Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
With the wildly different takes on Luis Rojas that have surfaced during a week of reporting rolling around in my head, it was hard to form an opinion on the Mets' managerial choice.
Then, during SNY's breaking news coverage, Keith Hernandez summed it up in a way that finally made sense: "I'm going to need at least 24 hours to digest this."
Keith was on the right track there. Our only amendment to his take is that we might need even more time -- 24 weeks maybe? -- to formulate an informed take on the news.
Nearly every great manager starts as a risky hire. Buck Showalter was once a lifetime minor league guy. Davey Johnson, after his playing career, was the same. Terry Collins, the winningest skipper in franchise history, had been out of the big leagues for more than a decade when the Mets chose him.
Perhaps Rojas will one day end up on that list. He certainly has the support of many players, from Pete Alonso to Dominic Smith to Marcus Stroman and others, with many sharing their excitement on social media in the moments after news of the hire broke on Wednesday.
Rojas is qualified. He has managed in the minors for years and graduated to a big league staff. In some ways, that is a more traditional background than many skippers hired today with little or no experience.
The concerns about Rojas will remain fair until he proves them wrong. Some folks who know him question whether he will have the presence to lead a veteran team in win-now mode. The Mets themselves deemed him promising but not ready when they declined to even make him a finalist for the job in October.
Of course, the months since have brought extreme circumstances. Because of Carlos Beltran's prominence in MLB's report on the Astros' electronic cheating scandal, the Mets found themselves in a terrible situation, searching for a new manager just weeks before spring training.
When team officials convened last Friday to discuss the search, they almost immediately agreed on the benefits of hiring from within. The 2020 season had effectively begun in early November, when the coaching staff began to come together and plan for the coming year.
Rojas, first base coach Tony DeFrancesco and bench coach Hensley Meulens all offered the continuity the Mets sought. Of those three, only Rojas was on the staff last year, and has worked in the organization since 2007.
Popularity among players can cut several ways, depending on how a manager handles it. When Beltran walks into a room, be brings with him a strong presence and commands respect. He is beloved by players, but also revered as a leader and elder statesman.
Rojas cannot possibly arrive on Day 1 with that gravitas. On the positive side, he follows Mickey Callaway, who could have done the job for 20 years without earning the respect of the room.
The Mets need to win this year. The payroll is relatively high, Jacob deGrom is in his prime years, Robinson Cano probably has one last shot to prove he can still be an impact player.
The Washington Nationals just won the World Series. The Atlanta Braves were active all winter. The Phillies poached Zack Wheeler.
And now an untested manager will take over. It might work. It really might. But forgive Keith and I for needing 24 hours and maybe much more to form an opinion.