In an era when their decision-making powers have been diminished by the advent of front office collaboration, the task of evaluating managers can be more difficult than ever — at least from the outside looking in.
Partly with that in mind, it’s hard to say that Luis Rojas is to blame for the Mets’ disappointing season, considering that nearly every important position player underachieved in 2021 while the pitching staff collapsed under the weight of Jacob deGrom’s second-half absence.
After all, there is a lot to like about Rojas, from his straightforward manner of communicating with players to his poised presence in dealing with the media during tough times.
In some ways, in fact, Rojas has a temperament that is ideal for managing in New York, in that he never seems flustered and always has reasoned responses to pointed questions about lineups or strategy.
But the reality is it was practically impossible to make the case for the Mets bringing back a young manager with no previous big-league experience who had presided over two underachieving seasons — especially when some dubious in-game decisions these last couple of months contributed to his team’s collapse.
Maybe in a smaller market a team could be more patient, believing that Rojas would grow into an outstanding manager.
But not in New York. Not for an owner like Steve Cohen, whose declared desire to win a championship in his first three-to-five years on the job is very much on the clock.
It was Cohen, remember, who said at his inaugural press session about a year ago that he didn’t like the idea of anyone working for him to be “learning on the job.”
So while Sandy Alderson has always thought highly of Rojas, you understand why the Mets announced that he will not be back as manager in 2022.
Alderson had left the door slightly ajar last week, at least theoretically, when he said he would be making the decision on Rojas and the coaching staff rather than waiting until he and Cohen hire a new head of baseball operations. But someone close to the situation had said that Alderson didn’t think it would be right to force a manager on whomever takes over the baseball decision-making.
“To know Luis is to be impressed with his baseball IQ, his ability to communicate, and his self-awareness,” says one person in the Mets’ organization. “I’m not saying he didn’t make some mistakes this year. I think the games started to speed up on him when the ball club started sliding in the second half, and it may have affected his day-to-day decision-making.
“But, big picture, he’s got the tools to continue growing into a solid manager. A lot of it is circumstances. Look at Gabe Kapler.”
Yes, it was only two seasons ago that Kapler was run out of Philadelphia, ridiculed there for being in over his head as a first-time manager. Yet now he suddenly seems a whole lot smarter as the manager of the San Francisco Giants, the team with the best record in baseball.
Additionally, as Ron Darling pointed out during SNY’s Marlins-Mets telecast Wednesday night while making an impassioned defense of the manager, others such as Terry Francona, Bob Melvin, and Joe Torre blossomed into highly-regarded managers only after getting fired from their first jobs — or more than one job, in the case of Torre.
“I could see that happening with Luis,” Darling said.
On the other hand, Rojas became a target of much fan criticism this season for his decision-making with lineups and in-game strategy. Of course, as noted earlier, these days it’s hard to tell from the outside just how much input the manager has in making out the lineup or even some of his bullpen choices.
Still, at some point the manager has to own his decisions, especially the in-game stuff at crucial points of the season.
As such, it seems fair to blame Rojas at least somewhat for not managing with more urgency in early September when the Mets still were within striking distance of first place in the NL East or even the second Wild Card spot.
In a particularly crucial game that helped launch the Cardinals’ 17-game winning streak, he wound up with an untested reliever, Jake Reed, in the 11th inning, which proved costly. Had the manager been willing to push any of his more veteran pitchers earlier in the game, including Aaron Loup, who threw seven pitches in his one inning of work, he wouldn’t have found himself so strapped for relievers at that point.
And then there were some glaringly bad decisions, notably a night when he let Edwin Diaz pitch to the Marlins’ hottest hitter while first base was open, resulting in a key loss, or had Patrick Mazeika pinch-hit in a critical spot in the same game.
Rojas was always willing to explain his reasons for his moves, and do so without rancor, and often you could see his side of it even if you disagreed. But there were a few too many down the stretch that were all but indefensible.
“Every manager is going to get second-guessed if his moves don’t work out,” said a Mets source, “but it was easy to first-guess Luis for a while there.”
In the end, those handful of decisions probably wouldn’t have mattered one way or another. With so many players having subpar seasons, chances are no manager could have done much more with the 2021 Mets.
The bottom line, however, is that Rojas didn’t get the most out of his team, either last season or this one, so for all of his good qualities, that was two strikes against him. And for a manager with no track record of success, it’s fair to replace him before there can be a third.
Source: Yahoo Sports