There are things that happened on the field in 2020 for the Mets that it would be nice to know who should be held accountable. Who thought it was a good idea to give Robert Gsellman a start when he had pitched one inning in the last 364 days? Who thought it was a good idea to bat Amed Rosario and his lifetime .305 OBP coming into the year and his .231 OBP during the year in the first slot in the order? Who thought it was a good idea to give Michael Wacha a start following one bullpen appearance after he was demoted for having allowed a 9.00 ERA and a 1.895 WHIP in his previous five starts? Who thought it was a good idea to make Brandon Nimmo, who had a lifetime .783 OPS versus LHP coming into the year, a platoon player based on 20 PA? Who thought it was a good idea to pitch a middle reliever four times in six days with a 10-man bullpen? These are the ones off the top of my head. No doubt if you looked at the game logs you would come up with others.

In the 20th Century, you’d lay the blame for each and every one of these decisions at the feet of the manager, in this case Luis Rojas. These days, though, who knows? It’s very possible that Brodie Van Wagenen ordered Rojas to do several, if not all of these moves. Based on his performance in the traditional GM role, Van Wagenen deserves to be fired. If he had a hand in any of the moves listed above, that just makes the case for his dismissal even more concrete.

The buzzword these days around managers is “communication.” There’s seemingly no higher praise you can give a skipper than to say he’s an excellent communicator. While not suggesting that a manager should be a mute, is it possible that we add that he doesn’t do knucklehead things during a game to the list of admirable traits?

Back when Terry Collins was managing the club, he received a ton of praise for having a good clubhouse. That always struck me as strange, in that with David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera – Collins had universally acknowledged high-character guys. A good clubhouse should have been expected, not fawned over like it was some special accomplishment. And of course, when Collins was in his last few days as club manager, Marc Carig wrote a scathing piece over his tenure, busting a lot of the myths that had been built up around the Collins-era Mets.

Mickey Callaway was hired to replace Collins. Callaway’s starters were remarkably healthy during his tenure, which may have been the result of something Callaway did or it might have been blind luck. Other than that, it’s hard to point to achievements during his tenure and few were sad when he was let go roughly a year ago. One of the things that made the Callaway era so difficult was that in his second year, he worked under a different GM than the one who hired him. Van Wagenen felt Callaway wasn’t the right fit and he didn’t do a whole lot to hide that impression.

Are we looking at duplicating that scenario again? Most expect Van Wagenen to be gone once Steve Cohen officially takes over the team. Should the new GM be stuck with the manager he didn’t pick, like what happened to Van Wagenen in 2019?

Rojas seems like a good guy. His players really like him and he’s done a good job of handling the media. Those things are important and no one is pretending otherwise. But my preference is for a manager’s blunders to happen in media briefings, rather than in the dugout. The GM can always step in to smooth things over with the press. But you can never win back a game in the clubhouse or in front of a microphone that you lost in the dugout. Van Wagenen stepped in for Callaway in this respect in 2019, the team didn’t implode and ended up winning 86 games. He didn’t have to do it for Rojas but his team was on a 70-win pace.

No one wants a return of the clubhouse from the “Worst Team Money Can Buy” years, when players were out of control, making verbal threats, throwing firecrackers and spraying bleach. But that was an extreme situation and it’s foolish to equate any clubhouse that’s not button down to those early 90s Mets. It’s like saying any fielder who isn’t above average is like Wilmer Flores out there.

It’s my firm belief that creative friction is a good thing. Maybe that’s because my first dynasty was the Swingin’ A’s of the early 70s and my second one was The Bronx Zoo of the mid-to-late 70s. And no one thinks the 80s Mets were choir boys, either. You need fire and passion and the willingness to fight anyone who’s going to keep you from doing the right thing and win as many games as possible. I want to root for players like Keith Hernandez and Reggie Jackson and managers like Earl Weaver and Davey Johnson.

It’s my opinion that Pete Alonso is that type of guy. He’s someone you could see going to the mound and telling his pitcher if he throws a fastball to this hitter that they’re going to fight, much like Hernandez did to Jesse Orosco back in the ’86 NLCS.

As for Johnson, here’s an excerpt from his book: “Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond,” as printed in ThePostGame:

Early in the 1984 season, GM Frank Cashen took a seat in my office — concerned about something he had just observed.
“We have a disjointed clubhouse,” he said. “Should we make it smaller?”
“No, Frank,” I said. “Everybody just needs to know his role on the ballclub and they’ll be fine.”
“Well, Keith (Hernandez) likes to do crossword puzzles and he’s a Civil War buff, and … ”
“Who cares about that?” I interrupted. “Just let everybody do their own thing.”

I basically wanted the guys to come to the ballpark and enjoy being in the clubhouse. I wanted it to be fun for them and even more comfortable than being in their own homes with all their kids running around. And if there was ever an issue, I would always tell Keith and later Gary Carter, “You guys handle it.” I didn’t want to be the one monitoring minor clubhouse problems. And I never wanted to have an environment where there was a whole lot of policing going on.

Can you imagine Rojas telling the GM, whoever it may be, this?

Should a new GM keep Luis Rojas as manager?

