Was keeping Luis Rojas as the manager the right move by the New York Mets?
The 2021 New York Mets are a work in progress, but Team President Sandy Alderson set one thing in stone: Luis Rojas will return as the manager. While continuity is good, was it a smart idea to keep a relatively inexperienced person at the helm of a team with a new owner who is determined to have it be a long-term contender?
Rojas did walk into a very unusual situation in 2020. First, he was not the team’s first choice and was ushered in rather hastily after the whole Houston sign-stealing debacle made it clear that trying to keep Carlos Beltran as the manager would have been untenable. Second, if that wasn’t enough, COVID-19 wrecked any chance at a normal situation, what with a short season and his fielding a team that was far from complete, what with Yoenis Cespedes (bye!) and Marcus Stroman opting out.
He quickly learned that managing in the Majors was a completely different animal than being a coach. There were a lot more puzzle pieces to put together, and even with the help of a coaching staff, he made mistakes. That’s being human. What some wonder, though, is did he show enough to warrant the opportunity to guide the 2021 Mets?
Are The Mets Really Giving A Second Chance?
The question is – should we really consider this as a second chance for Rojas? Or is this really his “first” full season as the manager? Either way, Rojas apparently did enough as a manager to impress Alderson. The team president told the media during a press conference on November 23:
"“Luis as an individual, as a person who’s able to relate to his players both in terms of their professional work as well as their personal lives, I think he’s exceptional in that regard. On the professional side, managing a game, I think that he will be better. We need to make sure that he has all of the necessary resources to be better and make good decisions based not only on his own judgment, but information that’s available.“"
This is a huge opportunity to make sure that when people think of big market teams, the Mets are the first ones that come to mind. Rojas is going to have to really hit the ground running this year because he’s going to be scrutinized even more closely and the team wants to have a reputation for having excellent management since that can affect how the free agent classes of ‘21 and beyond view possibly signing on to don the blue and orange uniforms.
It Worked For Aaron Boone
There’s a case for keeping an inexperienced manager even in a high-profile big market team. The main example is the guy who writes out the lineup cards in the Bronx – Aaron Boone. There’s also that other controversial guy in Boston, Alex Cora, who was just re-hired. Both of them showed that they could handle the pressure. Dave Martinez won in Washington.
Will Rojas continue the trend of a “learning” season and then netting the best results the following one? One thing that will definitely help is to have Alderson and whatever General Manager the team brings aboard to build a team of strong pieces that will make a manager’s job much easier. Boone had a lot of great players, so his job of filling out the lineup card was a lot simpler than most.
So, if Rojas gets to slot in hitters like George Springer or J.T. Realmuto and add a third starting pitcher like Trevor Bauer to the rotation that includes Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman, he will have a much better chance of winning. Hopefully, Noah Syndergaard will be healthy and effective in his return from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.
Trust The Process?
Yes, Alderson has earned goodwill from building the 2015 and ‘16 Mets teams that did make their way to the postseason. It’s also going to be very interesting to see what he does without the constant interference … I mean… input from Jeff Wilpon. The front office veteran has shown that he has generally good instincts and he should enjoy a brief honeymoon under this new ownership.
Would it have been better for the Mets to hire a more experienced “name brand” manager? Rick Renteria was available after being let go by the Chicago White Sox. The only way we’re going to gauge whether this was the correct decision is to have them play and watch the in-game decisions Rojas makes. He may have the respect of the locker room but the results are what people are going to go by. He may have survived one season under the microscope that is the New York media, but things will be even more intense once things return back to “normal”.
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Ultimately, we will have to revisit this question at some point, either during the season or when next offseason begins. Then we will see how pragmatic the Steve Cohen/Alderson duo is about what they have to do to continue to make the New York Mets a consistent winner.