Mets’ dysfunction never gave Luis Rojas a chance: Sherman

Luis Rojas was put in a no-win situation and, indeed, he did not win. He officially was notified Monday of the forever outcome when the organization creates the no-win situation — the manager receives the parting gift of insincere praise and an irreversible pink slip.

No Mets officials made themselves available to explain why a good soldier lost his job, lacking the day-to-day accountability of players like, say, Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor, who were compelled to explain themselves after the thumbs-down debacle.

But there was a press release with a touch of Orwell — not that Rojas was fired, but the technicality that his 2022 option was not being picked up. There was the standard issue, say-little quote from Sandy Alderson, a key architect over two stints of forming the no-win situation that Rojas could not overcome. And the revelation that Rojas is being given a chance to stay on in another capacity within the organization.

Rojas’ choice should be simple. He loves the Mets. His blood is orange and blue. But he needs to run in the opposite direction.

With all the bad that happened over the past two years, none of it soiled his reputation. He is well liked and respected in the business and will find employment elsewhere. He should be deliberate about this and get himself onto a coaching staff of a manager he admires for an organization that isn’t in a long-term committed relationship with dysfunction. He needs to be disinfected from the Mets way.

Unlike Terry Collins, who was 68 and the oldest manager in the game when he was dismissed following the 2017 season and decided to accept a nebulous soft landing to stay on with the Mets, Rojas is just 40. He has a lot of baseball life ahead of him. Doors will open for a man with baseball knowledge and empathy. An apprenticeship with a strong tactical manager willing to share real-time decisional philosophy within a well thought out organization would enhance both his baseball education and viability for future managing gigs.

Mets
Luis Rojas
Corey Sipkin

The Mets removed Rojas because someone needed to be a public scapegoat after more humiliation on and off the field and because Rojas did not do well enough in his first try at major league managing to be foisted on a new president of baseball operations. And the dismissal of Rojas is yet another indicator of why they must get that hiring right.

Because the organization served Rojas far worse than he served the organization. Rojas was young, inexperienced and came in amid chaos. He needed the best kind of help to survive, much less thrive. In two seasons — played within a pandemic — Rojas worked for two owners and four heads of baseball operations, which might just be the indoor and outdoor world records.

He had a high-maintenance roster that was more Rorschach test than well-conceived group. How could it not be since it was formed by a combination of Alderson I, Brodie Van Wagenen, Jeff Wilpon, Jared Porter, Zack Scott and Alderson II — all of it vacillating between the leadership styles and wallets of the Wilpons and Steve Cohen. Rojas was named manager three weeks before spring training in late January 2020 after Carlos Beltran was dismissed following revelations of his involvement in the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme. Rojas inherited a coaching staff.

This past May when Alderson and Scott decided the lack of technical expertise of hitting coaches Chili Davis and Tom Slater could no longer be tolerated and fired them, it was done in a ham-handed way. How much thought, for example, was put into how Rojas would navigate this; how much effort was offered to support him? Davis was popular, so players were upset; especially that they would be taking on a new way of thinking about hitting with the season already in progress. When, for example, Jeremy Hefner overhauled the Met pitching protocols, he had the entire 2019-20 offseason, a spring training, a COVID lockdown and a second spring training to form bonds and sell his concepts.

Mets
Mets owner Steve Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson.
Corey Sipkin

The hitting-coach firings also led to a split in the coaching staff between old and new. Should Rojas have been more proactive and better at getting his staff onto the same page? Yes. It is why he should go work for someone who can show him just how to traverse such tricky matters. Being the bad cop does not come naturally to Rojas, but if he is going to be a good major league manager, he will have to learn when to unleash that publicly and/or privately when necessary.

The lack of a unified coaching staff could be felt by a struggling group that was not going to be tough-minded enough to handle that or the new owner calling the offense out on Twitter. This is 2021. This is a different kind of player than a few decades back when it comes to sensitivity via public rebuke. So the owner can’t be a fan in Citi Field Section 409 with an itchy Twitter finger and WFAN on speed dial.

That also dramatizes why the hiring of the president of baseball operations is so important. It will have to be someone with the stomach and status to perhaps tell an owner what is best for the culture of a franchise. Cohen has money, smarts and desire. I think eventually it will click in how to oversee this best. But there is a long way from here to there. Step 1 is hiring someone to begin extinguishing the no-win situations, so a whole organization can manage better.

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