Faced with the loss of their manager, pressured by the forces of time, the New York Mets didn’t approach their second managerial search in four months the same way the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros have apparently approached theirs.
This was not a nationwide search predicated on revisiting old managerial stars like Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker. The Mets went that route before hiring Carlos Beltran in November. This time they were not looking for something tried. They needed something true.
So their search focused internally and quickly fixated on a young manager who had previously impressed them with his work in Class A and AA. Not only that, he came from great stock, the son of former Major League manager Felipe Alou and brother of former outfielder Moises Alou, who ended his playing career with the Mets.
On Friday, the Mets officially moved forward by naming Luis Rojas their new manager, replacing Beltran, who resigned last week in the wake of MLB’s electronic sign-stealing scandal.
“Luis has grown up with baseball in his blood, as his family is part of baseball royalty,” Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement.
The Mets awarded Rojas, 38, a multiyear contract, promoting their quality-control coach on Mickey Callaway’s 2019 staff. He served as a go-between for the front office and coaching staff on issues like analytics and game preparation. He also was New York’s outfield coach in 2019 and helped hitters for games.
“This is an exciting day for me,” Rojas said at his introductory press conference at CitiField on Friday. “To become the New York Mets manager is a dream come true for me. Standing here, I can share with you all now that this was my dream.”
There is a lot of pressure on Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen to get this right. He thought he had his guy in Beltran, but was sent back to square one when Beltran was forced to resign after being labeled as co-conspirator with former Red Sox manager Alex Cora in MLB’s report on illegal sign stealing.
With new ownership set to take the Mets over from the Wilpon family, its safe to assume Van Wagenen’s job will also be under review, especially if Rojas does not work out.
“He has a good finger on the pulse of this particular team. He was part of it last year,” Van Wagenen said Wednesday. “He knows these guys, and he knows how to communicate to them. Every returning player on the roster has a relationship with him, and that’s valuable to us at this time.”
The Mets are taking somewhat of a chances on Rojas. Although he was a minor-league manager in their organization for eight seasons, he’d never been on a Major League staff until promoted to work for Callaway.
“Luis earned this job. He has literally trained his whole life to be a manager,” Van Wagenen said. “He is considered one of the better in-game decision-makers simply that we have in the organization.
“It’s always helpful to have familiarity. The fact that he was so actively involved with the coaches this fall in preparation for spring training, in preparation for the season – he was already asserting himself more in a leadership role with this new coaching staff and helping Carlos learn some of the managerial things that he hadn’t been exposed to before.”
“I think it’s the fit, it’s where the team is, it’s what culture we’re trying to create. He’s respected by the players, he’s trusted by the players and he’s someone that we have great confidence in.”
What helped make Rojas such a desirable candidate was the player/manager relationship he’d developed in the minors with many of the Mets young stars, particularly Pete Alonso, the National League’s rookie of the year, Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo.
“Loved having Luis in ’17 and ’18 as my AA manager!” Alonso tweeted. “It’s awesome playing under him and having him on staff last year as well!!! Super pumped to have him as the Jeffe. Also he throws some damn good bp.”
Rojas will be the game’s second-youngest manager, older only than only Minnesota’s Rocco Baldelli. He’ll also be just the sixth to manage after his father did, which gives him something in common with the Aaron Boone of the Yankees.
Marcus Stroman, the starting pitcher the Mets acquired at the deadline last season, said on Twitter that Rojas was “Super laid back and brings nothing but great vibes each and every day. Beyond even keel. Excited even more for the year!”