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