Mets manager Luis Rojas is managing with a purpose this Spring Training.
He has been more hands-on with the players. He demonstrated how vocal he could be when his players screw up in fundamentals at workouts. He sounds like a man that is more secure about himself as a manager.
Maybe it’s because of Steve Cohen’s presence as Mets owner. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have to deal with Jeff Wilpon and Brodie Van Wagenen being around anymore. Maybe it’s because he knows he is fortunate to get one last shot as Mets manager, so he will do it his way.
No one thought he would manage the Mets once the final out of Game 162 was made. Certainly not him. With a new owner on the way, the thought was everyone would be gone. Once Cohen was approved as the owner, it took a few hours to fire Van Wagenen and his staff.
Mets president Sandy Alderson offered Rojas a lifeline by deciding to retain him for this season.
Rojas made the most of it by self-assessing himself on what he can do better this offseason.
He spent time talking to players such as Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso about leadership. They both talked about how the team can be better by playing with good habits each-and-every day, from practice to the games.
The Mets manager talked to the players about what he expects out of them when Spring Training starts. He told them what they should do to be ready to go. He engaged with them about their well-being throughout the offseason.
He translated what he did in the offseason to Spring Training. This seems like a manager who seems to be in control now that he settled in last season.
Last season turned out to be a tough position for Rojas to be in. He never had the offseason to immerse himself as a manager since he took over a month before Spring Training. He replaced Carlos Beltran after his predecessor resigned in disgrace for being in the Astros sign-stealing scandal. Then, the pandemic hit, which made the Mets open up in July.
This turned out to be a lost season for the then-rookie manager. Players such as Alonso never got into a rhythm. The Mets had to start all over again in another training camp. It did not help he lost Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John’s surgery and Marcus Stroman to COVID-19. The team couldn’t have enough time to come together. There was not much structure with this team working on the fly.
I don’t know if Rojas can manage. It’s hard to determine when he managed only 60 games. With so many pitching injuries and lack of pitching depth, it’s not surprising he finished with a losing record at 26-34.
He gets a chance to show what he can do now in a full season. He receives Syndergaard back this summer, and he sees Stroman for a full season. The Mets addressed pitching depth this offseason. He knows what he gets out of his hitters.
The Mets manager showed he could be a leader of men by engaging with the players this offseason. It comes down to results. He knows he won’t get a third chance. He is in the final year of his contract, so the Mets can just let him go by not renewing him. He will go down his way by challenging his young stars to play on another level.
From reading about him in the newspapers and watching him on Sportsnet New York, he seems genuinely in charge of managing the Mets. The players seem to respect him by talking to him this offseason.
It comes down to results. The Mets should be better, but no one knows it will be enough for them to be a playoff team. So many things must go right, such as Stroman and Syndergaard pitching to their potential and the team avoiding injury bug. They certainly need to play meaningful games in September for Rojas to get a shot to manage in 2022 and beyond.
If it doesn’t work out, he is grateful he received another opportunity to show what he can do.
That’s all he can ask for.
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