National Post (Latest Edition)
Creative or crazy?
Jays not starting Ryu in Game 1 against Tampa
Charlie Montoyo insisted that he and Toronto Blue Jays management were being creative. At least, he had the first two letters right.
They weren’t being creative — crazy is more like it.
Hyun- jin Ryu, the US$ 80 million ace of the Blue Jays pitching staff, who was brilliant in the clinching playoff win against the New York Yankees, the best he pitched all season, won’t be starting Game 1 of the best- of- three playoff series against the first place Tampa Bay Rays.
Montoyo said there are several reasons why they aren’t starting their ace in the opener of a series in which they only need two wins. Then he really didn’t explain any of them.
“Because it makes sense to us,” said Montoyo, the second year manager. “We have to be creative. It’s not like you’re playing a ( regular series), where you hope to split the games and then go home 1-1. All games count ( here) and we feel that’s our best chance.
“We’re looking at the numbers, and that’s what we came up with.”
And this would give them the best chance to win. Tossing aside the history of baseball and going in another direction. He can call it creative but isn’t comfortable enough to explain his reasoning. It’s not hard to say they are clearly out-thinking themselves in what should be a rather basic baseball decision.
The Blue Jays have done this before under the combination of Mark Shapiro,
Ross Atkins and their chosen manager, Montoyo. They don’t follow the crowd. They do things their own way, their own logic. And somehow, now, in the playoffs for the first time with this team, with one ace in their hand, they have chosen not to use him in the opener.
Instead Matt Shoemaker will start Game 1, which makes sense if you’re going to a concert.
There, you get an opening act before you get the main event. It works that way in boxing too. But this is baseball and this is a best of three series against the team with the best record in the American League. With the young Blue Jays being considered serious underdogs, isn’t your best chance to win Game 1 with the starting pitcher your team won 9 of 12 games with this season? That’s .750 baseball when Ryu starts.
Win two games and you win the series. Lose the first one and the odds are greatly against coming back against a Tampa Bay team that rarely beats itself.
Shoemaker made six starts in this shortened, injured season. The Jays won two of them. That’s .333 baseball when he starts. And in the nine innings Shoemaker pitched against Tampa Bay, he gave up five earned runs.
Montoyo said he liked Shoemaker’s last start. And that wins him the start in the opener in a sport that has started aces on opening day and opening games of playoff series’ going back about to the time Cy Young was a pitcher, not an award.
Really, I figure the Jays have one real shot at beating Tampa Bay. That’s by winning Game 1. That would be by sending Ryu to the mound and having him outpitch one of Tampa’s aces Blake Snell, or at least go inning by inning with him, and then hope for the best.
Now it’s almost as though they are giving up the first game. Hoping Ryu wins Game 2 against Tyler Glasnow. And then let’s fight it out for the series in Game 3 with Taijuan Walker against Charlie Morton.
Montoyo at least had a sense of humour about the difficult decision. He bet that the first question asked at his media availability would be about the starting rotation. He lost the bet. Instead, once the question was asked, it was asked, and asked again, trying to find an answer that was something other than “we’re being creative.”
He said he wants the Blue Jays to be one of the best teams in baseball and in order to do that, “we’re going to have to be creative ... it all makes sense to us.”
In fairness, Montoyo comes from Tampa Bay, where the Rays never look like they have much of a team but wind up being around the best in baseball. He learned about being creative in that high- thinking environment.
Some baseball people think the Jays may have chosen Ryu to pitch Game 2 to oppose Glasnow, who is or isn’t Tampa Bay’s best pitcher, depending on who you talk to. But in a way, that seems backwards. Match a run- of- the- mill Shoemaker starter in Game 1 opposite former Cy Young Award winner, Snell. That’s almost giving up the game, at least from a matchup point of view.
Maybe the Jays will shock baseball and win the opener Tuesday. And then maybe, they’ll be in position to win the second game and the series in Game 2. Montoyo calls that being creative. The Jays got creative in 1991 in Game 1 of the playoff series with the Minnesota Twins. Against Cito Gaston’s best wishes, Tom Candiotti started the series and basically ended it in one night.
Minnesota went on to win the World Series that year.