Ryu, Montoyo among finalists for AL honors

November 3rd, 2020

TORONTO -- was the ace the Blue Jays envisioned in 2020, and the veteran left-hander has been named a finalist for the BBWAA’s American League Cy Young Award.

Manager Charlie Montoyo was also recognized on Monday as a finalist for the AL Manager of the Year Award after leading the Blue Jays to a 32-28 record and their first postseason appearance since 2016.

Montoyo is joined by Kevin Cash of the Rays and Rick Renteria, formerly of the White Sox, with the winner to be announced on Nov. 10. Ryu is up against Cleveland’s Shane Bieber and Minnesota’s Kenta Maeda, with the winner to be announced on Nov. 11.

Ryu was brilliant in his first season with the Blue Jays, posting a 5-2 record with a 2.69 ERA over 67 innings in 12 starts. The lefty was Toronto’s big splash last offseason, signing a four-year, $80 million deal, and he’s done exactly what the Blue Jays had hoped for, providing the rotation with a true ace that’s stabilized a young and developing roster. Time and again, as the Blue Jays struggled to get innings from their rotation, it was Ryu who would stop the skid or extend the hot streak.

Also a finalist for the National League Cy Young Award in 2019, when he finished runner-up to Jacob deGrom, Ryu could become the first Blue Jays pitcher to win the Cy Young Award since the great Roy Halladay in 2003. Roger Clemens (1997, '98) and Pat Hentgen ('96) are the only other two pitchers to earn the honor in club history.

Montoyo, who is in his second year with the Blue Jays after spending nearly two decades with the Rays' organization, could join Hall of Famer Bobby Cox as just the second manager in Blue Jays history to win the award.

The job of a Major League manager took on a new definition in 2020, but no skipper was tasked with a situation as unique as Montoyo’s. Not only did the Blue Jays have to deal with the complicating factors of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they did it playing out of their Triple-A park in Buffalo after the Canadian government denied their approval to play the regular season in Canada.

During Summer Camp, which was held at Rogers Centre in Toronto under strict quarantine rules with players forbidden from leaving the stadium or attached hotel, Montoyo told his club they had two choices: They could either use this challenge as an excuse, or rally around it and become stronger. Montoyo knew there would be bumps along the way, but also understood that his leadership would need to go beyond baseball.

“This season really put on display what we felt and what were evident to be Charlie’s strengths, which were his consistency, his positivity, his compassion and empathy and belief in our players,” said Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro. “He was incredibly positive. He did not get sidetracked by all the potential challenges that existed. In a very understated and professional way, he was very strong. I think that experience, that life perspective he’s had really was able to shine through.”

If Montoyo’s 2020 season had a campaign slogan, it would be: “It’s fine.” As his young roster worked through growing pains, including strings of fundamental and defensive errors, Montoyo chose the approach of teaching over punishment. Physical mistakes, Montoyo could live with; so as long as it wasn’t a mistake related to effort, he continued to give his players more opportunities to learn.

That approach comes not just from Montoyo's time managing in the Minor Leagues -- when he was focused more on player development -- but also from individual experiences that have shaped him and his family.

“When things go bad, I say, ‘Man, it could be worse.’ I have a kid who’s had four open-heart surgeries, so I know it could be worse,” Montoyo said earlier this season. “That’s why, after tough losses, I could turn the page and say, ‘Let’s go. Let’s get ready for the next game.’”

Montoyo, now 55, would also become the first Puerto Rican to be named Manager of the Year in Major League Baseball history.