  • Yes (56%, 25 Votes)
  • No (44%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 45

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11 comments on “Poll: On retaining Luis Rojas as manager

  • Chris F

    I voted yes, only to balance the score. I think the incoming GM will need to talk with Rojas and see where his mindset is at and if he fits with the vision of the Cohen/SA/GM. If he does, he should stay; if he doesn’t, then he should go.

    I dont get the hate for Rojas though. Things we know are true about 21st Century baseball. There are very few skippers that have control of the team. Im surprised to dig up the names of Weaver and Davey, who were skippers in a different era of baseball. At this point, players are major financial investments and their care is well outside the dugout. In the past it was a wildly different story, and so was baseball. We have baseball the way it is now from full control of the team at the top all the way down to between the lines. That is the reality of the game: 100 pitch maxima, 2 times through for most starters, LOOGY, etc. I dont think its fair to tar the manager when the manager’s main role has been severely pruned as baseball dollars have ballooned.

    • Brian Joura

      You should never vote to balance the score. Vote on what you think is best for the club.

      And that same principle holds in other areas, too. What you wrote about how managers are utilized is probably true. It doesn’t mean I have to like it and it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do things. When I wrote articles for years about how stupid it was for the Mets to base their entire bullpen on maximizing outcomes for their LOOGY, that was the same thing that the overwhelming majority of clubs were doing. It was just 21st Century baseball. But it was detrimental to the team’s chances of winning. So I wrote about it and complained about it and pointed to Bob Myrick and other LH relievers from the 1970s as proof that it didn’t have to be that way. Maybe it’s naive of me but I like to think that I’ve been proven right. That it’s better to have Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson than Scott Rice and Robert Carson.

      So I’ll write about Weaver and Johnson and how having a smart manager in the dugout is a tactical advantage. And if other clubs want a paint-by-numbers cardboard cutout in the job – well, they’re welcome to them. Just like they’re welcome to Scott Schoeneweis.

      • Eraff

        Brian, what do you see as the balance between Metrics and Management in a Baseball Dugout? It seems to make sense that the the expansion of information Gathering has been moved outside the dougout, and that would mean that deploying the information and making decisions would also have expansive input from Outside The Dougout.

  • Seattle Steve

    He was manager because of the Beltran disaster….his #2 & #3 starters did not pitch at all…his #4 starter was a disaster…Alonso overall was terrible…and he is being judged on 60 game season…he should be given another season…its real easy being a Monday morning QB.

    • JimO

      Seattle Steve: well stated!

  • TJ

    New management likes his/her own folks, but in this case, Alderson has familiarity with Rojas. All the criticisms listed above are fair, and given the way that teams function now the manager winds up owning them regardless. Ultimately, the team was a flop in 2020 but I would not punt on Rojas at this point off a 60 game season in a pandemic where the starting pitching was very depleted. Let’s see what he can do in a full season with a team that is hopefully assembled better.

  • Dan Capwell

    I voted yes for a pair of reasons: first off he was brought in under very difficult circumstances that were only made worse by the pandemic. No first-time manager has ever had to undergo that. Second, he does have the pedigree and the organizational experience (although the latter may be a detriment)

    This isn’t a real reason to keep him, but who is out there to replace him? We missed the boat on Girardi. Madden and Francona are not available and I don’t want AJ Hinch.

  • Dan Capwell

    I voted yes for a pair of reasons: first off he was brought in under very difficult circumstances that were only made worse by the pandemic. No first-time manager has ever had to undergo that. Second, he does have the pedigree and the organizational experience (although the latter may be a detriment)

    This isn’t a real reason to keep him, but who is out there to replace him? We missed the boat on Girardi. Madden and Francona are not available and I don’t want AJ Hinch.

    I think/hope that just getting rid of Jeff and BVW will make Rojas about 10 games smarter. Bring in a true #2 starter and he might look even better!

  • Mike W

    I think we have to wait and see who a new GM may be and also to see who is available.

    So, the jury is still out.

  • Craig Roth

    Nooooooooooooooo he was a bad manager! He was the worse at bull pen management
    and how he handled starting pitching. He
    was a manager in the minors so he had some experience but even though 60 games is a
    small sample size its enough to show he is not a good manager and considering he made the same mastakes over and over again he showed he didn’t learn from his blunders and I don’t wish to see him for 162 games next year!!

  • TexasGusCC

    I voted no on principal. Rojas wasn’t to blame for this mess, but if I wrote on Monday in Chris’ article that I don’t want my team to be a management teaching ground, then I have to vote no unless I can bring in a Showalter, Bochy or Scioscia to be a bench coach and teach him how to plan ahead. If not, I’d ask Rojas to be a bench coach and learn while I got one of those three. I don’t think someone in his 30’s with zero MLB experience would decline that and if he does, I’d remind him the circumstances he got the job to begin with; he was never a consideration. Furthermore, in a couple of years when Bochy/Showalter pass the baton, Rojas will be more prepared.

    It’s one thing to have a young team and let the manager grow with them like Davey Johnson or AJ Hinch did, it’s quite another to invest $200MM in your payroll and let a rookie govern it. No offense to Rojas, but he’s not ready to guide a trans-Atlantic ocean liner and when you spend $2.4B to buy the team, another $2B or so for SNY, and your payroll is $200MM, are you sure you want a manager with 60 games experience guiding it? Do you as a fan want it?

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