There is value in hiring someone as manager who has been in your organization since 2007, like Luis Rojas with the Mets.
We couldn’t say that about the last guy, Carlos Beltran, whose tenure stretched a grand total of 77 days before he essentially was fired for cheating with the Astros — way back in 2017. The Mets thought they knew Beltran. Or certainly spoke like they did during his Nov. 1 introduction at Citi Field.
But after a lengthy interview process, with multiple rounds, neither Brodie Van Wagenen nor Jeff Wilpon apparently pushed Beltran on whispers heard around the league about the Astros, then later got burned when those sparks grew into a full-blaze, sign-stealing scandal — with Beltran named at its core.
So in a span of two turbulent months, the great Beltran experiment was over, without him ever managing a game.
Rojas also is an experiment, to some degree, as he takes over with zero MLB experience in the manager’s chair, just like Beltran. After Beltran’s dismissal, I thought the Mets’ next hire needed to be a steadying, veteran presence, such as a Buck Showalter, Dusty Baker or John Gibbons. A proven commodity who could step into yet another Flushing crisis and calm the hysteria with spring training only three weeks away.
The Mets, however, seemed to look at it from a different angle, and in Rojas, I don’t have a problem with the thinking here. Who better to steer this team back on course than a candidate who had managed and coached a number of key, young Mets on this roster, was widely praised within the system and already had a functioning relationship with the front office.
“He’s respected by the players, he’s trusted by the players,” Van Wagenen said Wednesday, “and he’s someone that we have great confidence in his ability to lead our team now and his ability to put our players in the best position to succeed.”
That’s not speculation on the GM’s part. Or wishful thinking. At least the first half of that comment is fact. Beyond that, Rojas managed eight seasons in the minors, from rookie league up to Double-A, before becoming the Mets’ quality control coach last season. Beltran didn’t have those credentials on what we once considered to be a Hall of Fame resume, so give Rojas an edge in that category.
Rojas also has managing in his DNA as part of the famed Alou clan, and the son of Felipe Alou, who spent 14 years split between the Expos and Giants. It’s no accident Aaron Boone slipped so effortlessly into the big chair in the Bronx after learning from his father, Bob, another former major leaguer who went on to manage six seasons (Reds, Royals) and coach plenty more.
As qualified as Rojas appears to be, even at age 38, there is one question that gnaws at us. Why did the Mets believe he wasn’t ready after interviewing him two months ago and decide to go with Beltran instead? The situation changed, of course, and these were extraordinary circumstances. As much as the Mets viewed Rojas as a rising star, once Beltran became available, Van Wagenen evidently couldn’t resist the lure of the marquee name.
Maybe if the GM listened to his own clubhouse, Van Wagenen would have spared himself the headache of the short-lived Beltran era. Plenty of the current Mets have raved about Rojas, with Jeff McNeil telling MLB.com over the summer that Rojas was destined to pilot a big-league club.
“His emotions [are] real calm,” McNeil said then. “He gets along well with the players. He’s just a baseball guy. I think he’d be a tremendous manager.”
Shortly after Wednesday’s announcement, Marcus Stroman tweeted his own glowing review of Rojas, after only half a season together in Flushing.
“Love, love, love it,” Stroman said. “Loved being around him on the bench last year. Always teaching and full of knowledge. Super laid back and brings nothing but great vibes each and every day.”
Once you factor in that Robinson Cano’s dad, Jose, was on Rojas’ coaching staff for the Dominican Republic in the Olympic qualifying tournament this winter, it seems that Rojas already has the clubhouse in his back pocket. That’s a huge plus for a new manager, not to mention his strength with analytics (honed from his previous position) and communication with Brodie & Co.
On paper, Rojas has potential. But as we’ve always maintained, the Mets’ managing gig is one of the toughest in baseball — if not No. 1 — for the unique challenges that Flushing presents, from hyper-involved ownership to uber-passionate scrutiny of the team’s every move.
The Mets chew up managers like Dubble Bubble, and with rare exception, discard them almost as quickly. Maybe this time, they really do have something special in Rojas. At least the Mets know what he’s not — and that’s worth looking forward to.
Fathers and sons who became major-league managers:
Connie Mack Earle Mack
53 years, 3,731-3,948 2 years, 45-77
George Sisler Dick Sisler
3 years, 218-241 2 years, 121-94
Bob Skinner Joel Skinner
3 years, 93-123 1 year, 35-41
Buddy Bell David Bell
9 years, 519-724 1 year, 75-87
Bob Boone Aaron Boone
6 years, 371-444 2 years, 203-121
Felipe Alou Luis Rojas
14 years, 1,033-1,021 To be determined