Jeff Wilpon recalled meeting his new manager late in 2006, at the Mets’ old complex in the Dominican Republic, on a day when Dominican icon — and Met, at that time — Pedro Martinez blessed the up-and-comers with his presence.
“Pedro would come by with his electric blue, Met blue car with electric orange seats,” the Mets’ COO told The Post on Friday at Citi Field, laughing. “All the kids wanted to see Pedro.”
Luis Rojas, at that time a 25-year-old coach who recently had been hired by general manager Omar Minaya, was less dazzled, if nonetheless excited.
“I knew Pedro when I was a teenager,” Rojas said, referring to when Martinez played on the Expos, managed by Rojas’ father, Felipe Alou. “I was at his locker all of the time.”
As always, only time will inform us whether the Mets made the right decision promoting their organizational soldier Rojas to replace the 0-0 Carlos Beltran, a casualty of Rob Manfred’s report on the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing. However, as the team introduced the 38-year-old Rojas at a press conference, let’s say this: The first feel-good ash just rose from this seismic scandal, courtesy of the Mets. Any old baseball stories featuring Pedro, his recent criticisms of sign-stealing whistle-blower Mike Fiers notwithstanding, naturally create good feelings.
“All along the last 14 years, everybody was talking about this kid as an up-and-comer,” Wilpon said. “I was one of the ones that questioned last year, ‘Do we want to bring him as just a quality control coach versus managing Triple-A?’ Everybody said, ‘Don’t worry. He’s going to be fine.’ ”
I wrote last week that the Mets, thrown into a state of crisis upon making the (correct) call to jettison Beltran, should hire a graybeard to stabilize the operation. While graybeard Dusty Baker’s name emerged in internal conversations, though, the Mets never went so far as contacting Baker or any other outsiders. They opted for Rojas, and if I disagree with the philosophical decision, it’s hard to envision a better continuity choice than Rojas, who spoke repeatedly of this being “a dream come true.”
We’re talking about a true baseball guy who, despite his lineage, took the old-school path to get here, managing in the Mets’ minor leagues for an astounding eight seasons before jumping to the majors in 2019. He therefore knows most of the Mets’ current players, many of whom already have publicly supported his hiring.
“This guy’s real,” Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said of Rojas. “You feel it.”
Never before, Rojas said, had he spoken in front of this many people — about 60 media members, plus his family and Mets bigwigs — and it’ll be interesting to see whether he loosens up in this part of the job. Rojas displayed a Jeter-ian discipline for staying on message, refusing to share his perspective of watching the scandal claim three managers — including Beltran, his boss for two-plus months — as well as a president of baseball operations and consequently open this door for him.
“We’re looking forward,” Rojas said, not coincidentally echoing a sentiment espoused by Van Wagenen. “We are where we are today. The organization and I are in a good spot. This team is built to win. We’re looking forward to a successful season.”
(Yeesh. Not much empathy for Beltran. Although at least the Mets introduced Rojas as the 23rd manager in their history, meaning that they won’t be whitewashing Beltran out of their records.)
“We are confident that with Luis Rojas as our leader and our manager that we will have many proud moments, many proud days and many proud nights as we go forward in our future,” Van Wagenen said.
The Mets should be proud for giving a lifer, albeit a young one, a chance. And for enhancing baseball’s diversity count. Will they be proud in October? We’ll get there, but right now, this sport will take whatever pride it can find.
Source: Read Full Article