays minor-league catcher who started his coaching career in the organization in 2008. He gradually climbed the minor-league ladder and joined Toronto's major league coaching staff in 201o9. Schneider coached and/or managed many of the Blue Jays young core players when they were coming up through the minors.

Prior to joining the Blue Jays, Montoyo spent two decades with the Rays in various capacities and served as the club's bench coach under Kevin Cash from 2016-18.