Monday, December 22, 2014

Good Luck, Charlie

When I started this blog back in 2009 Charlie Montoyo was the manager of the Durham Bulls. Just about every home game inning I have ever seen began with him running down the third base line to take his position in the coach’s box. The photo above was taken on May 9, 2011, at one of the two “Back to the DAP” games played in the old Durham Athletic Park.

Now he will be starting his dash down to third base in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida and, unless we’re watching on TV, we aren’t likely to see him make that run again. I’ll miss him.

I’m not alone. I commend to you the several posts which show you a bit of his character and accomplishments. The first is the announcement by the Bulls; the second is a collection of very thoughtful pieces from those who interacted with Charlie on a regular basis, folks like Neil Solondz, Patrick Kinas, Mike Birling, Scott Strickland, Scott Carter, and Colin Sanders. A great read. And lastly, Steve Wiseman over at the Herald-Sun got some nice quotes from Charlie about his promotion.
[Update: Sam Stephenson of Bull City Summer has a Montoyo salsa playlist and an image of a tribute ad from Herald-Sun]

And it’s not just Charlie that I’m going to miss. I remember getting an interesting comment to a blog entry a couple of years ago from someone claiming to be Charlie’s wife. Turns out the commenter was Charlie’s wife, Samantha. From time to time she has added her two cents to our postings and we’ve had a couple of fun exchanges over on twitter in recent years. I’ll miss them both.

But here’s the important point I want to make: From a fan’s perspective, from someone who can only evaluate him from what I’ve seen on the field, Mr. Montoyo is one terrific leader and manager of ballplayers. I have to say that I was expecting and hoping for his promotion to the Rays, even though it might mean a bit more uncertainty than we Bulls fans are used to at the beginning of the season.

Good luck and, most of all, have fun in your new job. Thank you for all the great years you gave Bulls fans.

Monday, December 8, 2014

What About Charlie?

Turmoil at the top of the Rays system. What might that mean for our favorite Durham Bull, Charlie Montoyo?

Prompted somewhat by the comments by Cork Gaines over at Rays Index and with all the usual caveats, here are my thoughts. Jump in with yours.

The Rays have worked very hard to build a decent minor league system, although more of their success has come through trades rather than home grown talent. How satisfied are they with what they’ve got rather than what they’d like to have?

What they’ve got, in Durham, is a pretty famous fellow. He’s won a bunch of championships, has been featured in the only two books in recent memory about Triple-A baseball (John Feinstein’s Where Nobody Knows Your Name, and Sam Stephenson’s Bull City Summer), and has fed a lot of ballplayers upward to the Rays.

For several years the Rays bench coach, Dave Martinez, went off to end-of-season interviews for manager jobs and Charlie was always at the top of my list for his replacement. But Martinez never got a job. This year Manager Joe Maddon left and the Rays began looking for a replacement. Charlie was on the initial list, but didn’t make to the end. Former Bull Kevin Cash got the job.

Then Martinez left and later joined Maddon with the Cubs. The Rays bench coach slot is wide open.

How important is perception? My own take is that I never noticed any particular closeness between Maddon and Montoyo; however, Montoyo obviously had daily conversations with someone in St. Petersburg. My perception is that Charlie was not part of Maddon’s “crew” and thus is not on a chopping block.

But, and this is a big but, how important is he to the “system” by staying at AAA? From a systemic point of view our judgement is that Charlie Montoyo is the most important on-the-field guy in the entire Rays system. Looked like the folks in St. Pete were telling him what they needed, and he figured out how to provide it to them. Over in our section of the stands I’ve always taken the position that Charlier was doing more good for the Rays in Durham than he would as a bench coach (whatever that is) in St. Pete.

And yet ...

As far as I can tell the Rays new manager Kevin Cash never played for Charlie, but he did have three tours with International League teams while Montoyo was managing the Bulls: Pawtucket in 2007, Scranton/Wilkes Barre in 2009, and back with Pawtucket in 2010. Cash had a chance to see the changes/philosophy that Montoyo brought to the Bulls after the disaster of 2006. Cash might want to work with Charlie.

Unfortunately for the Bulls fans, I have to say that Cash/Montoyo could be one heck of a team. And, since baseball is, after all, about “moving up” maybe it’s Charlie’s time. He has certainly earned it. After sending so many guys to the "bigs" maybe it is his time.

So, WDBB wants to see him in a Rays uniform on the bench in Tropicana Field …

But we sure would be happy to see him back in Durham in 2015, too.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Former Durham Bull to Manage the Tampa Bay Rays

Kevin Cash played for the Durham Bulls in 2005 and 2006 — seems like just yesterday. Now he’s going to be the youngest manager in major league baseball. Good for him!

You have to wonder just what those years might end up meaning now that he’s to be the boss down in St. Petersburg. The DBAP was relatively new. He was witness to a big managerial change when long-time, well-loved manager Bill Evers left and John Tamargo came in for a one-year stint. Neither year was very successful for the Bulls. Unusually, they did not finish in the running for the South Division and were well below .500 each year (65-79 and 64-78).  Some of his teammates were, if not favorites, certainly memorable Durham Bulls. They included Elijah Dukes, Joey Gathright, Joel Guzman, Darnell McDonald, B.J. Upton, Brooks Badeaux, and Jonny Gomes. The only current Ray that jumped out at me was Ben Zobrist, who played a couple of games in 2006.

He handled several top pitching prospects those years, notably James Shields, but others included Jason Hammel, J.P. Howell, and Edwin Jackson. Plus he took the mound for an inning in 2006, faced just three batters, and got a win.

Here’s the trivia question of the day. Is Kevin Cash the first former Durham Bull to manage in the major leagues? [Note: I don’t have the answer]

And, does anyone have any interesting memories of Cash’s time as a Bull?

* * * * * 
What could this mean for the Bulls?

First of all we have to point out that Neil Allen, long time pitching coach, is off to the major leagues, the Minnesota Twins. Congratulations Neil. My guess is that Allen was a much more important piece of the Rays system that most appreciated. His departure is obviously going to be a concern to Bulls fans. As will be the status of Charlie Montoyo. How is that going to play out? The Rays’ bench coach, Dave Martinez, left not too long after manager Joe Maddon. So Cash will need to put several pieces together over the next couple of months.

Guess we really aren’t going to know for a while.

Links on Cash:
Links on Allen:
* * * * *

In 2005-2006 the Bulls broadcaster was Neil Solondz. Neil is now was the Rays and has written a very nice article on his memories of Cash as a Durham Bull.